Liberia: Eight Senators Write Senate Leadership As Legislative Tensions Run High Over Plot To Remove Senator Dillon
Monrovia – Pressure is mounting over Pro Temp Albert Chie’s leadership in the Senate as eight senators on Tuesday, submitted a letter rejecting knowledge over a complaint filed against Senator Abraham Darius Dillon(Liberty Party, Montserrado County).
Report by Henry Karmo, [email protected]
The eight senators include: Sen. Conmany Wesseh (UP-River-Gee County), Sando Johnson (CDC-Bomi County), Armah Jallah (CDC-Gbapolu County), Stephine Zargo (LP-Lofa County), Daniel F. Naatehn, (IND-Gbapolu County), Nyounblee Karnga Lawrence (LP-Grand Bassa County), Oscar Cooper (IND-Margibi County) and Henrique Tokpah (IND-Bong County).
The eight Senators have jump to the defense of Senator Dillon by signing onto a letter in response to complaint filed by Senator George Tengbeh(CDC, Lofa County) requesting the senate to investigate him for comments he made in Public against other Senators.
In their letter dated June 1, 2020, the Senators stated clearly and emphatically that as far as they are concerned – and to their certain knowledge of Rule 23 of the Senate standing rules, there is no complaint against Senator Abraham Darius Dillon before the Senate least to mentioned any ongoing investigation as is being speculated in the Public. “Please correct the very wrong impression that was given the Public regarding this matter,” the Senators urged Pro Temp Chie.
What the Rule Says?
Rule 23 of the senate standing rules states: “A senator may be suspended or expelled from the Senate when a petitioned signed by two-third of the membership of the Senate, same shall be forwarded to the plenary for consideration.”
Section B. of the same Rule 23 states that “after a petition has been read and considered by plenary, a vote of 2/3 (Two-third) majority of the total members of Senators duly seated shall determine the merit or non-merit of the petition.”
Rule 23 C states: “In the event the Senate believes that there is merit, a cross-sessional review team, compromising not less than 3 and not more than 5 Senators, none of whom shall be signatory to the petition, shall be constituted to investigate the matter, consistent with due process as provided for under the Liberian constitution and report their findings and recommendations to the plenary within a period not more than 30 calendar days.”
According to the rule, the time to report may be extended by the plenary upon request of the review team, but the combined total time shall not exceed 60 calendar days.
Section D. of Rule 23 further states: “Plenary shall debate the report and act upon the recommendation. If the recommendation calls for suspension or removal from the senate, a two thirds (2/3) vote is required and that expulsion of a member of the Liberian Senate shall conform to Article 38 of the constitution.”
Last week, the Senate leadership took charge of a mandate from plenary of the senate to investigate Senator Dillon based on Senator Tengbeh’s complaint.
“In the event the Senate believes that there is merit, a cross-sessional review team, compromising not less than 3 and not more than 5 Senators, none of whom shall be signatory to the petition, shall be constituted to investigate the matter, consistent with due process as provided for under the Liberian constitution and report their findings and recommendations to the plenary within a period not more than 30 calendar days.”– Senate Rule 23C
Senator Tengbeh in his communication claimed that Senator Dillon and Cohorts have in recent months embarked on a “smear campaign” aimed at denigrating the Liberian Senate both wholly and individually.
The Lofa County Senator alleged that his peer has willfully and intentionally distorted the image of the Senate, causing massive injury to the characters of Senators and the institution.
Senator Tengbeh said: “On Wednesday, May 20, 2020, Senator Dillon accused all Senators who affixed their signatures to the Senate resolution containing the COVID-19 recast budget and certain fiscal measures of receiving bribes. I demand the senator to provide proof of the commission of this highly felonious crime by twenty-three senators who signed the document.”
The Lofa County Senator’s letter of complaint was referenced on an interview where he (Tengbeh) alleged that Senator Dillon had several weeks ago and “deceptively” told the Public that he received an amount of US$ 6,500.00 as operational funds when the amount was US$8,000.
Though Tengbeh had earlier kept the information private until Senator Dillon revealed the information, he said in his communication: “This is gross dishonesty on the part of the Montserrado County Senator and has no place in the Senate. It is honorable to disclose fully and criminal to disclose partially.”
Meanwhile, Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence(LP, Grand Bassa) says the senate needs to redo the complaint in the wake of numerous red flags dogging the legitimacy of the complaint.
Senator Karnga Lawrence told legislative reporters Tuesday that the complaint filed against Senator Dillon needs to be re-done in keeping with the senate’s standing rules and anything outside of that the complaint is “dead upon arrival.”
The Senator, who is also the political leader of the opposition Liberty Party (LP), made the statement Tuesday after a day-long leadership meeting.
The meeting had many agenda items but mostly dominated by the complaint against Senator Dillon. “There should be no report tomorrow. What we expect is a recommendation from the leadership whether to follow the procedure laid down by our rules or dismiss the complaint. I have said and maintain that that complaint is dead upon arrival.”
The Senator expressed fear that if care is not taken, there could be a repeat of a “bad precedence” set in the removal of Justice Kabineh Ja’neh.
In the Ja’neh impeachment, Senator Karnga-Lawrence and ten others stood against the procedure and voted against removing the justice from office.
For his Part, Senator Sando Johnson (CDC-Bomi County) described the complaint against Dillon as a complete distraction from the real issues which he said are corruption in government specifically in the health sector.
Senator Karnga-Lawrence also chairs the Senate Committee on Rules and Order at the level of the senate. The complaint at the Senate has drawn immense public interest and the response from the public has been mixed with some supporting the allegations against the Senator while others see it as a witch hunt against the self-proclaimed “Light” of the Senate.