Several individuals indicted and some accused for alleged involvement in a report released by international watchdog group Global Witness alleging bribery are still occupying their various positions but some members of the House of Representatives have successfully used the indictment to pressure Speaker Alex Tyler to recuse himself from presiding, raising questions as to what becomes of the others since the Speaker is now unsettled
Monrovia -The ongoing debacle involving a report released by international watchdog group Global Witness linking some past and present government officials to alleged bribery of about US$950,000 from British company Sable mining in exchange for changes to specific provision of the Public Procurement and Concession law of Liberia to favor the mining company has taken a new twist following the recusal of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alex J. Tyler from presiding over the House of Representatives following immense pressure from some his colleagues.
Liberia has no history of public officials not stepping down when they are accused of involvement in criminal activities but the House of Representatives took the Global Witness report to another level when about 40 lawmakers launched a fight to have Speaker Tyler recuse himself as presiding officer until the indictment against him which is currently in court is resolved.
In what was seen as an attempted internal uprising against Speaker Tyler when Margibi County Representative Emmanuel Nuquay raised a motion asking the Speaker to recuse himself as a result of his indictment on multiple criminal charges, the legislative conflict grew to become a national problem when normal activities at the House of Representatives came to standstill with the lawmakers bickering over the recusal of the Speaker, ignoring their legislative duties.
Over a period of two months it turned a battle of hall and pull with Speaker Tyler standing firm that he was constitutionally elected and there is law requiring recusal but his colleagues who referred to themselves as the ‘majority bloc’, remained persistent and even created a parallel House of Representatives performing legislative work separate from the remaining lawmakers presided over by Speaker Tyler.
The Executive Branch of government took a side in the crisis when President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf wrote the majority bloc, headed by Deputy Speaker Hans Barchue expressing willingness to work with them in moving the country forward and ensuring that Liberia’s development agenda is back on track.
Public calls for Speaker Tyler to step down increased and the Traditional Council of Liberia, the organization of all chiefs from the 15 counties through their head, Chief Zanzan Kawor demanded that Speaker Tyler steps down.
All must recuse
Other members of the religious community added their voices, all calling for Speaker Tyler to go and one religious cleric demanded a holistic approach to the Global Witness saga, calling on all those accused in the report to recuse themselves like the case with the request by some lawmakers against Speaker Tyler.
Rev. Dr. Kortu K. Brown in a statement demanded that from the Legislative and Executive branches of Government all those accused in the Global Witness report “The Deceivers” should all recuse themselves in the interest of peace and a fair trial.
“All must recuse themselves” to avoid conflict of interest and/or prejudice during investigation by the Presidential Task Force or court trial, Rev. Dr. Kortu K. Brown said at a special thanksgiving service at New Water in the Desert Assembly to climax 3-days of fasting and prayers for Liberia for peace, mercy and forgiveness.
It was not days after the cleric call before Speaker Tyler finally took the decision to recuse himself as demanded by his colleagues, expressing that he took the decision for the love of Liberia to allow the country move ahead.
Speaker Tyler declared that Liberia is bigger than any individual and it is not about him but the Liberian people.
“For me it is not about Alex Jenekai Tyler. The people of Liberia whom we serve, are looking to us for leadership and their interest and welfare should reign supreme above any individual or personal consideration. I hope all national leaders must be cognizant of this fact”, he said.
He continued: “Therefore, if my recusal is the ultimate sacrifice that will move our country forward and end this current quagmire, I am herewith recusing myself from presiding over the plenary of the House of Representatives so that the business of the Liberian people can be fully addressed”.
What next after Tyler?
In recusing himself, the Speaker rightly said that it was not about him as an individual but the country as a whole.
Now that Speaker Tyler has been pressured to recuse himself as presiding officer of the House of Representatives, it has now taken the debacle regarding the Global Witness allegations to another level with more questions than answers as to whether other officials also accused in the report will emulate the example of Speaker Tyler by stepping down from their various positions until the entire saga is brought to an end through the court process.
Grand Cape Mount County Senator, Cllr. Varney Sherman is serving as head of the Judiciary Committee of the Liberian Senate, a very crucial committee that is responsible to make legal inputs in all laws before passage by that body.
Another individual accused in the report but yet to be indicte - Bomi County Senator Morris Saytumah is serving his position at the Liberian Senate.
Fombah Sirleaf, son of the President is also accused like others but the state is yet to draw an indictment against him like case of Senator Saytumah.
Liberia Petroleum Refining Company, LPRC Managing Director Sumo Kupee who is also accused in the report is also yet to be indicted and still enjoying his lucrative position at the LPRC.
More indictments loom
FrontPageAfrica has gathered that there might be more indictments soon as the State pushes to hold more individuals accountable for their alleged involvement in bribery saga that has brought the credibility of the entire country to the public glare.
Sources have hinted that a material witness was brought into Liberia during Speaker Tyler’s ordeal who will turn out to be a valuable state witness when the trial goes into full this September term of court.
Another key witness is said to have been interviewed by secured video link from Russia as the State is said to be making significant gains with the gathering of witnesses to nail those accused.
Early legal defeats
In his recusal speech, Speaker Tyler demanded that the State gives him a speedy trial when he expressed that an indictment does not mean guilt.
“It must be noted that indictment is not a guilty verdict and it is indeed unfortunate that some of our colleagues have chosen to effectively and glaringly exploit and politicize what is purely a legal matter”, he indicated.
Speaker Tyler than demanded a speedy trial. “However, it is my ardent hope that the ongoing trial can be speedily adjudicated. Let it be made clear that none of us from the presidency to the ordinary man in the street can subvert our constitution with impunity or subject the country to our personal whims and caprices”.
Since the indictment, Speaker Tyler through his lawyers have raised several motions including motion for separate trial, amongst others, all part of the pre-trial motions but also delaying the full trial which the Speaker is now demanding.
One State source told FPA that if the Speaker is sincere about his request for speedy trial, he should drop the many appeals and let the full trial go ahead.
Speaker Tyler and other defendants have lost every motion they filed and have appealed to the Supreme Court, delaying the prosecution as prosecutors can’t move forward without the financial records until the ones requested from the commercial banks are turned over.
The financial records are key to the money trail in the bribery scandal. The defendants are resisting the commercial banks from providing their financial records to the prosecution and FPA has gathered that one local bank seems prepared to lose its corresponding bank relationship rather than turn over financial records.
Now that Speaker Tyler has recused himself following immense pressure over the Global witness report, it has set a good precedent for other individuals indicted to emulate the example of the Speaker and even those yet to be indicted to do likewise pending the full completion of the trial.
Many believe that those who pressured the Speaker to recuse himself including the Traditional Council and other stakeholders should take the fight to another level by not advocating against Speaker Tyler alone but making it a holistic fight for change.