Liberia: Rep. Clarence Garr Walks Out of Session Over ‘House’s Failure to Meet Quorum’

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MONROVIA – Representative Clarence Garr (Margibi County District #5) on Thursday, May 9 walked out of session over what he called the failure of plenary of the House of Representative to meet a quorum.

Article 12.1 of the House Rules and Order called for the House to constitute a simple majority of the total members of the House before proceedings with the day’s session, but also stipulates that when a majority is not present, a motion can be filed to compel the attendance of absent members in order to meet a quorum.

Article 12.1: “A quorum shall consist of a simple majority of the members of the Honorable House of Representatives. Quorum shall be necessary for the transaction of business. However, a minority may meet from day to day. Meetings at which a quorum is not present, only a motion to compel the attendance of absent members or to adjourn may be made.”

According to Rep. Garr, lawmakers at Thursday’s session did not meet a quorum, and as such a motion was needed to compel those absence to attend, but that procedure was not adhered to.

“Article 12 states that a quorum should be a simple majority of the total members of the House, but it also states that a minority could conduct business from day to day but a motion should be to compel those absentees to meet up the quorum. We are less than 23 in session when the roll call was made. How can you conduct business? So, issues that are passed today, issues that will be voted on, on the floor will be illegally passed,” Rep. Garr told reporters immediately after his walkout.

Prior to his action, Rep. Garr tried to amend the motion to adopt the agenda filed by Rep. Matthew G. Zarzar (Sinoe County District #3) to compel those absence to be included, but Rep. Zarzar denied his amendment on grounds that it was ambiguous.

Contrary to the Deputy Chief Clerk’s pronouncement that attendance was 37, Rep. Garr maintained that the number was far less. 

“It is illegal session because we don’t have a quorum. Every bill that will be passed today are bill that are not passed legally. They could be challenged legally. We should be seen at all times in session. I walk out because it was not a legal body. We did not meet a quorum so I cannot be there to conduct business.”

Speaking further, the Margibi County lawmaker decried that for too long now the House has been violating most of its rules and was now time to speak against the illegal practices.

Special Sanction for Absenteeism 

Meanwhile, Rep. Garr has called for punitive measure to be taken against lawmakers who are constantly absence from session without the leadership’s consent.

Quoting the House’s rule 21, he noted that it calls for no member to stay away from sessions “without the expressed approval of the House for a period of more than two weeks; for a period less than two weeks, permission may be sought from the Speaker. Violators shall be penalized in a manner deemed appropriate by the leadership of the House in consultation with plenary.”

His comments were in line with Rep. Acarous Gray’s plea during Thursday’s session that punitive measures should be against lawmakers who are out of session for more than two weeks without excuses.

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