The Liberian Senate appears to have somersaulted on plans to investigate and probably expel Montesrrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon of the opposition Liberty Party for recently describing that body as “rotten, useless and spineless.” Senators up Capitol Hill were engaged in a heated argument Wednesday, 3 June when a report from the Senate’s leadership was brought on the floor.
But Senate President Pro-Tempore Albert Chie says speculations that the leadership and its full membership are considering to suspend or expel Senator Dillon is far from reality and the making of people who want to create unnecessary tension in the country.
Speaking Wednesday, during debate over a recent communication from Lofa County Senator George Tengbeh to plenary, asking for Dillon to be investigated for allegedly insulting fellow senators and accusing them of receiving US$17,000 each for the passage of the COVID-19 recast national budget, Pro-Tempore Chie dismissed plan for expulsion. He says instead, what the leadership has done is to forward the matter to plenary for proper deliberation and advice.
On Wednesday, May 20, 2020, Senator Tengbeh wrote, alleging that Senator Dillon accused all Senators who affixed their signatures to the Senate resolution, concurring with the House of Representatives in the passage of the COVID-19 of receiving bribe. He wants Dillon to provide proof. Tengbeh recalled that Senator Dillon had “deceptively” told the public that he received an amount of US$ 6,500.00 as operational funds when the actual amount was US$8,000.
Though the entire senate had kept the information private until Senator Dillon went public, the Lofa Senator notes in his communication: “This is gross dishonesty on the part of the Montserrado County Senator and has no place in the Senate. It is honorable to disclose fully and criminal to disclose partially.”
Responding to an inquiry from Dillon whether the leadership of the senate especially, Pro-Tempore Chie has malice against him, Chie responded that the leadership at the Capitol is far from such practice and he (Chie) has been a personal friend of Dillon.
He narrates that prior to the election of Dillon to the senate, he (Chie) paid Dillon from his personal pocket for services rendered and personally contributed to paying pool workers of Dillon during the 2019 senatorial by-election that brought Dillon to the Capitol as lawmaker.
Adding his voice to the debate, Maryland County Senator H. Dan Morais counters that those arguing that the leadership was proceeding wrongly and that the communication should have been signed by two- thirds of sitting senators are dead wrong.According to him, the leadership has to look into the matter and see the merit before sending it for concrete action at which time the question of two-third majority comes in.
He cites an example that when Montserrado County Senator Saah Joseph complained Grand Bassa County Senator Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence of physical assault, the leadership took seized of the matter and following engagement with the both parties, the matter was resolved amicably.
Meanwhile, following tense debate, presiding officer, Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor took a motion from Senator Saah Joseph that the matter be brought back on the floor of the senate next Wednesday.
The leadership of the senate set up a three – man committee chaired by Senator Varney G. Sherman to investigate a complaint filed against opposition Montserrado County Sen. Abraham Darius Dillon by his colleague Sen. George Tengbeh of Lofa County.
The Senate’s leadership announced the probe against Mr. Dillon after he described the Senate as rotten, spineless and useless in expressing his frustration at his colleagues’ passage of the recast budget without debating it, suggesting that they allegedly took bribes. In the Senate leadership’s report, it mandated Senators Varney Sherman, Henrique Togba and Matthew Jaye to give due process to the case during the investigation and to report to plenary within 16 calendar days.
Members of the leadership that signed for the case to be investigated are Senators Dan Morias of Maryland County, Peter Coleman of Grand Kru County, Varney Sherman of Grand Cape Mount County, Morris Saytumah of Bomi County, Saah Joseph of Montserrado County and Albert T. Chie of Grand Kru County. Senators Armah Jallah of Gbarpolu County and Nyonblee Kangar – Lawrence of Grand Bassa County abstained, while Senators Thomas Grupee and Gbleh-bo Brown were absent during the voting process.
During the debate of the leadership’s report, Bomi County Senator Sando Johnson said the Senate has embarked on a useless venture to silence a critical voice. According to Sen. Johnson, any attempt to expel Dillon from the Senate will bring the Senate to public ridicule, saying the leadership of the Senate ignored the reality of the case because they have personal issues with Senator Dillon.
Former Senate Pro – tempore Armah Jallah urges that the Senate should not rush to serve justice at the expense of peace, noting that as far as he is concerned, no complaint is on the Senate’s floor against Senator Dillon. But the chair of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee Cllr. Varney Sherman suggests that when a complaint is laid by one Senator against a colleague, that matter must be investigated.
He notes that the Senate is not discussing the suspension or expulsion of Senator Dillon but rather investigating the complaint filed against him by Senator Tengbeh. However, Senators Oscar Cooper, Nyonblee Kangar – Lawrence, Stephen Zargo, Armah Zulu Jallah, Sando Johnson, Daniel Naathn, Abraham Darius Dillon, Commany B. Wesseh are against the investigation of Senator Dillon.
According to them, the leadership is in violation of the Senate’s standing rules, noting that the body is proceeding wrongly like they did with the case of impeached Associate Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh. Ja’neh was removed from the Supreme Court bench following a controversial impeachment process. Senator Dillon expresses disappointment in his godfather Sen. Sherman for knowing the law and ill – advising the leadership of the Liberian Senate.
According to Dillon, it is stated that those who believe that there is a complaint should not form part of the panel that will investigate the said complaint. Dillon accuses Sherman of being in conflict of interest in the matter, though he (Dillon) still maintains that there is no complaint filed against him.
He adds that in order for a complaint to be filed, there should be procedures that he says the Lofa Senator didn’t follow. Mr. Dillon notes that there has been a trap for him since he was sworn into office, saying that he was threatened of expulsion by the Pro – tempore that very day.
By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor & Ethel A. Tweh–Editing by Jonathan Browne & Winston W. Parley