Capitol Hill, Monrovia – The Plenary of the House of Representatives has mandated Speaker Bhofal Chambers to inform the Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Sidie Mohamed Tunis that the seat which is currently occupied by Senator Edwin M. Snowe belongs to the House of Representatives.
Plenary’s decision was based on a request made by Representative Acarous Moses Gray (District #8, Montserrado County) in which he called on the House to take the appropriate steps in ensuring the Lower House retain its seat that was once occupied by Snowe when he served as Representative of Bomi County District #1.
However, Senator Snowe who heads the Liberian Parliamentary delegation said he can only be replaced when he is no longer a member of the Liberian Legislature.
Of its five seats at the ECOWAS Parliament, the Liberian bicameral Legislature awarded three seats to the House of Representatives and two to the Liberian Senate.
However, despite Snowe’s ascendancy to the Senate, he continues to maintain the seat he occupied while serving as a Representative; thus, reducing the House’s slots to two, and increasing the Senate’s seat to three.
Liberia’s current parliamentary delegation to the regional bloc’s legislative assembly include Senator Snowe as head of delegation, Senators Steve Zargo (Lofa County) and Jonathan Kaipay (Grand Bassa County); Representatives Clarence Massaquoi (Lofa) and Haja Fata Siryon (Bomi County).
This has not gone down well with some members of the House, who see the decision as a disadvantage against them.
Leading the campaign to reclaim the House’s seat, Rep. Gray said it was unfair for Senator Snowe, who is no longer serving at the House to keep occupying the House’s seat.
“It was the choice of few of our colleagues to run as Senator. Therefore, based on that choice, the House should not be punished. The ECOWAS Parliament is currently conducting its extraordinary seminar at the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Ministerial Complex. Let the House make use of the opportunity and write the ECOWAS Parliament Speaker that the House has a vacant seat and wants it to be filled its member,” said Rep. Gray.
Supporting his colleague, Rep. Samuel Kogar called on the plenary to make use of the ongoing ECOWAS Parliament’s summit and engage the Speaker about the House’s seat.
“The communication from here to Abuja takes long, but from here to the Ministerial Complex (the venue of the ECOWAS Summit) is less than an hour. It has nothing to do with connection crisis. If you have connection, it shouldn’t breach our constitution,” Rep. Kogar said in cryptic comment.
However, Rep. Byron W. Zahnwea (Rivercess County), reminded his colleagues that the delegation members are serving based on tenure, and since the ECOWAS Parliament does not distinguish between a Representative and Senator, but treats everyone as parliamentarian, Senator Snowe should be allowed to occupy the seat until his tenure expires since he is still a member of the Liberian Legislature.
But his colleagues, calling him to order, disagreed with him on grounds that the seat belongs to the House, and as such, the Bomi Senator should vacate for a member of the House to fill the vacant seat.
Following a sustained deliberation, Speaker Chambers informed Plenary that the House once reminded the Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament about the House’s seat but there has been no response. However, it will be prudent for the House to again remind him, and if no response, then it can officially write President George Weah, as the chief diplomat of Liberia to intervene. The decision was endorsed plenary.
‘Stop the Grandstanding’
Responding sharply to the House’s decision, Senator Snow called on members of the House of Representatives to redirect their energy to meaningful things and should stop wasting their time.
“I encourage members of the House of Representatives to redirect their energy to things that are more meaningful and stop wasting their time. I am a member of the legislature and represents Liberia at the ECOWAS Parliament. I can ONLY be replaced if I am no longer a member of the legislature or if I willingly resign from the ECOWAS Parliament. I therefore encourage members of the Lower House to read the rules of the ECOWAS Parliament. They have no right and cannot have me replaced.”
He continued: “If the House of Representatives feels I am occupying their seat at the ECOWAS Parliament, I encourage them to write and request same and stop grandstanding on the floor of the House.”
While the House is dwelling on the 3-2 slots apportioned to the House and the Liberian Senate, Senator Snowe and the Senate will be relying on Article 18 of the Supplementary Act of the ECOWAS which states that a Representative or member of the Parliament should be elected for a period of four years from the date of the inauguration of the Parliament by the Chairman of the Authority; adding that their mandate shall end on the last day of the Legislature.