The current fight between embattled House Speaker J. Alex Tyler’s supporters and those lawmakers demanding his recusal from office pending outcome of his criminal prosecution, may certainly draw the Presidency into hectic protocol arrangements during national events, as the two factions of Lawmakers take unusual two separate days to sign a book of condolence for the late Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Dr. Edward McClain.
Global Witness’ claims of US$75,000 bribe to Speaker Tyler in a chain of alleged economic sabotage, in which US$950,000 was allegedly dished out to several past and present officials by Sable Mining to secure a non-bidding mining law in its favor, has disrupted normal activities at the Lower House following the indictment of the Speaker and others.
Speaker Tyler’s deputy – Mr. Hans Barchue, has reportedly presided over a renegade group of Lawmakers claiming to be the majority bloc in a separate session in the Joint Chambers, while the Speaker also held separate session the same day in the main Chambers of the House.
In line with protocol, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf led Cabinet members to the Foyer of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday morning, 17 August, followed by Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai and members of the Senate, including the President Pro-Tempore.
As usual, members of the Lower House of Representatives were due to line up behind the Third in Command in the nation, Speaker Tyler, but out of 73 Representatives, at least 11 including Tyler himself, were seen signing with information that the other group expressed interest to sign today, Thursday, 18 August.
“… And there will be no opposition to that because each and every actor in the government has the right to identify with the government during this period of bereavement because of the services Dr. McClain has been able to render this country,” Presidential Press Secretary J. Matthew Piah told journalists in an interview.
After Speaker Tyler and the 10 Representatives signed, the Judiciary was represented by Associate Justices of the Supreme Court led by Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh. Quizzed as to how the Presidency would receive the divided lawmakers during the funeral service of Dr. McClain, Mr. Piah swiftly said he had not seen the protocol for the funeral rites, noting that “as we all appear there on that day, we see what the arrangements will [look like].”
He denied that the Executive has made any position with respect to withholding interaction with the Legislature, while it remains divided, saying it is expected that all members of the Legislature, including all members of the House of Representatives would find time to attend the funeral rites so that Dr. McClain would get a befitting burial.
“What is happening is that all care is being taken to ensure that all of the events surrounding his burial [are] void of politics,” the Press Secretary, emphasizing that if one group of Legislators in the House of Representatives, who are involved in the current state of affairs came to sign the book of condolence, it’s considered as an act of purely identifying with the government as a whole and with the Presidency.
On the question of whether it was usual to have legislators at the House signing book of condolence on separate days, Mr. Piah said “If they had not been divided before, then … obviously you’ll agree with me that it is not usual because we have a situation now where that is the case.”
In trying “as hard as possible” to have Dr. McClain’s burial void of politics, Mr. Piah said if one begins to have restrictions in who can do what, then all of the processes leading to the funeral rites would be more politicized.
He said allowing both sides to come over is simply an opportunity to allow all of those who make up the Lower House with desire to sympathize with the Executive Mansion and President.
By Winston W. Parley