Liberia: Senate Finds Agriculture Minister Guilty of Contempt

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MONROVIA – The Liberian Senate on Tuesday found Agriculture Minister Jeanine Cooper guilty of contempt of the Legislature. She was accused by the Senate Agriculture Committee of impending its legislative functions through a non-corporative posture.

They reached the decision through a majority vote of 10 for; five Senators voted against the decision and four abstained.

Senator Darius Dillon of Montserrado County, Senator Gble-Gbo Brown Maryland County and two others abstained from the final decision.

The Senate will reach a decision on her sentencing on Thursday.

Madam Cooper had appeared last week Thursday on the same accusation but the Senate could not continue with the hearing after she had requested the presence of her legal counsel which was in adherence to due process a request granted by the Senate.

On Tuesday, the Minister was represented by Cllr.  Gloria Musu-Scott.

The Minister apologized to the Senate. She said her previous stance and response to the complaint from the committee was because she was misled by her Deputy Minister Robert Fagan who had informed her that he appeared before the committee in August during her absence.

She explained that her failure to show up at the Committee hearing was because she had been informed by her deputy that she was already represented – something she later found out to be misleading.

In her statement of apology, she said, it has never been the intention of the Ministry of Agriculture and its officials to deliberately, wilfully and intentionally refuse to comply with requests from the relevant Committees to appear.

“Whenever duly cited, the Ministry of Agriculture represented by myself, when I am in the country or in my absence, the Acting Minister will appear along with relevant documents to answer queries. It was in this vein that I responded to the letter signed by the Secretary of the Liberian Senate, Honorable Nanborlor F. Saingbe, Sr., dated October 21, 2021, ordering myself and the Deputy Ministers to appear on Tuesday, October 26, 2021 at the hour of 11 a m.

“In humble submission to this citation, we respectfully informed this Honorable Body in a letter dated, October 22, 2021, that I was not in the country at the time of either of the citations. Nevertheless, I worked with the Acting Ministers and project teams to ensure that the Senate citations were properly addressed. I have done all within my power and personal abilities to reinforce and facilitate legislative oversight including by and through the provision of reports to the House of Representatives, to various committees in the Senate, including the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.”

 Briefings are being given as to the Senior Leadership of the House of Representatives, to cabinet colleagues, to the international community and to the world at large.

Plenary’s contempt charge was triggered by a communication written by Margibi County Senator Jim W. Tornonlah, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, alleging that the Agriculture Minister and her deputies were putting up a noncompliant posture to the Committee; thereby impeding the work of the Senate.

The Margibi County Lawmaker also told Plenary that from the commencement of the work of the Agriculture Committee which has oversight responsibilities over this sector, the Minister and her deputies have refused to remit to the Committee a cooperative attitude despite the many communications sent her to update the Committee on happenings in the sector.

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