Embattled leader of the lower house of the National Legislature and any Lawmaker Entangled in Global Witness Corruption Probe Must Recuse Themselves from Process
REPRESENTATIVE EDWIN MELVIN SNOWE is going on the record as the first high-profile member of the lower house of Liberia’s National Legislature to call for House Speaker Alex Tyler to recuse himself from legislative proceedings due to an ongoing bribery investigation based on a report by the London-based watchdog group, Global Witness. SPEAKER TYLER is indicted along with Senator Varney Sherman, and others on charges of economic sabotage, criminal conspiracy, criminal facilitation and others. THE REPORT, entitled The Deceivers, alleges that over $950,000 in bribes and other suspicious payments were made to top Liberian officials by the United Kingdom-based Sable Mining Company and its Liberian lawyer, Varney Sherman. The report suggests that Sable wanted to get the concession rights to Liberia’s Wologizi iron ore. SHERMAN, WHO IS ALSO chairman of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s ruling Unity Party, allegedly told Sable Mining that in order to get the contract, the company must first offer bribes to senior officials to change Liberia’s concession laws. SHERMAN INSISTS that he and his law firm are prohibited by law and the Liberian constitution from divulging to anyone what they did for Sable Mining when they served as the company’s lawyers in Liberia in 2010. “Our code of professional ethics and the Liberian Constitution prohibits us from making any such disclosures and we will subscribe to those tenets even if we were to be taken to the gallows to be hanged,” Sherman said. THE REPORT SAYS the officials who allegedly received bribes include Speaker of the Liberian House of Representatives Alex Tyler: $75,000 for “consulting fees” and Richard Tolbert, chairman of the National Investment Committee: $50,000 for “consulting fees”. MORRIS SAYTUMAH, Minister of State for Finance, Economic and Legal Affairs, now a senator, also allegedly received $50,000 for “consulting fees”, and Willie Belleh, Chairman of Public Procurement and Concessions Commission allegedly received $10,000 for “consulting fees”. TWO OF THE BIGGEST PAYMENTS went to persons identified in the report as “Bigboy 01” and “Bigboy 02”, each receiving $250,000 with no explanation of why the payments were made. REP. SNOWE is also accusing the embattled speaker of violating a provision of the Liberian constitution regarding quorum and roll call during every session day. Article 33 of the 1986 Liberian Constitution states: “A simple majority of each House shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business, but at a lower number may adjourn from day to day and compel the attendance of absent members.” SAID REP. SNOWE: “Our rules also call on us to be above reproach when it comes to corruption issues and if there is a cloud and not just mere allegation, but an indictment. So, I thought it would have been befitting for him to recuse himself but he hasn’t done that and there is no law to prevent him. And if people so desired, and there is a vote on it, I will vote in favour of that decision” THE ISSUE HAS COME FULL CIRCLE for Snowe who himself was unjustly impeached by his peer in 2007 when he sat in the Speaker’s chair. THE MONTSERRADO COUNTY lawmaker was removed from his position as Speaker in January 2007 following a vote-of-no-confidence. However, a few days later the Supreme Court ordered him to be reinstated, pending Snowe's appeal. According to Snowe, the no-confidence vote was illegal. REP. SNOWE went on to allege that some votes against him were obtained through bribery and that the vote was not legitimate because it did not occur in a city, as required by the constitution. ON JANUARY 29, 2007, the Supreme Court ruled in Snowe's favour, describing his removal as unconstitutional. However, the legislators who attempted to vote Snowe out of his position reportedly intended to again attempt to remove him by holding another vote. But Snowe resigned on Thursday, February 15, 2007 on grounds that he would not go to the township of Virginia for Legislative matters in keeping with article 40 of the Liberian Constitution which states: Neither House shall adjourn for more than five days without the consent of the other and both Houses shall always sit in the same city. CORRUPTION HAS was a major Achilles for the post-war government with numerous reports and audits in the dustbin of the justice system. THIS IS WHY we feel strongly that Speaker Tyler should own up and do what is right for the sanctity of the legislative body to remain intact. THE LOWER HOUSE has become a laughing stock of late especially following the appointment of a committee to probe the alleged altering of the Sable Mining act by former and present officials in the Executive Branch of government to favour the company in its bid to acquire the Wologizi Mountain in Lofa County, as unearthed by Global Witness. IT DOES NOT BODE well for the head of a legislative body who is accused in a major corruption investigation to be overseeing a probe in which he is a principal suspect. IF THE CURRENT MEMBERS of the 53rd legislature mean well for Liberia or their own reputation, they would side with Representative Snowe and do what is right by urging Speaker Tyler to step aside from these proceedings. THE ACTION by the 53rd by allowing themselves to become a laughing stock in the fight against graft and a detriment to a nation on the rebound from war and transitioning from war to peace, signals suggest that they do not mean well for Liberia and appear unwillingly to transform their image and address nagging public perceptions about the integrity of the legislature being a self-seeking bunch of cold water bodies out to sell themselves to the highest bidder.