Liberia: A Legislature Without Balls; Bad Governance Reigns as Idle, Spineless Men Stand By
THE WAY REPRESENTATIVE J. NAGBE SLOH(District No. 2, Sinoe County) puts it, Speaker Bhophal Chambers is “incompetent to lead” the 54th Legislature.
SIMILAR CONCERNS are also being expressed in the upper house of the national legislature where Albert Chie presides.
IN RECENT WEEKS, Liberians and international stakeholders have witness broad-day flouting of critical breaches of transparency and accountability guidelines, allegations of widespread corruption, appointments and commissioning of an Ambassador to the US without proper vetting or senate confirmation and a total disregard for the rule of law or procurement and concession laws.
PRESIDENT GEORGE MANNEH WEAH CAME under fire recently when he took it upon himself to unilaterally appoint and commission Mr. George Pattern, a former ambassador to Ethiopia, and Chargé d’Affaires a.i., at Liberia’s Permanent Mission to the UN, as Ambassador to the United States of America while the legislature was on its “Agriculture Break”.
SENATOR NYONBLEE KARNGAR-LAWRENCE used the first working session after the Agricultural Break this week to write plenary requesting it to invite Foreign Minister Gbehzohngar Milton Findley to appear before that body to show reasons while the procedure of appointing officials of government was violated.
SIMILARLY, Representative Yekeh Kolubah (Montserrado County District #10), wrote the United States Government to deny the Letters of Credence of Liberia’s Ambassador-designate, because of constitutional violations.
UNDER THE LIBERIAN constitution, all ambassadorial appointments are subject to confirmation by the Senate.
SADLY, IN RECENT weeks, some members of the national legislature, bearing a few exceptions have stood by and allow the Executive branch of government to have its way.
MULTIPLE PROJECTS outside the national budget are being undertaken by the presidency without transparency and accountability or proper vetting from members of the other three branches of government.
THE CRAFTERS OF THE constitution made it this way in hopes that a system of checks and balance would make it easy for each of the three branches of government to check on the other.
LIBERIA’S HISTORY HAS witnessed numerous instances where the Legislature has exhibited its powers sometimes reaching to the level of impeaching the President. During 1871, E.J. Roye was the President and after his deposition, Vice President James Smith was impeached by the House of Representatives to prevent another dark-skinned President.
IN 1900, the House of Representatives, Liberian Senate and the cabinet opposed to the interior policies of the President Coleman, who resigned, marking perhaps the last time the legislature was truly democratic until 1944, the period of President William V.S. Tubman.
LIKE THE CURRENT government headed by President George Manneh Weah – and even the one before him headed by former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Tubman was accused of allowing illiterate members in the branch of the government, who acceded to all the demands of the President and were unaware of their power and responsibilities.
HISTORIANS SAY Most of the candidates were chieftains, who were not elected based on popular vote. The amendment to constitution seeking representation for provinces made during May 1946 was seen as a measure to further dilute the powers of legislature. During this time, there were many cases of corruption against the President who became affluent and could attract candidates with money. Furthermore, there was a lot of cases where opposing candidates were asked to resign or risk expulsion from the legislature.
TODAY, BOTH HEADS of the lower and upper house are reportedly using their might to suppress their peers who are often seen as against the policies of the ruling party.
REP. SLOH, in a damning indictment of the head of the lower house took issue with the speaker over his refusal to provide some lawmakers viewed as opposition, vehicles and allotment for legislative projects while filling the speaker’s own office with padded figures in its budget.
ACCORDING TO REP. SLOH, he and other lawmakers’ gas slips are being frozen while others continued to benefit.
IN BOTH HOUSES OF THE LEGISLATURE, lawmakers are shutting their eyes to glaring discrepancies in shady concession agreements to the detriment of the country.
SADLY, NO ONE appears to have the gravitas to speak truth to power – and the few who dare are ostracized, punished and threatened with impeachment.
THE DEMOCRACY AS we know it appears to be only on paper as scores of Liberians have resigned to obvious reality that those, they elected to lead are failing them.
SADLY, THE LEGISLATURE has become a spineless body, idly sitting and allowing bad governance to triumph.
IT SEEMS that after all these years, Liberians have learnt nothing from its painful history. The killing of thirteen members of Tolbert government on April 22nd, 1980 by Samuel Doe and his band of misfits; and Doe’s own demise on September 9, 1990 at the hands of Prince Johnson have apparently done very little to change our mindset as a nation.
AFRICA’S OLDEST republic has been transformed into a nation of yes men lacking spines and balls to stand and be counted when a nation needs them the most.