In spite of controversy concerning the conduct of the national referendum with the Supreme Court ruling that the National Elections Commission should not go ahead with the printing of ballots for the propositions on hand until separated to have enough awareness about so citizens can best decide how to vote for or against them, Liberians in the diaspora are campaigning that their compatriots here should all vote “Yes” to the Dual Citizenship proposition that is the first among the three congested propositions to be voted for.
“We are asking the Liberian people to vote “Yes” to proposition 1 because that will help to bring development to our country, and only Liberians can rebuild Liberia,” Emmanuel S. Wettee, Chairman of All Liberian Conference on Dual Citizenship told the Daily Observer on Wednesday, November 25.
Wettee in his quest for passage of the Dual Citizenship proposition argues that Liberians fled the country in numbers during the course of the war and have stayed in the United States and other countries around the world for years and gained some status, and they are wishing to return to contribute to the building of their country.
He said coming has some constraints because, as a Liberian who declared citizenship in the US, it is difficult, if not unlawful, to own land in Liberia until one renounces one’s citizenship of the country one lives in. Moreover, the advocate said Liberia’s current law does not allow citizenship to be passed onto a child born by a Liberian abroad, noting, “We are all the same people; being wherever we are, does not take away who we are before going. So, we are saying that Liberians should vote ‘yes’ to Proposition 1.”
He said Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone have adopted Dual citizenship and their citizens are coming from Europe and the United States helping to build their countries and Liberia can do the same.
He wonders why would Liberians travel outside of their country and see all the good things there but cannot bring similar ideas to help build the country.
“For instance, they go and see health facilities in other countries, but they do not ask how people in those countries managed to reach at the levels they are.
Concerning the Supreme Court’s decision, Wettee said, “The Supreme Court did not say the referendum should not go on but asked the NEC to reprint the ballots to reflect all the propositions on the ballot and it is ongoing.”
The call for passage of the Dual Citizenship Law has been met with public resentment among Liberians at home. Some, recalling how government officials of past administrations were engaged in capital flight in the past administration, contend that giving dual citizenship to those in the diaspora would solidify capital flight as most people from abroad will use their citizenship to exploit the country.
Wettee agrees that “There are some bad apples” among people, but that should not be a condition for which other Liberians should be denied.
“I cannot sit here and say dual citizenship does not have a bad side. But if we put in the right processes and the right institutions, these things will not happen,” he said.
The Dual Citizenship advocate said besides man that God made directly, all other things after God’s creation are things to improve on and the Constitution is no exception. According to him, corruption is not a dual citizenship problem, but a character problem.
He, however, noted that he understands the concerns some citizens have that there are people who could use their status to get away with corruption and other malpractices, but warned that no one is responsible for the character of another.
Erasing the fear that some may leave the United States or other foreign nations to come to Liberia, commit a crime and abscond from the country, Mr. Wettee referenced Chucky Taylor as a classical example of one who committed crimes in Liberia and was arrested in the United States, prosecuted and convicted, and sentenced for to serve a prison term of 97 years. Therefore, he said having dual citizenship for Liberians living outside of the country will not in any way create the corridor for people to come and commit crimes here to run back abroad with impunity.
One concern with the dual citizenship issue is the granting of citizenship to non-negroes including the Lebanese. Responding to this concern, Mr. Wettee said the Liberian Constitution is clear on the issue of citizenship that only people of Negro descent are allowed to gain citizenship in Liberia.
Voting comes with two results; either what is voted on wins or loses. Concerning the contended proposition, the chairman of the All Liberian Conference on Dual Citizenship noted that it will be a bitter pill to swallow if Liberians vote against the proposition, but they in the diaspora will respect the views of the people as far as democracy is concerned and will continue to insist until it is passed in a future referendum.