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House sinks in Pandemonium

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There was a complete pandemonium in the chambers of the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill Tuesday, with lawmakers going helter-skelter after Deputy Speaker and Presiding Officer Hans Barchue protested that session began and agenda for the day was prepared without his knowledge therefore, abruptly announcing adjournment of session until January 2017.

House sinks

But the Deputy Speaker’s pronouncement was received with firing emotional outbursts from his colleagues, who had already mandated the Chairperson on Executive Montserrado County Representative Josephine Francis to preside over session even while the acting Presiding Officer and Deputy Speaker was in his office.

The drama unfolded as the Sergeant-At-Arms Bri./Gen. Martin Johnson called session to order followed by brief exhortation by the chaplain, while legislative reporters prepare their gadgets to provide coverage when Acting Presiding Officer Barchue suddenly emerged in the William Richard Tolbert Joint Chambers in a rather angry mood.

He immediately proceeded to the presiding chair which was already occupied by Representative Josephine Francis, conducting business. Barchue protested that the session was not to his knowledge and the agenda for plenary was never drafted by him, which contravenes their standing rules.

Based on his complaint, Maryland County Representative James Biney made a motion, citing Article 40 of the Constitution of Liberia which states, “Neither House shall adjourn for more than five days without the consent of the other and both houses shall always sit in the same city.”

Representative Biney said based on the article and the fact that the Liberian Senate had closed since September 29, legally suggests that the five days reference in the 19986 Constitution has elapsed so the House should close as of Tuesday, October 4th.

Without trying the motion as required by the rules, Acting Presiding Officer Barchue, without delay struck his gavel, announcing closure of the sitting of the House of Representatives and that lawmakers shall return to work in January next year.

But the session went amok with lawmakers calling for Barchue’s suspension and subsequent investigation for alleged gross violation of their standing rules. Meanwhile, Representative Francis, who was mandated by her colleagues to preside, continued her task since in fact, a rather infuriated Deputy Speaker Barchue had left the scene on the basis of his pronounced adjournment.
Under the authority of Representative Francis, a motion was made by Maryland County Representative Isaac Roland that the Tuesday’s sitting should only focus on Monday’s writ of prohibition from the Supreme Court, citing the House to a conference.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Sie. A. Nyene G. Yuoh Monday issued a prohibition to plan by members of the House of Representatives to elect a new Speaker and cited to a conference scheduled for today, Wednesday, 5 October.

“By directive of her honor Sie. A. Nyene G. Yuoh, Associate Justice presiding in chambers, you are hereby citied for conference in chambers with her honor on Wednesday, October 5, 2016 at the hour of 12:00 noon..,” a Supreme Court communication from the office of the clerk of court on Monday, 3 October to Deputy Speaker Hans Barchue reads.

Making amendment to the motion, Montserrado County Representative Acarous Gray said Deputy Speaker Barchue should be suspended for time infinite and investigated for alleged violation of their rule which calls for roll call to establish quorum as requires by Article 33 of the Constitution of Liberia.

The motion was overwhelmingly voted for, suggesting that Barchue is suspended, but the Deputy Speaker vehemently rejected, terming his suspension as ‘bogus’ without any legal basis.

Speaking to reporters subsequently in his office, the Grand Bassa County lawmaker alleged that the Tuesday’s agenda was backdated based on directive of Montserrado County Representative SnoweSnowe, and speedily passed on to the Chief Clerk, Madam Mildred Siryon to form part of the working tool of plenary.

Barchue further argued that the agenda reportedly carried September 30 instead of October 4, 2016, and termed the action of his colleagues as “criminal and deceitful” to the Liberian people. 

Surrounded by Pro-Tyler lawmakers, including Representatives Bhofal Chambers, Byron Brown, Garrison Yealue and James Biney, among others, he accused Representative Snowe of being the architect of every crisis in the House of Representatives, and disclosed that for the short time he has presided over session, the House passed 32 ECOWAS protocols, the Roberts International Airport rehabilitation, Affirmative and local government bills and the 2016/17 National Budget.
Deputy Speaker Barchue said his primary dream has been to stabilize the House, but the presence of Rep. Snowe has posed serious challenge to him and others, who he said are dedicated to the process.
The Chairman on Judiciary, Nimba County Representative WorleaSaywahDunah confirmed the agenda was backdated, but described it as typographical and harmless error.
When contacted on the barrage of allegations from the Deputy Speaker, Representative Snowe responded via mobile SMS message, “No comment.”

By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor

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