Monrovia – The 53rd National Legislature of Liberia will go down in history as setting some interesting records with the body now divided into four blocs parallel two at the House of Representatives and another two now at the Liberian Senate
The crisis started at the House of Representatives with a request by some lawmakers asking Speaker Alex J. Tyler to recuse himself from presiding over session until he can face an indictment drawn against by the state on multiple criminal charges including bribery, economic sabotage, criminal conspiracy, criminal facilitation, amongst others.
Speaker Tyler refused and what started as a handful of lawmakers known as anti-Tyler bloc has now grown to more than 40 out of 73 lawmakers who are now recognized by the Executive Branch of government.
The crisis has now spread to the Liberian Senate where two parallel blocs have been created with the new bloc signing a different resolution along with the pro-Tyler bloc calling for the extension of the time before the agriculture of the legislature by one month.
Last week, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf acting on a certificate of extension signed by 29 members of the House of Representatives, all from the ‘majority bloc’ presided over by Deputy Speaker Hans Barchue and 18 Senators issued a Presidential proclamation extending the stay of the legislature by one month.
President Sirleaf justified that her proclamation was based on a receipt of a Certificate of extension signed by 29 members of the House of Representatives and 18 members of the Liberian Senate. Eighteen (18) members of the House of Representatives and Eight (8) members of the House of Senate are constitutionally required to sign a Certificate for extending a Legislative Session.
Article 32 (b) of the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia provides that the President shall, on the President’s own initiative or upon receipt of a certificate signed by at least one-fourth of the total membership of each House of the Legislature, and by proclamation, extend a regular session of the Legislature beyond the date of adjournment or call a special or extraordinary session of that body to discuss or act upon matters of national emergency and concern.
Second certificate of extension
While President Sirleaf has already issued a proclamation for extension of legislative sitting and the anti-Tyler of ‘majority bloc’ which has been able to physically show simple majority for the last one week agreeing to continue to work by commencing hearing on the 2016/2017 national budget another group of lawmakers have also signed a second certificate of extension.
At a Press conference Tuesday 12 Senators signed a resolution calling on members of the majority bloc conducting session in the Joint chambers to return to the regular chambers of the House of Representatives to ensure that their actions and inactions are consistent with the dictates of both the rules of the House of Representatives and the 1986 Constitution of Liberia.
The Senators who signed the resolution include; Sando Johnson (Bomi County, National Patriotic), Varney Sherman (Grand Cape Mount County, Unity Party), Jewel Howard Taylor (Bong County, National Patriotic Party), Alphonso Gaye (Grand gedeh County, Unity Party), George Tengbeh (Lofa County), J. Gbleh-bo-Brown (Maryland County), Morris Saytumah (Bomi County, Unity Party), Oscar Cooper (Margibi County, formerly Unity Party), Thomas Grupee (Nimba County, NUDP), Francis Paye, River-Cess, Daniel Flomo Naathan (Gbapolu-County) and Matthew Jaye (River-Gee County)
The statement read by Senator Gaye indicated “To do otherwise will not only be a threat to the Peace and Security of Liberia especially on the eve of the impending Presidential and Legislative elections, but will also be a recipe for chaos and lawlessness in the political governance system of our country.
“We therefore call on the House of Representatives to allow reasons to prevail as a means of bringing the conflict to an amicable resolution where there will be no victor or vanquish.”
The 12 Senators also promised that with reliance on Article 29 and 49 of the 1986 constitution of Liberia, their commitment to and reaffirmation of the position that the Liberian Senate ought to officially transact legislative business with the constitutionally elected speaker of the House of Representatives Hon. J. Alex Tyler until there is a change of leadership in the House of representatives for cause and in consonance with due process of law as provided in the Rules of the House of Representatives and the Constitution of Liberia.
“Additionally we assert and declare that serious and appropriate efforts ought to be made by the Senate to ensure that the concerns of the aggrieved members of the HOR are accommodated for the unimpeded operations of the House of Representatives,” the Senators stated.
The 12 Senators are also calling on Speaker Tyler and the Leadership of the HOR to process their concerns and grievances in accordance with the rules and procedures of the House of Representatives.
It is unclear how President Sirleaf will deal with a second certificate of extension issued by the 12 Senators which is expected to be endorsed by the pro-Tyler bloc at the House of Representatives to be followed by an official communication to the President.
The pro-Tyler bloc has already announced that it will commence hearing on the national budget while the anti-Tyler bloc is already deliberating the same budget casting doubt on which of the two budgets will become legitimate for the fiscal period.
A FrontPageAfrica investigation conducted has observed that normal legislative practices were ignored during the crafting of the certificate extension that led to President Sirleaf issuing a proclamation of extension.
Unlike the past the 2016 proclamation for extension issued by President Sirleaf shows that some key individuals that should have signed the proclamation were missing from the certificate of extension.
The signatures of Speaker Tyler, Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives and Secretary of the Senate were absent from the certificate of extension sent to President Sirleaf by 29 members of the House of Representatives and 18 Senators.
In the 2014 proclamation, a copy in the possession of FPA it had the signatures of the than Senate Pro-tempore Gbehzohngar Findley, J. Nanbolor Singbeh, Secretary of the Senate and Madam Mildred Sayon Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives and Speaker Alex Tyler.
Article 32 (b) of the Liberian constitution states that the President shall, on his/her own initiative or upon receipt of a certificate signed by at least one fourth of the total member ship of each House, and by proclamation, extend a regular session of the Legislature beyond the date for adjournment or call a special or extraordinary session of that body to discuss or act upon matters of national emergency and concern. When the extension or call is at the request of the Legislature, the proclamation shall be issued not later than forty eight hours after receipt of the certificate by the President.
In the wake of this constitutional power given the President and the Legislature, President Sirleaf last week issue a proclamation extending the stay of the legislature regular session by one month from September 1th to the 1th of October.
The President decision was in the wake of a resolution signed by ¼ members of both houses of the legislature (18 members of the Senate), (29 members of the House of Representatives) requesting extension in the stay of regular session to complete in their words other unfinished legislative businesses.
But on Tuesday August 30, 2016 Speaker Tyler and his loyal supporters signed a resolution seeking extension in their regular stay. This resolution is separate from the one signed earlier by lawmakers claiming to be majority lawmakers conducting legislative business in the joint chambers.
The resolution like the earlier from the majority bloc is been communicated to the Liberian Senate seeking extension of one month to allow them do legislative business especially to conclude discussion on the budget.
The resolution is going to the Senate at a time when Senators are already divided over handling of the first resolution sent to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf which led to her proclamation of extension.
House of jokers?
When the crisis started at the House of Representatives, many were of the belief that such could not spread to the Liberian Senate and some thought the Senators are more careful in handling issues than their colleagues from the House of Representatives.
Some refer to the Liberian Senate as House of elders but that has now been proven the contrary as 12 Senators have now set up a new bloc seeking separate action from 18 of their colleagues.
It all started from a pronouncement by Senate Pro Tempore Jallah that the Senate remains neutral. The statement sparked disagreements with some Senators expressing that the Pro Tempore is supporting the illegitimate action of the ‘majority’ lawmakers who are attempting to oust a duly elected Speaker without using the due process as provided in article 38 of the 1986 Liberian constitution.
The 12 Senators action to sign a separate resolution calling for extension of their stay will further inflame the situation at the House of Representatives, thereby dividing both the Senate and House of Representatives into four blocs, two blocs apiece.
As Senator Sherman is one of those against the earlier certificate of extension signed by 18 members of the Liberian Senate there are fears that the Senate could degenerate into crisis with the long standing sour relationship between President Sirleaf and Senator Sherman likely to show face once again.Report/www.frontpageafrica.com/Henry Karmo