A challenge against Liberian lawmakers’ controversial one-month quorum without roll call before the Supreme Court has been returned to the lawmakers themselves to meet and exhaust administrative remedies.
On 9 June, Montserrado County Representative Edwin Melvin Snowe through his legal counsel Cllr. Arthur T. Johnson filed a petition before the Supreme Court for a writ of prohibition to stop House Speaker Alex Tyler, indicted for alleged bribery, and other colleague lawmakers from what he termed “violating” his constitutional rights.
Rep. Snowe complains that while he was out of Liberia on 2 June, less than 37 representatives, including Speaker Tyler conducted a roll call at Tuesday’s regular sitting and made a motion before adjournment that the number of lawmakers that were present that day “would constitute a quorum for one month” from 2 June to 2 July.
But during a conference held on Monday, 13 June presiding Justice-in- Chambers Jamesetta Wolokolie told Snowe’s counsel, who filed the petition that the administrative remedy must be exhausted before coming to the Supreme Court.
She then decided to give the Plenary of the Legislature the opportunity to meet, having heard that Rep. Snowe had taken the same matter to the Plenary which was yet to conclude on it when it was also taken to the highest court.
Rep. Snowe narrated that on 7 June he was present in Session, but due to the motion , he was deemed absent and would remain absent for the entire period since there will be no roll call weekly on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
He argues that after drawing Speaker Tyler’s attention this issue on 7 June, roll call was not conducted, noting that the motion violates his constitutional rights though he is present due to the no roll call decision.
As such, he says his participation in deliberations cannot be recorded and is not being accorded recognition at sessions particularly on issues affecting the nation.
He asked the court to order Speaker Tyler and others from pursuing the motion and conduct roll call in line with Article 33 of the Constitution to accord him his rights. But the legal counsel for the House of Representatives, Bomi County Lawmaker Cllr. Gayah Karmo countered that Rep. Snowe had already written the Plenary on the same issue that he took to the Supreme Court for redress.
He said the House is in no position to violate the constitution on grounds that it is law-abiding. Rep. Karmo argued that Rep. Snowe was like complaining the legislature and the plenary at the Civil Law Court and the Supreme Court.
Rep. Karmo prayed that the Supreme Court gives Plenary chance to meet, having noted that it could not meet on Thursday to discuss Rep. Snowe’s letter because the Legislature had no electricity. fter the Supreme Court’s decision on Monday, Rep. Snowe told reporters outside the court that he expects a roll call on Tuesday, 14 June or his lawyer will take up the matter.
He says he has no problem with the decision of the court, but if the legislature fails to call roll, his lawyer will return to court.
By Winston W. Parley-Editing by Jonathan Browne