Executive Branch Puts Recognition of Deputy Speaker’s Gavel on Hold
Monrovia – Hours after a letter from President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf addressed to the House of Representatives, specifically to the ‘majority’ bloc with Deputy Speaker Hans Barchue as Presiding Officer, which was widely believed to be an endorsement of the bloc by the President, the Executive Mansion has recalled the letter citing clerical error involving addressee, reference number and one typo.
The Executive Mansion has responded to a communication dated August 11, 2016 from Dep. Speaker Hans Barchue with an attached Resolution taken by Majority of the House of Representatives. Notwithstanding, due to clerical error involving the addressee, Reference No., and one typo – the communication was recalled
Earlier Thursday, the ‘majority’ bloc received the communication from President Sirleaf which amongst others indicated that the impasse at the House of Representatives is stalling progress.
The President Communication stated “Please be assured that every lawful and constitutional act of the House of Representatives will be honored and respected by the Executive Branch of Government”.
She continued “I wish to bring to the attention of your Honorable body that programs under our agenda for Transformation, including several long standing draft legislations critical to our development have been stalled by the activities of the Legislature over the last few weeks. This has also led to little progress on the 2016/2017 Annual Budget.”
The communication further stated “It is my sincere hope that a constitutionally organized majority will properly and swiftly attend to these matters. The executive stands to cooperate.”
But late Thursday, the Executive Mansion issued a statement recalling the communication.
Stated the Executive Mansion “The Executive Mansion has responded to a communication dated August 11, 2016 from Dep. Speaker Hans Barchue with an attached Resolution taken by Majority of the House of Representatives”.
Added the Executive Mansion “Notwithstanding, due to clerical error involving the addressee, Reference No., and one typo – the communication was recalled”.
According to the Executive Mansion, further action will be taken on the matter following a review by the Supreme Court of Liberia.
“Further action on this matter will be taken after decision by the Supreme Court is seized of the matter”, stated the statement of withdrawal.
The Executive has vowed to honor and commit to every lawful and constitutional act by the House of Representatives.
“The Executive Mansion stands by its commitment to honor and respect every lawful and constitutional act by the House of Representatives”, the Executive Mansion statement concluded.
Before the President’s letter reached the ‘majority’ bloc, Information Minister Eugene L. Nagbe appeared before the plenary of the anti-Tyler group to answer to questions about the closure of some media institutions in Liberia specifically LIB 24.
During his appearance before the joint chambers plenary, the cabinet official defended that the recent closure of LIB 24 and Shata FM was legal and not an attempt by the government to muzzle the press.
On Saturday, officers from the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) of the Liberian National Police barricaded the premises of LIB 24 radio on 10th Street in Sinkor as the station was shut down. The radio station owned by opposition politician Benoni Urey was shut down along with its affiliate Shata FM located in rural Montserrado County.
Supreme calls for conference
The Supreme Court Associate Justice –In- Chamber Jamesette Howard Wolokollie has cited lawmakers meeting in the Joint Chambers of the National Legislature under the guise as majority bloc in the House’s crisis to a conference on Monday, August 22, 2016 at 12:00 noon.
A communication from the office of the Clerk of the Supreme Court Martha Henries Bryant dated August 18, 2016 was addressed to Hans Barchue, Deputy Speaker, Numene Bartekwa, Chairman, Munah Pelham Youngblood Secretary & Members of the House of Representatives meeting in the Joint Chambers of the National Legislature at the Capitol Building.
The communication reads: “By directive of her honor Jamesetta Howard Wolokollie, Associate Presiding in Chambers, you and members of the Honorable House of Representatives convening in the Joint Chambers of the National Legislature are hereby cited to a conference with her honor on Monday, August 22, 2016 at 12:00 in connection with the case J. Alex Tyler, Speaker of the House of Representatives versus lawmakers of the Majority Bloc”
The citation from the Supreme Court Clerk is as a consequence of a petition filled on August 12, 2016 to the Associate Justice –In- Chamber Wolokoliie asking the court to issue an alternative writ of prohibition against the Anti- Tyler lawmakers who have been holding meeting in the Joint Chambers of the National Legislature for the last two sessions day.
President Sirleaf was ill advised
Before the letter was withdrawn, many criticized the letter with some saying the President was ill-advised to write such letter.
Many see the President communication to the Anti-Tyler bloc as a serious mistake. Mr. Darius Dillon Deputy Secretary General of the opposition Liberty Party (LP) said, in an interview Thursday despite his firm position on calling for Speaker Tyler to recuse himself, President Sirleaf should not be the one determining who is the legitimate Speaker at the House of Representatives.
Dillon said: “This letter gives justification, and suspicions that the President is sponsoring the removal of the Speaker which I don’t want to believe. My issue is we should respect this constitution which gives the power to lawmakers to determine who their next Speaker is”.
The Liberty party official added “The Speaker too should understand that he had sixty members in his bloc. Today he cannot count 33 when your colleagues say they lost confidence in you it is far enough to muster the courage and exercise some expediency and let it go.”
Dillon further accused President Sirleaf of interfering into legislative politics stating that if she wants to do so she should influence the politics of the day even though he failed to say what he meant (Politics of the day) and not by a letter.
Not deterred by President’s letter
Not deterred by the President Communication to the anti-Tyler bloc, a resolution renewing confidence in Speaker Tyler was read in the other session presided over by the embattled Speaker. In their resolution signed by 35 members of the House of Representatives they pledged support to the leadership of the House of Representatives under Speaker Tyler.
In the resolution the group said, in conformity with Article 31 of the constitution of the Republic of Liberia they have taken and subscribe to a solemn oath of affirmation to uphold and defend the constitution and laws of the Republic and discharge faithfully duties of such office.
“Let it be resolved that we the undersigned members of the Honorable House of Representatives do hereby affirm and reaffirm our confidence in the constitution of the Republic of Liberia and support for the leadership of the House of Representatives under Speaker Jenekai Alex Tyler,” the resolution stated.
Senate recognizes Speaker Tyler
Despite the President’s letter the Liberian Senate seems to be recognizing the leadership of Speaker Tyler as the legitimate head of the House of Representatives.
On Thursday the Secretary of the Senate under instruction from plenary wrote the House of Representatives addressed to Speaker Tyler transmitting an Act Granting Financial Autonomy to the legislature for concurrence.
Unity Party position
Unity Party lawmakers including Clearance Massaquoi, Sekou Kanneh, Ben Fofana and Garyah Karmo were all seen in the Tyler session despite the party position issued Wednesday declaring the Tyler leadership is illegitimate.
According to the lawmakers they have not received any official communication from the Party and as such they are prepared to act or respond.
On Wednesday, a Unity Party statement indicated – “The Unity Party therefore avers that Speaker Alex Tyler has lost legitimacy, the confidence of his colleagues and the public trust and therefore supports a leadership change in the House of Representatives”.
The letter from the President will serve as big boost to the group of lawmakers opting to oust Speaker Tyler. It is predicted that there will be a big fight over which of the two sessions should deliberate on the draft 2016/2017 national budget.