Liberia: House Plans Retreat to ‘Sort out Differences among Members and Speaker’
Monrovia – The House of Representatives has of course been in a bit of disarray over the previous weeks, with the Speaker picking bone with some lawmakers and at the same time resisting investigation of his leadership in the ongoing alleged missing billions investigation.
Speaker Bhofal Chambers has often come under criticism by his colleagues over the manner in which he has been conducting session, shielding some lawmakers including – Reps Thomas Fallah and Jeremiah Koon – who other lawmakers believed to be his kitchen cabinet. These lawmakers are reportedly involved in the L$16 billions saga. And he is constantly at war with the former President, which is personal.
Some Members of the House have often expressed their worry over the selective manner in which the Speaker gives recognition for lawmakers to make an input on matters under deliberation in plenary.
Of key concern to some lawmakers in recent development is the Speaker’s resistance to subjecting the House to probe by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that is aiding the government with investigation of the reported missing L$16 billion.
During his press conference, Speaker Chambers said, “The issue of investigation or prosecution lies with the Executive, and the term of reference has been
developed by people given the task to do so. Without knowing the details, the TOR [Terms of Reference] would be the scope of the printing of excess money because the five billion authorized by the legislature is what concerns us,” he said.
He added: “The House Representatives is the fulcrum of democracy. Any other institution cannot invite this legislature; this legislature is under constitutional obligation to call anybody for questioning. The Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) told us there is no missing money so how the transaction and authorization was done in my view will be the point of investigation.”
Chambers: “The people from the FBI know contemporary Democracy; they know contemporary constitution. They will never think of inviting the House of Representative for an investigation doing so will be a failure on their part,” he said at the press conference.
He labeled individuals calling for investigation into the missing money scandal as noisemakers.
“Basically, when people say ‘bring back our money’ it’s noise because to say ‘bring our money’ means you know where the containers are,” he added.
Little did Speaker Chambers know the extent to which his assertion could create crack with the House as several lawmakers distanced themselves from his statement, noting that his expressed contentions did not meet the approval of the entire body.
The lawmakers accused Chambers of using the office of the Speaker to launch a stinking attack on former officials of government, and to paint a controversial picture of defiance and non-cooperation by the 54th National Legislature regarding the ongoing investigation on the alleged missing L$16 billion saga.
“These unilateral and personalized comments emanating from the Honourable Speaker is a lone statement and position that do not represent the condensed decision of the House’s Plenary and the Leadership of the House,” the lawmakers said in a statement.
“As members of the 54th National Legislature, we welcome the investigation on the current 16-billion Liberian dollars, and remain cooperative to ensuring a logical conclusion in the interest of the Liberian people.”
According to the lawmakers, because of the integrity of the 54th National Legislature matters any or all members of the Legislature who for any reason are to be subject to investigation should comply with extent provided for in the Law, and in the interest of the Liberian people, while warning the Speaker to refrain from use of the House’s platform in “launching his attack on the former officials of government”.
They warned, “Doing so will sway the debate in a non-productive manner to the detriment of the Liberian people.”
Lawmakers, who rejected the Speaker’s statement concerning the ongoing investigation included, Francis Saidy Dopoh, Representative, District #3 River Gee County, Thomas Goshua Representative, District #5 Grand Bassa County, Dowoin T. Gleekia Representative, District #6 Nimba County, Richard N. Koon Representative, District #11 Montserrado County, Hanson S. Kiazolu Representative, District #1Montserrado County, Yekeh Y. Kolubah Representative, District #10 Montserrado.
Following their statement, some lawmakers loyal to the Speaker, including Montserrado District 8 Representatives, Moses Acarous Gray, termed his colleagues who were opposed to the Speaker’s stance on the investigation as gangster lawmakers.
Speaker Chambers has since not enjoyed a smooth relationship with his colleagues. FrontPageAfrica gathered that some have collectively agreed to continuously snub him until he can publicly retract his statement and apologize to the body. They, according to sources, have at the time decided in principle to meet President George Weah to officially inform him of their quest to have Chambers replaced as Speaker of the 54th Legislature.
The Legislative source informed this paper that the Sunday, October 28 retreat called by the leadership of the House is intended to create an atmosphere where the Speaker would reconcile with his colleagues.
The citation to the retreat reads: “By directive of the Leadership of the Honorable House of Representatives of the 54th Legislature of the Republic of Liberia, all members of the Honorable House are to attend a One-Day Legislative Retreat slated for Sunday, October 28, 2018 at the Millennium Hotel on Tubman Boulevard in Sinkor, Monrovia from 8:00am to 5:00pm.
Because of the importance of this Legislative Retreat, it is expected that al honorable members will attend and will be on time.”
The announcement was signed by the deputy chief clerk, J. Sayfurh Geplay.
The source, a lawmaker who asked for anonymity, said “The Speaker is aware we are not taking his impeachment lightly. His wrong doings are many and glaring. We cannot continue to run the House of Representatives in this manner. So, I believe he is calling for this retreat to see how best he can talk to us to rescind our decision.”
He, however, added that lawmakers opting for Chambers’ removal are firmed on their decision and that no amount of persuasion would change their minds.
“We cannot allow ourselves to be in this for the next five years. We have endured one year and that is enough,” he said.