Serious tension engulfed the chambers of the House of Representatives on Thursday, 16 June when some members of that body resisted Speaker Alex Tyler presiding in session, while a pro-Tyler black 0of lawmakers argued the rule of the lower House does not call for recusal on the basis of allegation.
It all started when a communication from Montserrado County Representative Edwin Melvin Snowe, Jr., calling for roll call before the commencement of session. Margibi County Representative Emmanuel Nuquoi made a motion that since the letter has to do with Speaker Tyler, he should step aside to allow Deputy Speaker Hans Bachue preside over session, but the motion was strongly challenged by Maryland County Representative Dr. Bhofal Chambers and Representative Solomon George of Montserrado County.
Snowe’s letter reads, “We present compliments and observed that during the commencement of Tuesday’s session, June 7, 2016, the third item of the agenda which has to do with roll call to determine a quorum in line with Article 33 of the Liberian Constitution was skipped. We consider this an oversight and therefore request that this oversight be corrected during subsequent sessions.”
Rep. Snowe, through the communication, argued that Rule 14 of their standing rules and procedural calls for roll call. Also, Article 33 of the Constitution of Liberia states that a simple majority of each House shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business but a lower number may adjourn from day to day and compel the attendance absentee members.
“My understanding of this Article is that quorum is determined only by roll call. Therefore, contrary to the calling of roll, one cannot determine a quorum for the transaction of business. As this the House of law, with 73 Honorable Men and Women of the Republic of Liberia being represented, we are encouraged to uphold the rule of law,” the communication added.
The letter generated bitter exchanges among the lawmakers characterized by insults spearheaded by Montserrado County Representative Solomon George. Rep. George, a strong supporter of indicted Speaker Tyler nearly got in fistfight with his colleagues from the Congress for Democratic Change Reps. Thomas Fallah and Acarous Gray.
George argued that it makes no sense for any lawmaker to call for the indicted Speaker to step aside based on a sample letter. But his comments were countered by both Fallah and Gray, who reminded George that they were setting a bad precedent at the Capitol Building.
However, Speaker Tyler with yea and nail votes sent the communication to the House’ Committees on Judiciary and Rules, Order and Administration to report to plenary in one week. Prior to the combative sessions, some protestors believed to be supporters of Speaker Tyler converged at the Capitol, asking Tyler not to recuse himself.
The group accused Rep. Snowe of wanting to see Speaker Tyler’s downfall. The protestors over 15 were pre- dominantly young boys. Tyler is alleged to have received US$75,000 as ‘consulting fees’ out of US$950,000 reportedly offered by Sable Mining Company of Britain, according to UK-based environmental watchdog, Global Witness.
Several other officials including Senator Varney Sherman, the estranged chairman of President Sirleaf’s governing Unity Party allegedly received money from Sable Mining to compromise Liberian concession laws in its favor, a claim the company denied recently.