By Michel Cousins.
Tripoli, 27 November:
The plan to elect or appoint the 60-member Constitutional Commission on a regional basis is being re-assessed by the General National Congress (GNC) according to Khaled Ammar Al-Mashri, the Justice and Construction party (J&C) congressman from Zawia.
Speaking at a meeting in Tripoli yesterday of the Yalla Shabab (“Young people, Let’s get going!”) organisation, he said that the issue of having the 60 members from different regions was being discussed by GNC members. “We need to guarantee people’s rights”, he said, indicating that the unequal divide on the commission in terms of population could be seen as unfair.
Ever since it was mooted by the NTC, the plan has always been for the commission to have 60 members, 20 each from Libya’s three historic provinces: Cyrenaica, Fezzan and Tripolitania.
It is deliberate re-echo of the 1951 Constitutional Assembly which drew up Libya’s first constitution. It had 60 members, drawn equally from the three provinces.
The only change to the commission’s make-up came just before the GNC elections in July, when the NTC decided that members should be elected rather than appointed. The move was a deliberate attempt to placate Cyrenaica federalists who were threatening to disrupt to polls. There was no change to the 20-20-20 split.
It is unclear whether yesterday Mashri was speaking about the split on a personal basis, for his party or for a wider section of congress members.
“Officially nothing has changed on this”, said Congressman Salah Jouda, suggesting that Mashiri may have been speaking for a small group of congress members. “I’ve heard nothing about it.”
“It’s not correct”, agreed Benghazi Congressman Ahmed Langhi. There had been no formal discussion about the regional split, he said. Nor could there be. It would go against everything that people in the east and south of the country wanted, he said. They would oppose any change on the 20-20-20 split.
At present, the debate both inside and outside the GNC is whether the commission should be elected or appointed. There is strong support within the GNC for the latter. “We’re still looking at how the commission would operate”, said Mashri. “We’re look at the positive and the negative sides both of electing and appointing the committee.”
However, a poll suggests that four-fifths of Libyans want the body elected.
The Yalla Shabab conference and workshop was aimed at getting Libya’s youth involved in the devising the constitution. The movement — fast emerging as one of the main youth organisations in Libya — is running a campaign entitled Take Care of Your Constitution to explain what the constitutional process is and to ensure that it includes the rights of young people.
On Sunday evening, representatives from the group met with some congress members. However, although these were invited to address Monday’s press conference at Tripoli’s Waddan Hotel, only two turned up. Significantly both were J&C members: Mashri and Mansur Al-Hassadi from Derna. It was seen by Yalla members as a sign that the party wants to reach out to young Libyans — a group they largely failed to connect with during the elections.
Members of Yalla Shabab expressed disappointment that other congress members who had been invited, including the NFA congresswoman from Misrata Hana Al-Orfi, did not turn up. “We’re upset they did not come”, said Yalla’s Anma Elsallak.
In his speech, Hassidi said that Libya’s youth was “more important than oil”. They were the “energy of Libya” because they could “think out of the box”. Older people last year, he said, had advised against joining the revolution. Nonetheless, young people did so. They were the “core of the revolution” and had to be involved in the devising the new constitution.
Asked by the Libya Heraldhow the GNC would ensure the involvement of young people in drawing up the constitution, Mashri said that the idea being canvassed at the moment, if the commission were appointed, was to include a number of 25 to 30-year-olds in its membership. [/restrict]