Defeated opposition Liberty Party (LP) executive, Abraham Darius Dillon says Speaker Bhofal Chambers lacks the experience to preside over the 54rd Legislature, basing his argument on the alleged blunder witnessed in session when President George Manneh Weah was due to deliver his first State of the Nation.
“Yesterday it was a blunder and it was an embarrassing blunder of the Speaker that caused the president and the delivery to be delayed by 15 minutes,” Mr. Dillon said Tuesday, 30 January in reaction to the conduct of a joint legislative session by Speaker Chambers on Monday, 29 January.
Liberia’s Constitution is silent on the exact time the President is due to address the joint session on the State of the Nation, but it is a tradition that has been observed here that the President begins delivering the State of the Nation at 4:00pm on the prescribed date after being inaugurated.
Article 58 of the Constitution says the President shall, on the fourth working Monday in January of each year, present the administration’s legislative program for the ensuing session, and shall once a year report to the Legislature on the state of the Republic.
It adds that in presenting the economic condition of the Republic, the report shall cover expenditure as well as income, but the provision does not say at what time on the fourth working Monday the President shall deliver the address.
Notwithstanding, Mr. Dillon says Speaker Chambers should be blamed for the delay in time for President Weah’s delivery of the State of the Nation Address on Monday, 29 January for his alleged lack of the basic knowledge of legislative proceedings.
“The Speaker supposed to make sure the Sergeant-at-Arms will open the session, and in order to ensure that session will go on, you need quorum. So you have to do roll calling first in order to determine a quorum. But at the time the Speaker asked for a roll call, the President was already outside,” Mr. Dillon observes.
According to Mr. Dillon who had earlier worked at the Capitol for years before contesting a senatorial by-election in Montserrado and lost, Speaker Chambers did not follow the regular rules of the Plenary, noting that the Speaker had already opened session before calling for roll call in order to determine a quorum.
The LP executive continues that it is constitutional that the president of Liberia appear before a joint session of the Legislature to deliver the Annual Message or State of the Nation Address every fourth working Monday in January. He points out that the Speaker is to ask the Sergeant-at-Arms to open the session after the roll call when there is a quorum.
President Weah began delivering his first State of the Nation Address some minutes after 4pm, leaving curious members of the audience who had assembled for the event to begin searching the internet on their phones to establish what is in the constitution for the appearance of the president to deliver the State of the Nation.
When it became clear that time was only a tradition and not a matter of law, all attention was now directed at the presiding, whose management of the joint session came under sport light by some of those with knowledge in the area.
By Ben P. Wesee–Edited by Winston W. Parley