Members of the Liberian Senate went in total disarray when Senate President Pro- Tempore ArmahJallah announced that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had written Speaker J. Emmanuel Nuquay for a joint legislative retreat with the President on tomorrow, Thursday, and that the letter addressed to the Speaker, is also intended for members of the senate.
Pro-Tempore Jallah said in the chambers of the Senate that the President only wrote the speaker, neither him nor the plenary of the senate for the retreat. Many of the senators termed the action of the President’s as an ‘affront’ especially, as members of the upper House.
It has become a tradition that the President normally writes the two chambers separately on issues of national concerns. Following his announcement, Dan Morais of Maryland County could not hold his words, stressing that the communication from the President addressed to the speaker should not be taken seriously on grounds that the Chief Executive has completely overlooked them and reduced the senate to nothing. Morais added that the Liberian Legislature comprises two separate houses – the House of Representatives and the Liberian Senate, arguing that in no way should the President combine them in any form or manner.
Debunking his colleague, Sinoe County Senator Joseph Nagbe said, the speaker is the head of the legislature and as such, it’s binding for them as lawmakers to honor the invitation from the President.
However, Sinoe County Senator Milton Teahjayreferred his colleagues to Article 33 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia, which states: A simple majority of each House shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business, but a lower number may adjourn from day to day and compel the attendance of absent members. Whenever the House of Representatives and the Senate shall meet in joint session, the presiding officer of the House of Representatives shall preside.
Teahjay added that fact that the speaker presides during the joint session, squarely puts whosoever that occupies that office ahead of all top heads of the Liberian Legislature, including the Vice President, who is President of the Liberian Senate and the Senate President Pro-Tempore.
Maryland County Senator Gble-bo Brown rather suggested that Senate President Pro-Tempore Jallah should communicate with the speaker, requesting a formal letter to the Senate to attend the retreat.
But Bomi County Senator Morris Saytumah stated that the action by the President was an error that needs to be ratified. The exchanges generated serious noise in the chambers of the senate with Pro-Tempore Jallah struggling to put things under control with his gavel. However, the plenary failed to take a decision about the planned retreat, but it is believed from legislative sources that the Pro-Tempore is expected to communicate with the President’s office for a formal communication, inviting that body to the retreat.
By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor-Editing by Jonathan Browne