MONROVIA, Montserrado – With three days left to the close of the extended session of the 53rd National Legislature, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has requested the body to pass 13 proposed legislations.
The Senate and House of Representatives began an emergency session last Thursday after officially closing in line with the constitution and their standing rules. Their action was predicated by a proclamation issued by the president, extending the final session of the legislature by nine days.
The proclamation was issued amid the signing of a certificate of extension by members of the Senate and House of Representatives.
Sirleaf’s proclamation did not provide any details on what national emergency or concerns the lawmakers needed to address, especially with the sitting of a new legislature in less than two weeks.
However, according to a letter to lawmakers read by the chief clerk of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, Sirleaf is calling on them to pass 13 bills. The instruments are part of a total of 22 bills she has submitted to the lawmakers.
The Daily Observer has reported that the president’s 13 priority bills include an investment agreement between Liberia and Dangote Cement-Liberia Limited, an act to name roads and bridges in the country, the Liberian National Police Act, the Land Rights Bill, and an amendment to the Aliens and Nationality Law of Liberia.
The laws are being proposed with less than two weeks to the end of Sirleaf’s administration. Moreover, the vast majority of lawmakers being called to work on the bills were not re-elected, and would, therefore, be out of the 54th Legislature that is expected to take a seat in less than a week.
Given that the process of making laws requires appropriate scrutiny, some citizens fear that any attempt to act on the president’s request would be hasty and not in the interest of the country.
Alfred Smith, a political science student at the University of Liberia, said while some of the bills may be good and the president may also have good intentions, it would be wise to wait for newly elected lawmakers to take their seats.
“Why is the president rushing with passing these bills when her tenure is almost finished?” he said.
Others feared that the outgoing lawmakers might take advantage of the urgency of Sirleaf’s request to seek personal gains. Jartu Kromah, a youth activist, said she fears that lawmakers who were not re-elected in the House of Representatives would use Sirleaf’s push as an opportunity to seek bribe and make wrong decisions regarding the country.
Meanwhile, Sen. Varney Sherman of Grand Cape Mount has said it is “not only impractical but also improbable and doubtful” that lawmakers can meet the president’s request in the allotted time.
According to the Daily Observer, the Grand Cape Mount senator, who chairs the Senate’s Committee on the Judiciary, has also disclosed that his committee would not approve the passage of the Land Rights Act before the close of the emergency session.