While President George Manneh Weah has come under barrage of condemnations for appointing Ambassador George Patten and commissioning him to take up assignment in Washington, DC without conformation by the Liberian Senate as required by the Constitution of Liberia, Senate Secretary Nanbolor Singbeh says the President is in no constitutional breach.
Article 54 of the Constitution reads, “The President shall nominate and, with the consent of the Senate, appoint and commission cabinet ministers, deputy and assistant cabinet ministers; ambassadors, ministers, consuls; and the Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court and judges of subordinate courts; superintendents, other county officials and officials of other political sub-divisions; members of the military from the rank of lieutenant of its equivalent and above; and marshals, deputy marshals, and sheriffs.”
President George Manneh Weah commissioned Ambassador Patten on December 29, 2018 as Liberia’s Ambassador to the United States without confirmation by the Senate.Members of the 54th National Legislature had gone for annual break when the President took the action in what many note was done in a hurry and outside the Constitution.
But Secretary Singbeh argues President Weah did not violate the law, maintaining that the President invoked ‘legislative recess appointment’ which is acceptable under their rule while the Senate is on annual break.
The Senate’s Standing Rule 55 authorizes the President to appoint officials of the executive while the legislature is on recess and to inform that body upon its return from recess.
However, this paper is not sure whether that flexibility extends to commissioning said official and sending him or her off for official duty without consent of the Senate, as President Weah did in this instant.
Singbeh explains that the oversight authority of the 1986 Liberian Constitution did not give such power to the Liberian Legislature and for the media to have ascribed it to the plenary of the senate is wrong, false and misleading.Meanwhile, he sharply reacts to report that the Senate has recalled Ambassador Patten.
Speaking Friday, February 01, at the Capitol in Monrovia, Singbeh said at no time members of the senate or plenary voted for the purpose of recalling Ambassador George Patten. Instead, he explains the senate through its Statutory Committee on Foreign Relations invited the Ambassador to face confirmation hearings.
Legislative observers say said hearing will be nothing but mere publicity stunt, as senators lack the political will to thoroughly scrutinize the ambassador or reverse the President’s appointment.
Mr. Singbeh, who brags of 22 years experience in the Senate, notes that body does not have constitutional or statutory power to recall foreign mission staff, ambassadors, members of the executive and judiciary branches of government; instead, it can invite, summon and charge officials of the two branches with contempt based on the doctrine of separation of functions.
“To recall and to invite are two different things. The Senate did vote to invite the ambassador to appear before the committee on foreign relations and not to ask the president to recall”, he clarifies.
Earlier on last Thursday, Maryland County Senator Gble-bo Brown moved plenary of the Senate to recall Amb. Patten, noting that the procedure through which the Ambassador was appointed is unlawful, and he should therefore, be brought back for confirmation hearing.
The motion was, however, amended by Montserrado County Senator Saah Joseph, who said it would be more appropriate to invite the Ambassador instead of recalling him.
By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor –Editing by Jonathan Browne