It is now clear that the new government to replace President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is headed by Liberians from the Southeast of the country, including President-elect George Weah (Grand Kru County), Speaker of the House, Dr. Bhofal Chambers (Maryland County), and Pro-Tempore of the Senate, Senator Albert Tugbeh Chie (Grand Kru County), respectively.
The election here on Monday, 15 January of both Speaker Chambers and Pro-Tempore Chie ushers in the 54th Session of the Liberian Legislature that would presides next Monday, 22 January over the inauguration of President-elect Weah.
Coalition for Democratic Change Lawmaker, Representative Bhofal Chambers, elected on white ballot as Speaker of the 54th Liberian Legislature vows not to make friendship a priority during his tenure, a promise many think is mere posturing, while Pro-Tempore Chie, similarly elected unopposed, says the Senate stands prepared to work with the executive branch of government to address the current economic challenges in both short and medium terms.
He says the Senate will ensure the passing of a realistic national budget to avoid budget shortfall, revisit previous policies to strengthen the economy in sectors such as forestry, taxation, investment incentives as well as strengthening government institutions, and assisting in the creation of an enabling environment for the growth of the private sector.
He vows that the 54th Liberian Legislature will be a part of a government that is inheriting an economy that is not performing well with export earnings down due to adverse global market prices of major commodities and many other factors.
“Expectations are high among the public for this incoming government of the masses to continue quickly from where the outgoing government has stopped. There will be scrambling for jobs in the public sector, request for infrastructural projects such as roads and bridges, requests in the reduction of the prices of basic commodities, especially rice and even in the exchange rate which is skyrocketing daily,” he notes.
For his part, Speaker Chambers, who is representing Pleebosodokan District#2, Maryland County in southeast Liberia for the third time, is not only member of the in-coming Coalition government, but a close associate of President-elect George Weah. Not only that, they both hail from the same region unlike outgoing President Sirleaf and criminally indicted ex-speaker Alex Tyler, who came from Western Liberia.
Dr. Chambers further vows to his colleagues in the House both from the CDC and the outgoing Unity Party, who elected him as a consensus candidate, that he will do everything humanly possible to uphold the confidence reposed in him.
He promises to make reconciliation hallmark of his leadership, noting that in unity Liberia can be safe, just, and stable, a responsibility, which he says will rest on the shoulders of all members of the 54th Legislature.
To his predecessors, including James Emmanuel Nuquay and former Deputy Speaker Hans Barchue he vows to accord them respect as past leaders, noting that they tried.
Members of the 54th Legislature also elected Bong County Representative Prince Moye from the outgoing Unity Party as Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Earlier, ex-speaker Nuquay of the 53rd Legislature thanks all members of that august body for their support during his short-lived leadership, adding that with the coming of a newly elected government, Liberians will have the opportunity for the next six years to compare the performance of the 53rd Legislature and that of the 54th Legislature and make their conclusion on achievement.
However, unlike Speaker Chambers, Pro-Tempore Albert Tugbeh Chie got elected as an Independent Candidate, succeeding former Senate Pro Tempore Armah Zulu Jallah of Gbarpolu County.
Pro Tempore Chie narrates that the Senate envisages that the executive branch will be left with no option but to propose stringent austerity and other measures to stabilize the economy and meet the expectations of the people.
He indicates that the Liberian Constitution guarantees three separate but coordinate branches of government, noting that the legislature should not be in competition with the executive branch but work along with it to ensure economic prosperity for the people.
Outgoing President of the Liberian Senate, Vice President Joseph Nyuma Boakai tells the audience that the convening at the Capitol emphasizes the close of the 53rd Legislature and the unveiling of the 54th.
“And we do all these with such ease and peace that it is hard to detect that we have just emerged from a tough and challenging electioneering process. We must now put all of these behind us and together move Liberia forward. I thank God that in the end, we are still one nation, and one people,” VP Boakai says.
The defeated ruling Unity Party presidential candidate notes that it has been 12 fruitful and rewarding years since he entered the Senate. “In these halls, I have learnt more about our country and what it demands. I have also come to appreciate working in a diverse environment where expectations demand tactful management, and where doubts can be assuaged,” he adds.
Mr. Boakai says he found it a place where “we can disagree” and even go raucous, but yet be able to find common grounds in the face of conflicting interests to build consensus on moving the nation forward.
By Bridgett Milton & E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor