Ceremonies marking the resumption of session of the 5th Sitting of the Joint Houses’ return from Agriculture Break took place Monday, January 11, 2010 at the Capitol Building-the seat of the Legislature. Senate President Pro-Tempore Cletus Wotorson planned and executed the opening ceremonies for the Joint Houses-Senate and House following four months of traditional recess (Agriculture Break).
Senate President Pro-Tempore Cletus Wotorson
The Agriculture break is primarily meant for members of the Legislature, which is considered as the first branch of government, to visit their constituencies and acquaint them with their works in the Legislature on said periodic basis. The ceremony was graced by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, government officials, members of the diplomatic corps, representatives of political parties, the religious community, members of the 4th Estate and others.
A number of crucial national issues, including the controversial Population Threshold Bill, the much publicized Truth and Reconciliation Commission(TRC) final report, the Freedom of Information Act, among others had been lined up for deliberations during the course of the 5th session. Members of the Legislature are under immense pressure from civil society organizations, members of the international community, the media and etc. to pass the threshold bill to ensure the timely conduct of the 2011 general and presidential elections. Authorities at the National Elections Commission (NEC) had repeatedly warned that any delay in the passage of the threshold would impede the conduct of the 2011 polls.
The threshold bill has been lingering in the chambers of the senate after members of that august body failed to pass it during its 4th session. The sticky issue concerning the passage of the bill is the decision by the House to set the threshold at 40,000 per constituency with the proviso that no county get less than two seats. The proviso inscribed in the passage of the bill by the House triggered disagreement, something that made the senate not to take a decision on the bill.
Some members of the senate claimed that the proviso was illegal, while others believed that it was necessary because the population of Liberia is still in transition. But before the resumption of session for the 5th Sitting of the legislature, Senate Pro-Tempore Wortorson had promised at a recent conference that the senate would ensure the passage of the threshold bill upon resumption for its 5th session.
However, the Pro-Tempore noted that the senate would consider the economic strength of the country in making decision on the Threshold Bill. Regarding the TRC final report, members of the Legislature are expected to deliver the mandates given them by their constituents about how to deal with the report.
Among other things, the TRC final report recommends prosecution and public sanction for alleged masterminds of the Liberian civil war, including President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, several lawmakers among others. Prior to the climax of their 4th session, members of the Legislature adopted a joint resolution to defer action on the TRC report in a bid to consult their constituents. But some Liberians say the lawmakers have nothing to do with the report, an assertion the lawmakers have since rejected.
Meanwhile, all eyes are on the Legislature for the speedy passage of key bills, particularly the controversial Population Threshold Bill. With the mandates given majority of them (lawmakers) by their constituents during the break coupled with the persistence public outcry including calls by our international partners, it remains to be seen whether members of the first branch of government will urgently pass the threshold bill in keeping with their commitment which was buttressed by the President Pro-Tempore and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.