Electing a Woman President is not Enough
By Phil George
Few weeks ago, the Hon. Minister of Justice, Frances Johnson-Morris announced that Sassywood would henceforth be unlawful. While I applaud her for taking the initiative to outlaw such injustice, I thought that she might have gone further by banning Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) as well. Why didn’t she? It has been medically proven that FGM poses severe health consequences for women and it’s darn right cruel. It’s even worse than Sassywood. I believe it’s disingenuous for women in this government to advocate human rights for girls and women in society while turning a blind eye to FGM. Hon. Minister of Justice, if you believe in human rights for the “girl child” like the president like to say, I challenge you to ban this cruel act or write legislation to ban it. I know some people will argue that FGM is part of our tradition (Sande society) and getting rid of it infringes on tradition. Well, this tradition is wicked – it has no place in a civilized society so let’s get rid of it now. Tell the Sande Zoes we can’t do this anymore.
Let’s now turn our focus to the thorny issue of citizenship. This is one area where our constitution contradicts our values. In spite of the war, Liberians are very kind and loving people. We accept everyone regardless of race, truly in the spirit of “Land of the Free.” I believe everyone will agree with me on this point. Interracial marriage is common in Liberia because we are not a racist people. So why do we continue to maintain racist provisions in our constitution? Article 27 (b) is clearly a racist provision and should be amended. I’m not oblivious to the premise of this provision but we need to find innovative ways to accommodate decent people who love our culture and want to be citizens of our country. It is hypocritical to expect countries to give us rights that we deny to others back home. During our civil crisis, thousands of Liberians were allowed to immigrate to countless countries around the world, and in some cases given citizenship rights.
Presently thousands of Liberians in the United States are fighting “tooth and nail” to stay in America permanently. I remember how difficult it was to explain to my Caucasian friend that he could come and invest his money in Liberia but he could not own land to build a home because of his race. It is appalling. We need to look to other countries for guidance on this issue. I understand Bahamas have innovative laws that allow foreigners of any race to legally buy and own land in that country. We could consult with them to learn from their experience.
The saying goes, “Once a Liberian, forever a Liberian.” Well, this phrase is all good but it gets more complicated when viewed in the context of law. To my knowledge Liberian law does not allow dual citizenship, thus the preceding phrase is inconsequential if one has attained citizenship of another country. Here is another ridiculous law that must be amended because Liberia needs all its children back home, especially now that the country must be rebuild. This law is definitely against the interest of Liberian expatriates because by law one is no longer a Liberian citizen. I need not explain the social and political consequences here for you know its repercussions. This is unacceptable and must change soon to restore our natural rights as citizens. We cannot afford to push this vital issue under the rug because it is not in the best interest of the country. Some Liberians deal with the issue by keeping secret their true status and this is equally appalling. Why should one be ashamed of ones identity? As Liberian immigrants in a foreign land, sometimes one had to conceal his/her true status to avoid immigration troubles. Do we now expect to repeat this ordeal back in our homeland?
For selfish political reasons it might not be preponderant of the current legislature to initiate legislation in this regard because it would create political competition in the next election cycle. Thus concerted effort must be made to enact legislation on this very important issue. Also, at the next constitutional convention, please don’t invite Dr. Amos Sawyer, et al because he represents one of the bigoted architects of this document in 1986.
Phil George: Pgeorge7@cox.net
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