Liberia: House Lifts Yekeh Kolubah’s Suspension Amid Supreme Court’s Intervention
Capitol Hill, Monrovia – The Plenary of the House of Representatives on Thursday was compelled by the Justice in Chamber Joseph Nagbe to lift the suspension it hastily placed on Representatives Yekeh Kolubah (CPP, District 10, Montserrado County) nearly a month ago.
Rep. Kolubah was suspended by the House for 30 days sitting (about four months) by Plenary, the highest decision-making body of the House of Representatives on Thursday, March 25, 2021 without salaries, allowances and benefits for what it termed as Rep. Kolubah’s constant habit of raining insults at President George Weah, the Speaker and some of his colleagues within the confines of the Legislature. His alleged action, Plenary said, was in gross violation of the House’s Rules.
The decision was triggered by a communication written by Rep. Thomas Fallah (CDC, District #5, Montserrado Co.), asking the august body to take action against their colleague for his unruly behavior. Plenary then voted in favor of the 30 day-sitting suspension.
However, Rep. Kolubah, through his lawyers filed a writ of prohibition to the Supreme Court, terming the House’s decision as illegal.
At a conference hearing earlier on Thursday, Justice Nagbe said the House did not accord Rep. Kolubah due process as outlined in Rule 48.4 of the House of Representatives.
The rule states that before a disciplinary action can be taken against any member, the speaker shall refer the matter to the Committee on Rules and Order, and the House, after examining the report and recommendations submitted by that committee, shall render its decision, and the decision shall be final.
The House Rules on Ethics
According to Rule 48.1 “The House shall take disciplinary measures against any member who violates or fails to comply with the House ethics and procedure specified in this rule
48.2 Where any member is aware of the existence of a breach of the code of conduct and procedure, he/she may request the House to take the necessary disciplinary measures against any member who is alleged to have committed the breach.
48.3 The request to be presented pursuant to Chapter XI of this rule shall be in writing and submitted to the Speaker together with the evidence.
48.4 The Speaker shall refer the matter to the committee on Rules and Order; The House after examining the report and recommendation submitted by that committee, shall render its decision and the decision shall be final.”
Suspension Lifted but Proceedings Continue
Back in the Chamber following the conference at the Supreme Court, Plenary immediately revoked the suspension following the recommendation of the House’s Judiciary Committee.
The Committee, through its Chairman, Rep. Kaine Wesso (District #3, Gbarpolu County), who serving as the lead lawyer of the House said they were emphatically told by Justice Nagbe that the House did not accord Rep. Kolubah due process and as such, his suspension shall be lifted or a writ of prohibition as prayed for by Rep. Kolubah will be imposed.
Rep. Wesso advised plenary to adhere to the Court’s order and make use of their rule and launch a new proceeding in line with the House’s Rules.
“In less than 10 minutes, we went back to the Justice in Chamber and told him that we accept his order to lift the ban on Honorable Kolubah,” he said.
“A letter should be written to the Court to that effect that the ban has been lifted, and we can take advantage of Rule 48.4 the same way and proceed.”
Rep. Acarous Gray (District #8, Montserrado County) then filed a motion to rescind Plenary’s decision and request the Speaker to act accordingly by referring the matter to the Committee on Rules, Order and Administration. It was accepted through a unanimous vote.
Though it may seem that Rep. Kolubah has scored a significant victory, there are signs the suspension debacle is far from over.
Commenting on Plenary’s latest decision on Spoon FM, Rep. Gray hinted in a cryptic statement saying “If a man supposed to die today and didn’t but die tomorrow, it is the same death.”
He later clarified that he was not wishing his colleague a physical death, noting, “I simply mean if a decision was to be taken today and was not, and taken the next day, it is the same decision.”
Suspension Decision Left House Divided
Prior to Justice Nagbe’s intervention, there had been split opinions over Rep. Kolubah’s suspension as group of lawmakers, predominantly from the opposition CPP termed the suspension as illegal and called on the House to rescind its decision.
The CPP Caucus, through a statement read by its Chairman, Rep. Joseph Papa Kolleh (District #7, Bong County) on Tuesday, described the plenary’s action as a kangaroo decision.
The Caucus said using the Chambers of the House to go against and after Rep. Kolubah or any other member of the House for utterances made outside of the Capitol Building towards the President of Liberia or any other non-member of the Legislature was wrong and illegal; and called on plenary to rescind its decision or they will support their colleague to take appropriate actions against the House.
But Rep. Gray fired back in a quick response, saying the opposition lawmakers were disingenuous in their comments and vowed to lead a campaign to remove Rep. Kolubah if he continues his actions.