Removed Speaker Waives Due Process – Runs From Legislative Investigation
Monrovia – Since a resolution signed by 49 Lawmakers removed Bomi County Lawmaker Alex J. Tyler as Speaker of the House of Representatives, there has been concerns that the ousted Speaker was not given due process in line with the constitution of Liberia and the rules governing the House of Representatives.
Human Rights Lawyer, Cllr. Tiawan S. Gongloe told FrontPageAfrica that the removal of the lawmaker Tyler as Speaker was illegal and that he was not given due process in line with article 20 of the Constitution of Liberia.
But documents in the possession of FrontPageAfrica indicate that the Speaker was written by the Committee setup to investigate him based on complaints from two other Lawmakers as it is a regular practice of the body but the ousted Speaker failed to show up to answer to the complaints against him.
In keeping with normal legislative practice when a compliant is brought against any member of the body a committee is step to probe the complaint by inviting both the complainants and accused to a hearing which was done in the case of the ousted Speaking around documents.
Two Lawmakers’ complaints
Documents indicate that two Lawmakers, Henry Fahnbulleh (Montserrado County, Unity Party) and Samuel Kogar (Nimba County) officially complained to the House of Representatives alleging two different issues against the sitting Speaker.
Representative Fahnbulleh complained in a communication dated August 15 that while sitting as Speaker, Tyler was indicted by the Government of Liberia for Criminal offenses relating to his duty as Speaker and as such violated the rules of the House of Representatives by bringing the August body into public disrepute.
Lawmaker Fahnbulleh also added in his complaint that on August 9 the lawmaker Tyler brought or caused to be brought to the premises of the Legislature hooligans and thugs to disrupt the activities of some Lawmakers including Hon. Fahnbulleh who refused to sit under the gavel of the Speaker Tyler but instead decided to peacefully use the Joint Chambers.
In the complaint, lawmaker Tyler was also accused of making public statement in which he accused Lawmakers of taking bribes to initiate his removal as Speaker of the House of Representatives. The statement by the sitting Speaker at the time, Lawmaker Fahnbulleh expressed brought the members of the House into public ridicule and disrepute.
Second Compliant alleges misleading information
Another lawmaker, Kogar on August 30 wrote the body complaining that Speaker Tyler mislead the public that Hon. Eugene Fallah Kparkar, Getrude Lamin, Ricks Y. Toweh, Bryon Zahnwea, J. Byron Brown, Gabriel Neynkan and Thomas T. Fallah all of who signed the resolution to have Speaker Tyler recused from presiding and have also been fully participating in the Joint Chambers of the Legislature, were part of the quorum he professed to have.
Committee schedules first hearing
As part of the investigation process, document indicated that the Committee on Rules, orders and Administration on August 31 served Hon. Tyler with notice for hearing to be conducted on Friday, September 2, 2016 at 2:00 p.m.
Stated the letter to Hon. Tyler “I am pleased to extend compliments and to have you inform that the committee on Rules, Order and Administration is in receipt of a complaint filed against you by Honorables Henry B. Fahnbulleh of Electoral District #4, Montserrado and Samuel G. Kogar., Representatives of Electoral District #5 Nimba Counties, Republic of Liberia”.
The letter further stated “In view of the above, the Committee wishes to invite you to a hearing of the compliant on Friday the 2nd of September, 2016, at 2:00PM in the 1st floor conference Room of the House of Representatives wing, Capitol Building. Please find attached copies of the complaints”.
The Investigative committee reported that the Bomi lawmaker failed to appear in line with the notice served in the communication.
According to documents, after the Speaker failed to appear, the Committee rescheduled the meeting on September 5, citing him for the second time.
“The Committee in its considered judgment and in deference to the Speaker rescheduled the hearing for Monday, September 5, 2016. Hon. Tyler was again duly notified about the postponement”, the Investigative committed reported.
Again documents show that the accused did not appear for the second hearing.
“On Monday, September 5, 2016, the hearing was called to order. The complainants, witnesses and committee members were present.
However, Speaker Tyler, having been duly notified of the charges against him and the date and time for the hearing, failed, refused and neglected to appear and the committee proceeded with the taking of evidence”, the committed stated in its final report to plenary.
Four Witnesses testify against Tyler
The Committee arraigned four witnesses against the accused including Lawmakers Fahnbullhe and Kogar along with two other witnesses-Alex W.Z. Payee, an employee of the House of Representatives and Arthur Wogbeh.
Under oath, the committee reported that Witness Payee testified that he personally observed on August 3, 2016 that Hon. Tyler and a host of official vehicles, unmarked cars, and vehicles belonging to Hon. Tyler entered the grounds of the Capitol at which time the occupants disembarked and proceeded into the building where they attempted to obstruct, prevent, and/or impede the activities of the group of Lawmakers who assembled to protest and/or read a press release asking Speaker Tyler to recuse himself as presiding officer.
“Another witness Wogbeh appeared and produced a sworn affidavit to the fact that he witnessed staffers of Speaker Tyler booing members of the Honorable House of Representatives.
Witness Wogbeh further testified that he heard and witnessed the staffers chanting abusive slogans and referred to the Lawmakers as “madam Sirleaf’s bag boys, surrogates, paid agents, and rogues”, the committee report continued.
The Committee reported that after testimonies of the witnesses, it reviewed video recording which substantially corroborated with the testimonies adduced.
The Committee concluded “For the acts complained of herein and based on the findings of committee, and pursuant to Article 33 of the Liberian Constitution and rules 48.1, 48.2 it is the unanimous recommendation that Hon. J. Alex Tyler be removed from his position as Speaker of the House of Representatives, a position he holds by privilege of the members of the House of Representatives, republic of Liberia”.
Seven Lawmakers signed the report which was used to oust the Speaker on Tuesday. The members of the committee included Representative Prince Togbah, member, Munah E. Pelham Youngblood, member; Edward S. Forh, member; Bill Twehway, Co-Chair; Richmond Anderson, member; William Dakel, member and Jeh Byron Brown, Chairman.
Some lawmaker said the Speaker waived his right to a fair hearing by refusing to appear and instead requesting for an excuse when was already served a letter to appear for investigation.
“The letter was written on August 31 and he received it on September 1 than one day later he wrote an excuse, he waived his right to be heard, he was given due process”, one lawmaker said.
The lawmaker also said the ousted Speaker was given courtesy with the hearing postponed.
The further explained: “The letter to Speaker and complaint was dated August 31 for September 2 hearing; house log shows Speaker waived after he received the letter at 10:00 September 1; instead of going to hearing he writes a letter and send to deputy for excuse on September 2; because he did not appear and out of courtesy to him the hearing was continued till the 5; the house log shows he his Chief of Staff received the second notice on Sept 2 at 4:05 pm.
On Sept 5 he failed to show up and the hearing was conducted. On September 6 his excuse was read on the floor of the house and not acted on. Tyler left on or about the 8th of September 3 days after his hearing.
Due process is notice and opportunity to be heard. He was given that. He did not avail himself. He was in the country the whole time”.
The Bomi lawmaker who is currently out of the country is yet to comment on his removal. He is facing trial at criminal Court C following his indictment by the state on multiple criminal charges.