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Special Feature

Legislative Contempt: “Double Punishment Game”

Repeated issues of war of words ensuing between some members of the House of Representatives and key officials of the Ministry of Information and other executive institutions needs to be urgently settled because; separation of power plays crucial role in solidifying Liberia’s democracy and governance system.

It can be recalled that war of words ensued between Representative Acarous Gray of District # 8, Montserrado County and ex-Deputy Information Minister, Isaac Jackson during the administration of ex-President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf government.

Representative Gray and Deputy MICAT boss tussle led to the summoning of ex-Information Minister Lewis Brown and others to the House of Representatives to show reasons why they should not be held in contempt.

Ex –House Speaker Alex Tyler who was a member of the Unity Party (UP) lobbied quietly to settle the misunderstanding between one of their colleagues (Rep. Gray and Deputy Minister Jackson).

I stand corrected; Bomi County Representative Haja Fata Siryon frowned at Representative Gray for continuously pointing accusing fingers at officials from the Ministry of Information and other Executive institutions.

However, Gray maintained that Deputy Minister Jackson used MICAT regular press briefing to attack him verbally.

The two key spokesmen of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s government apologized to the August body (House of Representative for the alleged action); which led to their contempt charge.

It can also be recalled that early September of 2016, war of words ensued between the ex-President of the Press Union of Liberia, Jallah Grayfield and ex-Deputy Information Minister for Public Affairs, Issac Jackson who was vocal against critics of the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’ led government that was continuously criticized by members of the opposition bloc and others.
Speaker Tyler and other lawmakers admonished their colleagues to refrain from verbally attacking members of the Executive branch of government.

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It can also be recalled that the House of Representative passed a vote of no confidence in Madam Mary Broh, formerly of the Monrovia City Corporation (MCC).

Scores of women and others prevented the incarceration of Madam Grace Kpaan, when she was held in contempt and ordered to be jailed by the House’s Plenary under the speakership of Alex Tyler of Bomi County.

It can also be recalled that February 26, 2013, a dramatic scene was observed at the Monrovia City Court when the Acting City Major of Monrovia, Mary Broh narrowly escaped an arrest by hundreds of citizens, including passersby.
It was reported that Madam Broh went to the City Court to issue a writ of prohibition against the mandate of the House of Representatives.

The House has earlier ordered the arrest of Madam Broh and Supt. Kpaan, and their subsequent detention for obstructing justice. She was on the run and her whereabouts unknown.

Howbeit, Madam Broh was charged for contempt and obstruction of legislative function, when the House ordered the incarceration of ex-Montserrado County Superintendent, Grace Kpaan.

Madam Broh also experienced similar contempt charge by the House of Representative and “vote of no confidence” was endorsed by scores of Representatives who claimed that Broh disrespected them.

It can be recalled that The Supreme Court of Liberia ruled that the House of Representatives and the Ministry of Justice violated the rights of the acerbic former interim Monrovia City Mayor and presidential friend, Mary Broh, when those institutions ordered her jailed for contempt and obstruction of justice.

Madam Broh was accused of civil disobedience and obstruction of justice, which led to the contempt charge from the House of Representatives.

The high court said: Broh’s action is in no way unlawful, because the lower court lacked the jurisdiction to imprison an individual for contempt, and “can be turned over to the judiciary for punishment.”

In 2013, the House of Representatives ordered then-Montserrado County Superintendent Grace Kpan jailed for her failure to pay a fine, to reinstate the chairman of the project management committee of Montserrado County, and was also ordered to put into one account development funds appropriated for her county.

Ms. Kpan’s failure to comply with the instructions from the House of Representatives led that body to mandate her imprisonment.

However, as Madam Kpaan was being led to prison by law enforcement officers, it was reported that Mary Broh “took matters into her own hands, when she led group of women to attack and prevent law enforcement from taking Ms. Kpan to prison.”
At the end of the day, Madam Kpaan was never imprisoned; and was taken away from the scene into the waiting arms of Broh and her friends.

Madam Kpaan tussle with the House of Representative started early March of 2013.

She and Representative Edward Ford were involved into war of words over the famous audio recording: you eat; I eat controversial conservation that sparked heated debate and public outcry in Liberia.

This led to the House of Representative endorsing “a vote of no confidence in Madam Broh for obstructing legislative function.”

However, President Ellen Johnson –Sirleaf later appointed her as Director General at the General Service Agency, a position that she is still occupying in this new government, headed by President George M. Weah.

It can also be recalled that on July 17, 2013, plenary of the House of Representatives ordered that Sinoe County Superintendent, Milton Teahjay be jailed for 48 hours at the Monrovia Prison- south beach.
Superintendent TeaHjay was sent to Prison for his alleged assault against Representative Matthew Zarzar in the studio at a local Radio Station in Greenville Sinoe County; a claim he agreed to and apologized for.

Currently, there is misunderstanding or war of words between Senator Sando Johnson and another Bomi County citizen- Cooper who has a rubber factory in Bomi County.

It has been alleged that Cooper, a business man is allegedly planning to contest in the next general senatorial elections in Bomi County.

Meanwhile, Deputy Information Minister for Press and Public Affairs at the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, (MICAT), Eugene Fahngon, has been considered “a non-governmental material and sentenced to jail for two nights for legislative contempt by the House of Representatives.

The House took the decision on September 12, 2018 evening upon Fahngon’ appearance before Plenary to show cause why he should not be held in contempt, after his verbal fight with Representative Edwin M. Snowe.

Representative Snowe , formerly of District# 6 Montserrado County and now Bomi County, filed a complaint against his kinsman, Fahngon.

Unity Party (UP) earlier issued a press statement, condemning the action of Fahngon against it senior member (Snowe), who was also seen a video; which went viral on facebook and other social media platforms.

The both officials of the Executive and Legislative branches of the Liberian government were seen in an argumentative conservation at a local Police station in Monrovia.

By: Martin Blayon, ex-Legislative Reporter/Secretary of LEGISPOL

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The New Dawn is Liberia’s Truly Independent Newspaper Published by Searchlight Communications Inc. Established on November 16, 2009, with its first hard copy publication on January 22, 2010. The office is located on UN Drive in Monrovia Liberia. The New Dawn is bilingual (both English & French).
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