Anti – Tyler Body Reportedly One Shy of Two-Third Needed to Remove Embattled Speaker
Monrovia – The confusion over leadership change at the House of Representatives might be tense at the moment but if not resolved until January 2017, the situation will be more embarrassing when President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf steps up to deliver her state of the nation address in keeping with the article 58 of the Liberian Constitution.
The constitution provides in article 58 that the President shall on the fourth working Monday in January of each year, present the administration’s legislative program for the ensuing session, and shall once a year report to the Legislature on the state of the Republic.
The President in presenting the economic condition of the Republic, the report shall cover expenditure as well as expenditure and income.
During the time of reporting on the state of the Republic the National Legislature- the Liberian Senate and the House of Representatives are required to meet in the joint chambers of the legislature where the Speaker is required to preside over the joint session for the President to deliver her report.
With the leadership crisis currently in a deadlock, the pro-Speaker Alex J. Tyler bloc has resolved to take off for their usual agriculture break this Tuesday as the Speaker has already expressed that Tuesday will be the last day of normal legislative duties.
On the other hand, the anti-Tyler bloc also known as the ‘majority bloc’ has signed a resolution along with some members of the Liberian Senate already endorsed by the President through a proclamation extending their stay at the Capitol for a period of one month.
Who presides in January?
When the pro-Tyler bloc departs for agriculture break this Tuesday, the Speaker will remain as the legitimate leader of the body until January and while the President has already recognized the bloc led by Deputy Speaker Hans Barchue, it is predicted that there will be a crisis as to who will preside over the joint Chambers of the National Legislature for the President to deliver her State of the Nation address.
The constitution provides in article 49 for the speaker to be elected by members of the House of Representatives for a period of six years and to be removed only for a cause by a two-thirds majority of the body.
Article 49 provides “The House of Representative shall elect once every six years a Speaker who shall be the presiding officer of that body, a Deputy Speaker, and such other officers as shall ensure the proper functioning of the House. The speaker, the Deputy Speaker and other officers so elected may be removed from office for cause by resolution of a two-thirds majority of the members of the House”.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in her letter to deputy Speaker Barchue expressed willingness to work with a constitutional majority of the House of Representatives.
The Constitution provides in Article 33 for a simple majority to constitute quorum for the transaction of business but the major issue dodging the ‘majority bloc’ is whether their majority is constitutional.
Article 33 of the constitution provides “Simple majority of each House shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business, but a lower number may adjourn from day to day and compel the attendance of absent members. Whenever the House of Representatives and the Senate shall meet in joint session, the presiding officer of the House of Representatives shall preside”.
The constitution is not clear on whether a majority gathering through a dispute over the removal of a speaker, where the Speaker who is the constitutional head of the body is forced to stay out of such simple majority can constitute a legitimate simple majority.
Already the Supreme Court which interprets the constitution and other laws has declined through Associate Justice Jamesetta H. Wolokollie to issue a Wirt of Prohibition prayed for by Speaker Tyler against the majority lawmaker.
On the basis of precedent-which is Judge made law; an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court can decline to issue a particular writ.
In July 1999 two Associate justices at separate time declined to issue Writ of Prohibition prayed for bya party to case – Juliana and Comfort Teah who prayed the Supreme Court for a writ of prohibition but Chambers Justice Jangaba declined to issue the writ.
In the same case, Mr. Justice Sackor another Chambers Justice who later succeeded Justice Jangaba also declined to issue the writ but cited the parties to a conference where they verbally discussed.
Tyler’s Removal in play
With crisis looming come January 2017 where the entire country will likely face and embarrassing situation when the State of the Nation might see disruption due to the debate over who to preside as Speaker, FrontPageAfrica has gathered that the anti-Tyler lawmakers are now pushing to remove the Speaker permanently, where if they succeed he will only have to return to the Capitol in January as a lawmaker of Bomi County and not contesting the position of a Speaker.
To effect such change, the anti-Tyler lawmakers will need to abide by article 49 of the constitution which provides for the Speaker to be removed through a two-thirds majority of members of the House of Representatives.
The current 53rd national Legislature has a membership of 73 and two-third of that number will require at least 46 lawmakers to vote on removing the Speaker.
FrontPageAfrica has gathered up to late Saturday, the anti-Tyler lawmakers have already garnered 43 lawmakers in their push to reach the constitutionally required two-thirds members to automatically remove the Speaker, thereby abandoning their usual recusal fight.
One source confided in FPA that some members of the pro-Tyler group embarrassed by the proclamation by the President extending the stay of the lawmakers’ couple with the pronouncement by Speaker Tyler that he and his loyalists are leaving for agriculture break Tuesday, these lawmakers are willing to form part of the quest to remove the speaker.
“If we go for break and the others- lawmakers stay to debate the budget, we will be seen as holding the country hostage, they will be playing politics that we do not want civil servants to take pay and for development to go on, so for me now, this is not about Tyler and power, or me taking money to remove Speaker Tyler, it is about the Liberian people”, one pro-Tyler lawmaker told FPA on the basis of anonymity.
Last week Montserrado County lawmaker, Edwin Snowe, anti-Tyler said “We will be remaining at work to do the Liberian people work, all the lawmakers that will not show up to work will not be paid”.
In her proclamation extending the stay of the Legislators, an Executive Mansion statement indicated “President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has issued a proclamation extending 5th Session of the 53rd Legislature for a period of one month beginning September 1, thru September 30, 2016 to allow the Legislature the opportunity to discuss and act upon matters of national concern. The Fifth Regular Session of the 53rd Legislature of the Republic of Liberia adjourns on August 31 of each year”.
If the removal play does not go into action until Tuesday at which time Speaker Tyler has announced that he and his loyalists’ lawmakers will be taking their agriculture break, he might be removed in his absence, bringing into play the question of whether the Speaker was accorded due process as required by the constitution.
Article 38 of the Liberian constitution provides for members of the Legislature to be given due process before an action such as expulsion is taken against them.
Article 38 states – “Each House shall adopt its own rules of procedure, enforce order and with the concurrence of two-thirds of the entire membership, may expel a member for cause. “
“Each House shall establish its own committees and sub-committees; provided, however, that the committees on revenues and appropriations shall consist of one member from each County. All rules adopted by the Legislature shall conform to the requirements of due process of law laid down in this Constitution”.
When Speaker Tyler is out of the Capitol on a constitutional agriculture break, his removal by a two-thirds majority of members of the House of Representatives could raise another legal debate but this time it will be unclear where the Speaker will go to seek such legal remedy.
Dark cloud over budget
One of the major reasons for the extension of the stay of the lawmakers at the Capitol is to debate the 2016/2017 national budget but the fiscal instrument is expected to experience a big bottlenecks as about three counties will not have any lawmaker present on the budget committee should the pro-Tyler bloc remain intact.
Article 38 of the constitution quoted above provides for the committee on revenues and appropriations to consist of one member from each county.
At the moment, lawmakers from three counties are completely absence from the ‘majority bloc’ seeking to remove Speaker Tyler.
Bomi, Grand Cape Mount and Grand Gedeh counties have no lawmakers on the side of the ‘majority bloc’ and it will be unconstitutionally for the bloc to deliberate and pass the budget into laws without lawmakers from these three counties.
Now the variables are complex and multiple in the House of Representatives leadership squabble and the majority bloc will have to gather a two-thirds majority members to remove Speaker Tyler before he takes off for his agriculture break on Tuesday. Where he is not removed until he takes off, Speaker Tyler returns to the Capitol in January ready to preside over the joint session of the National Legislature for the President to deliver her state of the nation address.
When removed in his absence, Speaker Tyler might challenge the constitutionality of his removal on the basis of due process. The majority bloc is also under pressure to work in getting at least one lawmaker from each of these three counties-Bomi, Grand Cape Mount and Grand Gedeh to make their deliberation on the national budget constitutional.
The processes leading to January 2017 will be interesting to watch.