Capitol Hill, Monrovia – Several members of the House of Representatives on Tuesday were left astounded by Speaker Bhofal Chambers’ unilateral decision to abruptly adjourn the session due to power failure at the Capitol.
During Tuesday’s session, the plenary was almost set to reach a quorum as per the House’s rules, but Speaker Chambers called for the session to be adjourned.
Rule 12.1 of the House’s rule noted that a quorum shall consist of a simple majority of the members of the Honorable House of Representatives. Quorum shall be necessary for the transaction of business. However, a minority may meet from day to day. Meetings at which a quorum is not present, only a motion to compel the attendance of absent members or to adjourn may be made.”
Speaking to the legislative press pool in the corridors of the Capitol Building, the Speaker said the decision was in the right direction, as it will allow the electricians sent by the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) perform their duties and restore power.
However, several members of the House were not in favor of the Speaker’s decision, with some calling it unfortunate and a deliberate attempt to block critical issues from being discussed on the floor.
“When he [Speaker Chambers] sees that there are some critical communications coming on the floor that will bring heated argument, he delays those communications so that they will perpetually die. And consistently where there will be no session, the agenda items that will be submitted to plenary sometimes will die after they stay on the dockets for two weeks,” said Rep. Richard Nagbe Koon of District #11, Montserrado County.
FrontPage Africa contacted the office of the Speaker for response but the Speaker’s political officer, George Watkins did not response to series of phone calls and text message.
Rep. Koon said there were several cardinal issues on the House’s agenda, some of which include bills, the budgets and series of communications enforcing legislators’ oversight responsibility that needed to be discussed.
Personally, he revealed that he had written three communications to plenary calling for the cancellation of the Eton and EBOMAF loan agreements that were ratified in 2018, invitation of the Civil Aviation authorities to give the status on the much trumpeted Liberia airline that was to resume flight and one citing officials of the Ministry of Education to explain why dozens of volunteer teachers who were trained by USAID to teach at public schools have not yet been assigned.
Also speaking, Rep. Dowohn Twain Gleekia (District #6, Nimba County) noted that the Speaker’s decision was unfortunate, and it was time for the Speaker to exercise leadership to ensure the House conducts session at 10 am as per its rules.
“It is sometimes alarming that we have to start session at 12 noon, sometimes 1pm or 2pm while we supposed to be in session by 10 am. But sometimes the Speaker goes there at 12 noon or 1pm. He goes to work earlier but he goes to session late. He is the Speaker but if he has several engagements, he should schedule early so that he can be in session by 10am.
Rep. Gleekia said it was not fair to the Liberian people for them to always start the people’s business late. He argued that the Speaker had presided over sessions several times when there was no electricity, and Tuesday was of no exception.
Also weighing in on the issue, Rep. Roger S. Domah (District #7, Nimba County) blamed the House’s leadership for what has been the House’s normal routine in conducting its affairs beyond the accepted time of 10 am.
He said it was time for Speaker Chambers to ensure session time is strictly adhered to.
Another lawmaker, opting not to be named, said the Speaker was in error to have unilaterally adjourned session once Plenary has attained simple majority to begin business. He noted that the presiding officer should asked plenary to decide whether to adjourn or not due to the power outage.