Monrovia - Members of the 53rd Legislature Monday returned for normal legislative work with an almost empty chamber, but concerns about their re-election was highlighted by the Speaker.
Roll call record by the office of the chief clerk showed that 28 out of the 73 members of the House of Representatives were absent from work on the first official working day of 2017.
Amongst Lawmakers who were absent were Bhofal Chambers (CDC, Maryland County), Alex Tyler (UP, Bomi County), James Biney (NPP-Maryland County) and Thomas Fallah (CDC, Montserrado County).
The absentee Lawmakers failed to send official excuse for their absence and there are unconfirmed reports that many of them are in their respective districts working to ensure their re-election.
Political commentators have said this last session for the 53rd Legislature is crucial for members of the House of Representatives that are opting for re-election in the October polls.
Some say several of them will be inactive at session as they seek to get re-elected.
The Monday’s session was in compliance with Article 32 (A) of the Liberian constitution which states that - “The Legislature shall assemble in regular session once a year on the second working Monday in January.”
Lawmakers’ Re-Election Challenge
The results of the 2011 elections and outcome of the December 2014 special senatorial election witnessed huge exodus of Lawmakers due to what many political commentators described as ‘protest votes’ from constituents.
Many thought that the ousting of former Lawmakers would have served as a lesson for the current ones that are desperate for continuity.
As members of the House of Representatives seek re-elections, a survey conducted by the same body (Legislature) shows “negative signs for Members of the house” as they hope to maintain continuity at the House of Representatives.
According to House Speaker Emmanuel Nuquay the survey shows that 63% of the House of Representatives have the chance of maintaining their seat, while 37% shows possibilities of being elected out of office.
Speaker Nuquay made the disclosure during official program marking the resumption of legislative work in it 6th session.
In his efforts to ensure continuity for many of his colleagues bulk of who supported him to the speakership, Nuqauy stressed that “Continuity is an absolute necessity in consolidating the gains the country has achieved so far,” something he said will strengthen Liberia’s democracy.
“Our recent concluded survey, which was conducted by the Legislative Information Services under the direction of Mr. McCarthy Weh has informed us about some of the problems members of House of Representatives are facing."
"In their districts as we shortly begin instituting necessary measures, we will address those problems and improve the relationship between members of the House and their constituents to regain their trust and confidence to continue representation on their behalf.”
Speaker Nuquay, who also will be contesting again in his constituency in Margibi County, asserts that continuity in government has tremendous benefit.
In his words the trained and experience members of the legislature have acquired over the years valuable investment that cannot be overlook.
“They know the inner workings of government and how to get things done. Changing our Lawmakers every election undermines this investment and slows down development initiatives."
"It has been proven that with stable and continuous representation in the legislature, our constituents can easily access resources they need to accelerate development in their areas.”
“This is why, in this year’s election, we will be making a strong case to the Liberian people to see the need to return hard working and results oriented Lawmakers to the Capitol Building in 2018,” he said.
The House Speaker also named reconciliation as the first pillar of his vision for the obvious reason: “Wanting to bury differences that divided Lawmakers and reunite the House and the entire government”.
Over the years the image of the Legislature has been tainted with continuous public condemnations.
Some members of the public accuse the Lawmakers of being self interested and not doing anything for the constituents.
In Nuquay response to the tainted characterization of the Legislature he strongly rejected what he called “Mischaracterization of the Legislature in general and members of the House of Representatives in particular”.
He blamed the mischaracterization to the lack of understanding of the work the Lawmakers do and lack of information about what they have accomplished so far.
Budgeting for Media
In his effort to build partnership with the Media, the Speaker said some of the negative newis due to the impression that the Fourth Estate is being isolated and neglected in the business of government, while assuring that the media will be captured in the next fiscal budget.
“Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, colleagues, under this partnership and in recognition of the cardinal role of the media, we think it is prudent for our Government to help the media to have a home too like all other branches of our government,” he said.
"‘Against this background, we are proposing the inclusion of the media in the budget beginning this 2017-18 budget period to help construct the headquarters of the Press Union of Liberia under the direction and supervision of the relevant agency of government and provide training and capacity building for journalists across the country.”