Liberia: CPP Legislative Caucus Wants President Weah Declared State of Emergency Cancelled

The  CPP Legislative Caucus, in a press statement read by its Chairman, Representative Joseph Papa Kolleh (Unity Party, District #7), Bong County), says, the imposition of the State of Emergency is of no help to the fight against COVID-19 in Liberia.

Capitol Hill, Monrovia – Members of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) Legislative Caucus have called for the revocation of the State of Emergency declared by President George Weah because it has passed the deadline set by the Constitution to be approved by the Legislature.

Report by Gerald C. Koinyeneh, [email protected]

The CPP is made up of the four top opposition political parties including the All Liberian Party, Alternative National Congress, Liberty Party and the Unity Party.

The  CPP Legislative Caucus, in a press statement read by its Chairman, Representative Joseph Papa Kolleh (Unity Party, District #7, Bong County), says, the imposition of the State of Emergency is of no help to the fight against COVID-19 in Liberia.

Excerpt of the statement: “We, as members of the CPP Legislative Caucus wish to bring to the attention of the Liberian people that the State of Emergency as announced by the President of the Republic of Liberia on June 22, 2020 for a 30-day extension has not yet been passed by the National Legislature, as such, it has passed the maximum constitutional time frame to be enforced as provided for in Article 88.”

Article 88 of the Liberian Constitution states “The President shall, immediately upon the declaration of a state of emergency, but not later than seven days thereafter, lay before the Legislature at its regular session or at a specially convened session, the facts and circumstances leading to such declaration. The Legislature shall within seventy-two hours, by joint resolution voted by two-thirds of the membership of each house, decide whether the proclamation of a state of emergency is justified or whether the measures taken thereunder are appropriate. If the two-thirds vote is not obtained, the emergency automatically shall be revoked. Where the Legislature shall deem it necessary to revoke the state of emergency or to modify the measures taken thereunder, the President shall act accordingly and immediately carry out the decisions of the Legislature.”

According to the lawmakers, the 72-hour deadline has passed and the Legislature, comprising both Houses of Representatives and Senate has not acted on the President’s proclamation.

“While we are concerned about the alarming impact of the COVID-19’s spread, we give notices to the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary branches of Government that as of tomorrow, July 3, 2020, the extension of the SOE shall not apply,” the CPP lawmakers announced.

“We hereby advice and encourage the President to revert to the Public Health laws in ensuring the safety of the state.”

President Weah on June 22, 2020 announced the extension of the State of Emergency by 30 days. In a presidential proclamation, the President declared that he took the decision in consultation with the Legislature to afford the government the opportunity to re-examine its COVID-19 response.

In line with the constitution, he wrote the Legislature, stating the facts and circumstances behind his decision to extend the State of Emergency.

In the communication read in open plenary by the Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives, Mildred Sayon on Tuesday, June 30, 2020, the President told members of the 54th Legislature that the coronavirus was spreading beyond the Government’s control and there was a need for swift actions to contain the mode of transmission.

“Unfortunately, it (COVID-19), has now begun to increase beyond our control. As of June 27, 2020, less than four weeks later, those 300 cases have more than doubled to 738 cases of citizens infected by the disease. Health authorities have warned that if this trend continues, our fragile health system will be quickly and swiftly overwhelmed,” the President Wrote in his letter.

The President, writing further, told the Legislature that the public  is no longer complying with the health protocols which have previously helped prevent a much wider transmission of the disease in the country, most especially the wearing of face masks.

“This attitude, he said, cannot be allowed to continue unabated.

He disclosed that the government, through the IMS, seeing this as a challenge, was collaborating with the tailor unions and communities to produce about five to ten million face masks for distribution to citizens.

In addition, the President pointed out that with the extension, in the next four weeks of general lockdown measure, the IMS intends to ‘aggressively’ educate and acclimatize the Liberian population to the use of face masks, hand washing and social distancing in order to live safely and thrive in an open economy during the pandemic.

However, the House of Representatives in its Thursday’s session failed to act on President Weah’s communication.

The House, which has been meeting only once a week (every Tuesday), agreed on a motion to mandate its committees on Judiciary, Health and Ways, Means and Finance to review the President’s communication and to report to plenary on Thursday, July 2, 2020 for possible action.

But during the adoption of the agenda on Thursday, the plenary failed to make a definite decision as the joint committee’s report (if there was any) was not read and acted upon in session.

Rep. Francis Saidy Dopoh (UP, District #3, River Gee County) reminded his colleagues that because the 72-hour deadline has already elapsed, it was prudent to allow the joint Committee make its report for immediate action.

Representative Matthew G. Zarzar (CDC, District #3, Sinoe County), who, serving as the proponent of the motion adopting the agenda rolled back on Rep. Dopoh’s request in favor of Rep. Acarous Gray’s (CDC, District #8, Montserrado) amendment.

Gray requested the leadership of the House to coordinate with the President in responding to his (President) request.

Several lawmakers, including Rep. Clarence Massaquoi, Samuel Kogar and Francis Dopoh deferred, arguing that the decision to revert to the Executive without acting on the President’s request was unconstitutional.

The debate continued for more than half an hour with no decision until Speaker Chambers ceased the motion.