Lawmaker & Policy-Maker or Law- & Policy-Implementor: An Apparent Case of Confusion in Liberian Legislature?
According to Article 3 of the Liberian Constitution, “Liberia is a unitary sovereign state divided into counties for (efficient, effective) administrative purposes. The form of government is Republican with three separate, coordinate branches: the Legislative, the Executive and the Judiciary” and that “Consistent with the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances, no person holding office in one of these branches shall hold office in or exercise any of the powers assigned to either of the other two branches . . . and no person holding office in one of the said branches shall serve on any autonomous public agency”.
Article 4 of the Constitution, under “General Principles of National Policy”, follows with the provision that “The principles contained in this Chapter (11) shall be fundamental in the governance of the Republic (of Liberia) and shall serve as guidelines in the formulation of legislative, executive and administrative directives, policy-making and their execution”. Also, Article 30 provides that only “Citizens of Liberia . . . are eligible to become members of the Legislature”.
Elsewhere, we wrote that “Undoubtedly, the Honorable Members of the Honorable Senate, the Upper House of the National Legislature and its Legal arm (including members of the House of Representatives) are fully knowledgeable on the expressed as well as the reasonable implications of the doctrine of the Separation of their powers & Equality of the Branches of government, as provided by Article 3 of our Constitution”.
We held, also, that “Our Constitutional, statutory and/or legislative enactments provide and delineate, in a public policy tradition, the functions and responsibilities proper to each branch of government, a public division of labor and the process of elections/appointments of branch leaders, including recruitment of suitably-qualified functionaries in each branch, within a hierarchy of reporting/accountability relationships for successful performance.
Liberia’s Historical Experience
However, since the founding of this nation in 1847, there has been, and continuing to this day, the flagrant, conscious disregard and manifest violation of Articles 3, 4 & 30 by all successive, political leaderships (governments) particularly, the National Legislature.
Rather than confine or restrict its functions to those defined by the Constitution, basically, Confirmation & Treaty/Agreements Ratification (Policy-making), Experts/Public (Law-making) Hearings and related functions, our National Legislature has (gradually, unquestionably and unlawfully, with tacit support by the Executive and Judicial Branches for political reasons, Branch) transformed itself into the role of Law & Policy Implementing Branch of government, cases in point:
From day one, in 1847, when freed African-Americans landed on this land, dual citizens became members of the National Legislature in violation of law (now Article 30 of the 1986 Constitution) and captured control of and dominated not only the National Legislature, but also the political economy of Liberia (Kai Toteh, 2012 & George Kieh, 2012).
On Board Membership, we noted elsewhere that we are deeply troubled about the practice of the Source of Recruitment of board members, especially, high officials of government in the National Legislative and Judicial Branches of government, to serve and serving on boards of government agencies within the Executive Branch. Deeply troubled because it is likely to be what may be likened to the “police policing the police”.
Most importantly, not only that Legislators or high officials serving on boards are highly likely to use the power and related trappings of their official positions and high-sounding titles (“Honorables”) to intimidate and influence the votes/decisions of none-government-official members for private reasons unrelated to the organization, including the fact that these high officials are, usually, very busy with matters of national and international policy to attend board meetings, but also, that the presence of Members of National Legislature and the Judiciary performing on the boards of an Executive Branch agency is in contradiction/violation of Article 3 of the Constitution on the doctrine of “Separation of Powers”.
In October, 2014 (New Democrat, October 16, 2014), Dr. Walter Gwenigale, a veteran physician and medical administrator, was summoned by the National Legislature regarding approved, policy action taken against health workers for infraction of accepted rules & regulations. Now, it is very important to note that Dr. Gwenigale is Minister of Health & Social Welfare, an agency of government within the Executive Branch of government, with approved policy of reporting/accountability responsibility, solely, to the Head of that Branch, the President of Liberia. How and why did this issue travelled to the National Legislature?
Now, we are told (The New Dawn, October 23, 2014) that “members of the House of Representatives . . . voted . . . for the appearance of Education Minister, Etmonia David Tarpeh, and Health & Social Welfare Minister, Walter Gwenigale, on whether the country was now safe for the re-opening of schools”.
It seems to us, however, that these questions should and must be addressed through the policy-approved Chain-of-Command, and that is through the current President of the nation. Earlier, the FrontpageAfrica newspaper reported (FrontPageAfricaonline, October 13, 2014) that “A joint resolution of the Senate and House . . . unanimously voted . . . to overturn a presidential decision to cancel indefinitely the scheduled Mid-Term Senatorial elections this year . . . the National Legislature . . . mandates the National Elections Commission (NEC) to set a date . . . for the conduct of the 2014 Mid-Term Senatorial elections not later than December 20, 2014”, although the President did not cancel, but suggested time-alteration or postponement.
Now, by mandating the National Elections Commission (NEC), a policy-approved Executive Branch agency of Government, “to set a date for the conduct of an election (the scheduled, Mid-Term, Senatorial Elections for October, 2014) without, the very least, recourse to the Head of the Branch, the National Legislature is not only in manifest violation of Article 3 of the Liberian Constitution which provides that “Consistent with the principles of separation of powers”, but also is, in fact, Aiding & Abetting the spread of the Ebola Epidemic; in that, the NEC will be, and is, under obligation to undertake obligation to undertake several of the processes that are pre-requisites to conducting the 2014, senatorial elections.
Basically, these are the deployment of its electoral staff and policy workers nationwide; authorization of political campaigns, rallies and gatherings, a process that necessitates the right of public assembly, during this period of the rapid spread of the Ebola virus, nationwide, and the risk of infection and instant death, due to the Ebola Epidemic.
Unless the National Legislature knows something new about public policy-approved relationships between and among the policy-approved branches of government that the reading public is not privileged to know, it is about time that the right to public information about state of affairs, particularly during this unusually-trying period in our history, is fulfilled.
Or is it public policy-making and public policy-implementing confusion?