Liberia: Lawmakers Prepare Removal of Speaker Chambers for ‘Manipulating’ Dual Citizenship Bill, War Crimes Resolution
Monrovia – Bhofal Chambers is most likely to face intense pressure from half of the 73 members of the House of Representatives in the coming weeks as they push for his removal as Speaker.
Report by Alpha Daffae Senkpeni, [email protected]
Chambers is accused of circumventing legislative procedural for the passage of a bill after he allegedly manipulated three propositions including the dual citizen bill, which has already been printed into handbill and will go to referendum.
Lawmakers, who are furious with the Speaker’s action, have been holding closed door discussions to plan his removal. Over the weekend, more than 22 of them gathered in the Port City of Buchanan to begin making their move – the kind that will involve massive political maneuvering and bickering.
This is expected to be a long haul and probably a redux of past incidents that also saw the removal of two very influential House Speakers – Edwin Snowe and Alex Tyler.
The Low Down
It was supposed to be a very popular decision. The kind that will allow Liberians make a change to the Constitution: reduce the tenure of elected officials including the President, change the election date from the rainy season to the sunny season and allow diaspora Liberians to enjoy new rights back home.
The representatives had voted for the passage of the three propositions, according to one lawmaker, but would quickly realize that something was wrong. That the restrictions on the dual citizenship were unrealistic and needed amendment and so they requested a recall of the bill so that they would make the corrections.
“We decided that those items be recalled for amendment and it was recalled but it was disappointing to notice that it has been printed into handbill and a gazette,” said one of the 22 lawmakers, who attended the summit in Buchanan, to strategize the ousting Speaker Chambers.
“The issue was with the dual citizenship; specifically the restriction limiting would-be-dual citizens to hold public office. We wanted to allow people with dual citizenship to hold public office or technical positions but Speaker Chamber ignored us.”
He is also accused of ignoring the views of lawmakers regarding the electricity law and passed the law through without the acquiescence of his colleagues.
“He could be called in for investigation and probably removed. In fact, 22 lawmakers gathered in Buchanan (Grand Bassa County) to decide the removal of Speaker Chambers and we have several other lawmakers that are willing to join us remove this Speaker.”– A Source Lawmaker
War crimes Court Abyss
Before that, Speaker Chambers had blatantly refused to include on the agenda of the plenary a resolution to establish war and economic crimes court.
Fifty-three representatives had earlier signed a resolution and were prepared to pass the bill subject to concurrence by the Liberian Senate. But Chambers was adamant that until the lawmakers seek the consent of their constituents the resolution had reached a turbulent end.
The lawmakers seem poised to raise issues against the Speaker, something that has already drawn concerns from several international partners.
“You do not overturn the decision of the majority members that have met the two/third mandate,” another lawmaker said furiously.
“The rule says if he delays it the first day, no matter what, the second day in the week it should form part of the agenda because he has no authority for it to not be heard.”
Salary Reduction Issues
At the same time, Speaker Chambers’ refusal to adhere to the cut in salary has created bad blood with his colleagues. Many of those picking bone with him, say his action abrogates Legislative rules and puts in disadvantage.
The Speaker, based on the salary harmonization scheme suggested by the International Monetary Fund, was required to cut his salary by 31% but mathematical analysis has shown that the cut in his salary is far less than required.
“Right now, our salary is being slashed; we made the sacrifice, so why is he not adhering especially being the torchbearer of the House of Representatives,” another lawmaker said.
“I can tell you for a fact, if we convened today and that draft paper comes out for his removal, he will be removed today because lawmakers are not happy.”
But Chambers has been recalcitrant. His stance seems to have sufficed.
However, he continues to face criticisms from many lawmakers who have lambasted him for ignoring legislative proceeding.
The formation of the Independent Legislative Caucus manifested the disenchantment amongst lawmakers who were feeling the raft of Mr. Chambers’ unbending Legislative control.
“He could be called in for investigation and probably removed. In fact, 22 lawmakers gathered in Buchanan (Grand Bassa County) to decide the removal of Speaker Chambers and we have several other lawmakers that are willing to join us remove this Speaker,” said another lawmaker.
Regardless the trepidations about Chambers’ shrinking legitimacy at the 54th Legislature, he would only be ousted by the numbers – the more numbers. Numbers that would remain unchanged from the beginning of the coupe and even increased at the end.
So far, the 22 representatives – 16 members, who were also members of the 53rd Legislature, have already shown support for the removal of the Coalition for Democratic Change Speaker.
Additional 15 new lawmakers of the 54th Legislature have already agreed to oust the Maryland County’s District #2 lawmaker.
“So if those two combine, we will now go to the other lawmakers who we call swing lawmakers – because they are sitting on the fence – but there are too many conditions that will make them support the removal of Chambers.
There are about 30 swing lawmakers, amongst them are 12 independent representatives and 18, who are members of political parties. But those critical of Chambers say his misstep is hurting everyone, which could be his Achilles heels.
“Every lawmaker wants to serve a second term which is being jeopardized by Chambers and those things that are expected of him are being ignored,” a source said.
Could Weah Save Chambers?
When the Maryland County’s District #2 representative was elected by his colleagues back in 2018 as Speakers of the 54th Legislature, he openly disclosed that President Weah had promised him the post during the party’s days in opposition.
Chambers’ comment, though termed as politically ridiculous by his critics, was ignored by almost every lawmaker at the time.
Since then, he has never fallen shy of backing President Weah’s moves and failing to scrutinize the executive. His posture, coupled with his stewardship with the ruling CDC, has made him a bedfellow of the Executive.
Now, it seems his colleagues have absorbed enough but they too will have to avert manipulation by the President.
“We will communicate with the President,” said another lawmaker. “If he’s going to support Bhofal Chambers to remain Speaker over us who are not happy with his leadership style, we will walk out of his State of the Nation address when he comes.”
This sounds like a caveat to the president, but reechoes what may be a deep rift between the legislature and the Executive.
However Liberian politics has not favorable for speakers who had a political clash with the President and fallen from grace.
For Chambers, there’s no trace of a scuffle with Mr. Weah although there’s always a tendency of a changing political dynamics. And with opposing lawmakers now vividly expressing ardent discontent and would come public in the coming weeks to announce their rebellion, expect a long haul.
Chambers’ critics say he’s no Alex Tyler or Edwin Snowe – the two Speakers who were ousted in the last 19 years. Some say Tyler had trusted allies and Snowe was confident about the law controlling. Chamber would be the weakest link, his critics have taunted.
“This is not the case with Bhofal because he has no friend. So we don’t anticipate hauling and pulling with Bhofal. He’s very disrespectful of his colleagues,” another lawmaker said, adding that the Speaker only depends on the President’s shield, which is dwindling.
“We can get the number and if the President steps in to shield Bhofal that’s the route the lawmakers intend to take and its going to be a long haul,” our source said.