Liberia: House of Representatives Passes Bill Cancelling Tenure Position for Deputy Maritime Commissioners’ Post amid Staunch Criticism from Minority Lawmakers
Capitol Hill, Monrovia – With just two more sittings to end the Legislature’s extended session, the House of Representatives has passed several bills submitted to the Legislature by President George Weah.
Among them, a bill stripping off tenure from the Deputy Commissioners of Maritime and creating assistant commissioners and the act establishing the Liberia Tourism Authority.
Others include a bill amending the Business Corporation Act and the Partnership and Limited Partnership Acts of the Associations Law of the Republic of Liberia; as well as and Act to Amend the National Lottery Act to increase the activity of the Betting House to increase government’s revenue.
Unlike the somewhat smooth passage of the other bills, the plenary was ripped with acrimonious exchanges during its Wednesday’s sitting when House Speaker Bhofal Chambers deliberately denied several lawmakers including Representatives Larry Younquoi (ANC, District #8, Nimba County), Samuel Kogar (District 5, Nimba County), Francis Dopoh (UP, District #3, River Gee County), Thomas Goshua (District #5, Grand Bassa County) and Lawrence Morris (District #1, Montserrado County) of making their amendments to a motion calling for the passage of the bill.
Rep. Younquoi called the Speaker a dictator and threatened to seek redress to the court over his action.
The Maritime Law of 2020
On September 30, 2020, President George Weah submitted before the Legislature a bill calling for the complete cancellation of tenured positions at the Maritime Authorityto grant him full authority over the institution.
Plenary then mandated Speaker Chambers to constitute a specialized committee dominated by the Committee on Judiciary headed by to review the bill and report on Wednesday.
In its report, the committee made a slight change to President’s Weah’s version by upholding tenure for the Commissioner but eliminating tenure for the deputy commissioners; and at the same time creating assisting commissioner positions.
According to the Committee, the power of the President to appoint assistant commissioners is “based on the fact that the time it takes to train, capacitate and deploy maritime personnel in the competitive environment lends itself to the need to constantly have a corps of maritime professionals undergoing “in service training so that no unexpected absence of personnel can create a catastrophe void in maritime operations.
The amended act, if passed into law, will also empower the President to appoint commissioner and deputy commissioner with the consent of the Liberian Senate but assistant commissioner will only be subject to approval of the Board of Directors.
Currently, the law states that “the Board of Directors shall recommend for the President’s approval a Commissioner who shall be the Chief Executive Officer and who shall have general managing direction of the Authority, superintendence of ships registered under the laws of the Republic of Liberia, and responsibility for the enforcement and administration of the provisions of the Liberia Maritime Law and Regulations or any other maritime related laws.”
Several lawmakers had dissenting views following the reading of the report of the Joint Committee, comprising mostly members of the Judiciary Committee headed by Rep. Fonati Koffa and the Committee on Maritime headed by Rep. Acarous M. Gray. However, Speaker Chambers denied the lawmakers to make their amendment, a privileged that should have accorded every member on the floor during debate, according to the House’s rules.
Reps. Younquoi and his colleagues argued that every position should be subject to Senate confirmation.
Rep. Kogar’s attempt to call for a motion of reconsideration but he was denied by the Speaker.
Rep. Gray, serving as co-presidng officer the absence of Deputy Speaker Prince Moye was often seeing leaving his chair to take a vote in favor of all four of the President’s Weah sponsored Bills, something that Moye has never done.