Liberia: Chief Muslim Cleric Leads Relatives, Muslim Community In Begging House of Representatives to Pardon Makanvee and Abdul Sheriff
Capitol Hill, Monrovia – The Chief Imam of the Republic of Liberia, Ali Krayee on Wednesday led the family and members of the Islamic community to apologize to members of the House of Representatives on behalf of Makanvee Sheriff and Abdul Sheriff for assaulting a lawmaker on Tuesday.
Speaking at the grounds of the Capitol on Wednesday, Imam Krayee said the actions of the two siblings against Rep. Nathaniel Bahway (District #1, Grand Kru County) was unacceptable, and it should not have happened.
“Yesterday’s act wasn’t just unfortunate, it was illegal, it was inappropriate, and on behalf of the Sheriff family, we want to say we are sorry that it happened at all,” he said.
“We condemn it in every sense of the world and we pray that the Honorable House of Representatives will forgive us; especially our sister, Makanvee Sheriff and our brother Abdul Sheriff for the act done yesterday.”
The Plenary of the House of Representatives, in its special sitting on Tuesday, sentenced the Sheriffs to 15 days in prison for verbally and physically assaulting Rep. Bahway at the grounds of the Capitol.
They said the lawmaker hit their vehicle while heading to session and refused to say sorry. As the result, they followed him to the Capitol and carried on the act.
Pleas for ‘Merciful Justice’ Ignored
Despite the Sheriff siblings pleading guilty and begging for forgiveness, the House, citing Article 44 of the Constitution of Liberia, voted to punish them in order to “Set a precedent and deterred future attacks against lawmakers”.
Makanvee lamented that she was not mentally well and that she allowed her emotions to take hold of her. She later collapsed in the chamber and was rushed to the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital where she is currently seeking medication. Abdul Sheriff said he has always been a peaceful citizen, and was sorry for his action against the lawmaker who could be a father figure to him.
Some of the lawmakers including Representatives Moima Briggs Mensah (District #6, Bong County), Haja Fata Siryon (Bomi County) and Johnson Gwaikolo (District #9, Nimba County) called for a lesser punishment.
Speaker Bhofal Chambers, serving as the presiding officer peeped into the debate, and quoting former U.S. President Abraham Linclon, pleaded with his colleagues to “show merciful Justice.”
But despite the pleas, majority of the lawmakers including Representatives Thomas Goshua (District #5, Grand Bassa County), Jimmy Smith (District #2, Montserrado County) Ivar Jones (District #2, Margibi County) and Larry Younquoi (District #8, Nimba County), in a heated debate, called for tough punishment to serve as a deterrence.
“The action of the lady and the gentlemen to come to the Capitol to do what they did, I believe was premeditated. We have to set a precedence or pretty soon, we will be attacked by people who feel they can get away with anything they do to us,” said Rep. Goshua.
Rep. Jones reminded his colleagues of the slew of attacks against the Legislature and individual lawmakers in recent time. He said the actions of the Sheriffs can be compared to that the actions of the Economic Freedom Fighters and its leader, Emmanuel Gonquoi.
Rep. Younquoi added: “I want to say that this lady has been given due process, and she has openly admitted to her action, she must put in jail and stay there until December 18. Thereafter, she can be tried for her crimes.”
Life in Prison
Meanwhile, Abdul has begun serving his sentence at the Monrovia Central Prison at South Beach. He was escorted; while Makanvee is still admitted at JFK Memorial Hospital. She is expected to be transferred to prison when she is fully recovered. In the main time, she remains on the watch of state security in line with the motion passed by the Plenary of the House.
Incident Reawakens Third Lane Debate
While most of the public including the Muslim community are in solidarity with the Legislature over the Sheriff siblings’ actions, Tuesday’s unprecedented incident has reawakened the ‘third lane’ debate which dominated the news in recent time.
Members of the 53rd National Legislature clandestinely passed a law during the regime of ex-Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; exempting members of the legislative, executive and judicial branches of the Liberian government; as well as other VIPs from traffic congestion.
The law, which is yet to be printed into handbills, among other things, gives preference to lawmakers, members of the judiciary and executive to use “third lane” during traffic congestion while on their way to execute their assigned tasks and responsibilities.
Many has termed the lawmakers’ decision as undemocratic and a misuse of power. Even Montserrado County Senator, Abraham Darius Dillon, weighing in on the issue, said the the ‘Third Lane’ law was bad.
“The 53rd Legislature enacted a new Law that now grants rights to certain category of public officials, including Lawmakers, Associate Justices, Cabinet Ministers, etc., to use the “3rd Lane” in the vehicular traffic. I am here wondering whether we have any “3rd Lane” in Liberia or the said Law simply allows the privileged public officials the right to intrude into the free movement of the opposite traffic”.
“I hold strongly that this new Law is bad; it is against the public good and against public safety. We will be reviewing this latest Law to make sense of it, and where necessary, submit a Draft Act to assess, adjust and or repeal the same”.