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Senate U-turns on Konneh?

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Despite their earlier grandstanding and threat of imprisonment against the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Amara Konneh for Legislative contempt, members of the Liberian Senate have reportedly decided to soften their wrath to a fine of Five Thousand, Nine Hundred-Ninety Nine Liberian Dollars and Ninety-Nine cents (5,999.99) to be imposed on the minister for disrespecting that august body.

The plenary of the senate is expected to formally impose the fine against Minister Konneh today, Thursday, March 3rd, though the Minister had earlier sought permission from the upper House to attend an important conference in the United States.

Sources within the corridors of the Capitol Building say the Finance boss is also expected to write a formal letter of apology and have it published in few local dailies as well as submit copies of his letter to the office of the Secretary of the Liberian Senate.

However, some senators are opposed to the planned decision today on grounds that it shows weakness of the august body, which seems to indicate it is rubber stamp, particularly after President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s recent visit to the Capitol where she met with the leadership of the senate behind closed doors.

Bomi County Senator, Sando Dazoe Johnson, Tuesday revealed that during her visit to the Capitol recently, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf apologized behind closed doors to members of the Liberian Senate and asked them to drop contempt charges against Minister Amara Konneh for a controversial letter written to that august body in January.

Senator Johnson in an interview with members of the Legislative Press Pool Tuesday at the Capitol Building said President Sirleaf during the visit openly apologized for the disrespect shown them (senators) by Minister Konneh and his deputy, Dr. James Kollie.

He narrated the President also used the time to beg for pardon on behalf of Minister Konneh, terming his action as total disrespect to officials of another branch of government. Senator Johnson, who is also official spokesperson for former President Charles Taylor’s family, added that the Chief Executive called for coordination, cooperation and free flow of information among the three branches of government, stressing that at such, issues of government’s related matters will be settled easily.

But Margibi County Senator Oscar Cooper, said the abrupt travel of Minister Konneh abroad is disrespect to the senate on grounds that Konneh is still under legislative oath as such, he should not be allowed to travel. But his argument was wantonly defeated. Bad blood developed between the Finance Minister and the Senate over a letter written by Deputy Minister Kollie to members of the august body, informing them of budgetary constraints which would see their (Senators’) overall allotment slashed by US$1 million, and that authorities at the MFDP were attempting to take the appropriation power from the senate.

 By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor

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