Although lawmakers on Capitol Hill had announced an extension of their work by four months, forgoing their usual annual break, but what is currently obtaining in reality at the Legislature is lack of regular sessions in both Houses due to lack of quorum as a result of their conspicuous absences, relegating matters of state to go on campaign trails across the country.
The Senate Press and Public Affairs Department excepts to reports in the media that lawmakers are not attending sessions due to lack of quorum because they are busy campaigning for election and reelection.
The Press Department argues that the senate plenary reached a decision prior to August 31, 2017 that session would be held based on notification from the Leadership provided there are issues of national concern.
The department further explains that plenary is resolved to go this route as a method to be used for the special sitting 2017 and that whenever there is a session, it will be opened to the media and the public will be duly informed.
But here is an analysis on the senate position: for instance, if for the entire four months special sitting period, there were one or two issues of national concern, meaning, plenary would convene only for two days, but receive pay for the entire period, which would be not only a serious disservice, but a waste of taxpayers’ money.
Even prior to the start of official campaign on July 31, for the October 10th Presidential and Representatives elections, the leaderships of both the senate and the House of Representatives had complained about the repeated absences of some members without any excuse.
You could just image what the situation would be during this special sitting when almost all members of the Lower House are seeking reelection.
In the senate, Senators George Weah and Jewel Howard Taylor are vying for the presidency on the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) Ticket, while Prince Yormie Johnson, standard bearer for the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction or MDR is similarly contesting for the presidency, same as Senator Oscar Cooper as Independent Presidential candidate.
In short, key leaders of the First Branch of Government, including Speaker Emmanuel James Nuquay, Senate Pro-Tempore Armah Jallah and the President of the Liberia Senate, Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai, among others have been conspicuously absent from the Capitol, attending political campaign rallies.
With barely few weeks to the October elections, the so-called special sitting 2017 would only exist on paper, not in practice as lawmakers’ attentions are focus on the impending elections either seeking reelection, higher post or supporting some candidates for the presidency, including Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai, who is standard bearer of the governing Unity Party and current President of the Liberian Senate.
From all indications, some incumbent lawmakers seeking re-election, specifically within the House of Representatives may not get reelected, but would demand pay for the special sitting 2017, which is unfair to the state, because they are busy campaigning for their personal political interest rather than serving the Liberian people.
Important issues such as land right bill, children and others, are still languishing before that august body despite demand from the public for their passage, while the lawmakers wait for issues in their mind, that “are of national concern” to convene session. For how long would our elected officials place their personal interests above the interest of the people they claim to represent? Only God knows.