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Speaker booed at Capitol

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-as staffers demand salary arrears
By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor
House Speaker Bhofal Chambers, also ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC lawmaker from Maryland County faced his bitter experience in legislative work here Tuesday when aggrieved staffers demanding unpaid salaries jeered and booed him at the Capitol in total disgrace.

The grounds of the Capitol Tuesday became tense after aggrieved staffers of the House of Representatives stormed the entrance of the chambers of the House, demanding that their salaries and benefits allegedly being cut without justifiable cause be returned immediately.

It all started when staffers under the leadership of Benjamin Myers, formerly youth chairperson for the opposition Alternative National Congress had called a meeting in the rotunda of the Capitol to discuss how the leadership could engage Speaker Chambers to have Liberian dollars component of the salary and some United States dollars that were deducted from their earning restituted retroactively.

But while in discussion trying to figure out, the House Co-chairman on Ways, Means, Finance and Budget, Nimba County Representative Jeremiah Koung and Montserrado County Representative Dixon Seibo entered the rotunda with a fixed mind to engage the staffers to calm down.

They were accorded full attention, and immediately Koung and Seibo requested that the meeting be transferred to the William Richard Tolbert Chambers for better understanding and fruitful discussion.

Upon arrival in the chamber, Benjamin Myers, who heads the aggrieved staffers, contended that cuts in their benefits and salaries were unnecessary, arguing that a resolution signed by both the House of Representatives and the Liberian Senate clearly states that members of the Legislature and the Judiciary particularly judges shall have 31 percent of their salary cut excluding staffers.

According to him, the resolution clearly states that such adjustment shall affect members of the Legislature, which means representatives and senators, so staffers’ salaries and benefits that have been allegedly cut over the past one year be abolished immediately.

But rep. Seibo argues that, that portion of the resolution can only be interpreted by lawyers, something that sparks heated debate.

However, Koung and Seibo, who could not sustain the noise, took to their heels toward the chambers, thinking it could be a safe haven but angry staffers pursued them, booing and raining insults.

Some of the aggrieved staffers shouted uncontrollably, “Chambers la rogue! Chambers la rogue!” Representative Jimmy Smith tried intervening in the matter, but his effort was like adding gas to fire, as the protesting staffers banged on the doors of the chambers.

This is the first time for aggrieved staffers to physically attack the working room of the House of Representatives, while session was in progress and serious national issues were being discussed.

Following the persistent noise and banging on the doors of the chambers, which security officers assigned at the entrance of the chambers could not handle, Speaker Chambers in an appalling and unwilling mood, requested that the leader of the aggrieved staffers be allowed in plenary to make their case.

The meeting lasted for hours and Speaker Chambers subsequently requested a private with the leadership after which Montserrado County Representative Acarous Gray made a motion that a special committee be set up to investigate the staffers’ concern.

Meanwhile, plenary through vote selected the Ways, Means, and Finance Committee to investigate the matter and report to plenary tomorrow, Thursday, September 03, with findings and recommendation for immediate actions.
Staffers at the Legislature, including the House and the Senate have suffered cuts in salary and benefits after a salary harmonization scheme by the government.

In July, staffers of the Liberian Senate protested for cuts totaling US$557,000 from their salaries and benefits since July, 2019. Editing by Jonathan Browne

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