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Senate tussle over SOE extension

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Senators on Capitol Hill Wednesday, 1 July tussled over the extension of the State of Emergency by one month as proposed by President George Manneh Weah. Argument erupted in the Senate following a report by its committee that recommends that the extension of the State of Emergency as requested by Mr. Weah be adhered to and all the health protocols be abided to.

While the Senate was shut down for two weeks after Assistant Senate Secretary General Genevie Massaquoi became a confirmed coronavirus case, a committee was set up by the Senate President Pro Tempore Albert Chie to look into Mr. Weah’s SOE extension proposal.

The committee chaired by Montserrado County Senator Saah Joseph included other members in persons of Bong Senator Dr. Henrique Togba; Lofa Senator Stephen Zargo; Sinoe Senator Augustine Chea and Bomi Senator Morris Saytumah, respectively.

In its report to the plenary, the committee recommends that the extension of the State of Emergency be adhered to and all the health protocols be abided to.

The committee furthers that from the pronouncement of the first State of Emergency, the cases were not as many as they are now in Liberia, noting that the State of Emergency (SOE) will help contain the virus.

Senator J. Milton Teahjay of Sinoe County says that though he supports the State of emergency’s extension, the country needs to open up, adding that businesses need to be carried on in order for the country to make progress.

“We cannot allow our economy to be locked down, Liberia will be losing a lot,” Teahjay argues. Mr. Sando Johnson, Senator for Bomi County, says there is no need for the extension of the State of Emergency, adding that the Legislature needs to communicate with the Executive to enforce the Public Health Law. According to Senator Johnson, citizens are not complying with the Public Health Laws, therefore the government needs to make it mandatory.

Also speaking, Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon says he is not in favor of the SOE’s extension, noting that there is no scientific proof to show that the SOE will help with the crisis. He argues that Liberia needs an enforced Public Health Law and within that law, certain areas can be locked down while executive order is being enforced in certain areas.

He however notes that they cannot give the president an order to suspend certain rights, adding that during the 60 days SOE, the Solicitor General of Liberia arrested people because of freedom of speech when the Legislature didn’t suspend freedom of speech in the document signed. Mr. Dillon continues that the rights of the citizens were violated, adding that the 60 days SOE was from April 10 to June 10 and not June 21.

After June 10, he states that the rights of citizens to still be under the SOE was violated. According to Dillon, the coronavirus cases were less and after the 60 days SOE, the cases increased. But another Senator and member of the Incident Management System Dr. Peter Coleman, says the SOE extension is very important to help reduce the high number of coronavirus cases Liberia has.

He pleads with his colleagues to extend the SOE for the good of every Liberian. Meanwhile, Maryland County Senator J Gbleh-bo Brown also expresses support for the extension of the State of Emergency by one month, saying the cases are on the increase and Liberia needs the SOE to curtail the virus.

By Ethel A. Tweh–Edited by Winston W. Parley

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