No Election For Pro-Tempore Now…As Veep, Speaker Challenge New Lawmakers

By C. Winnie Saywah-Jimmy

The plenary of the Liberian Senate seems to be in no rush to occupy a vacancy created for the position of a President Pro-tempore as being accentuated in the media, apparently because there has been no announcement made indicating a vacancy for that position in the Liberian Senate.   In the first sitting during the resumption of legislative affairs at the opening of the fourth session yesterday, it was highlighted in speeches delivered by the leaderships of the National Legislature that they were cognizant of an acting presiding officer in the Liberian Senate in the 53rd Legislature.

According to the Senate own standing rule 16, Section 3 which states, “In case of removal of the President Pro-tempore, the Liberian Senate shall elect a successor in keeping with the following procedure: a) The Secretary of the Senate shall announce a vacancy for the position of the President Pro-tempore of the Senate, b) within a period of 30 calendar days, an election shall be held in plenary to fill the vacancy of the President Pro-tempore, c) All interested candidate shall declare their intention in writing to the plenary through the Secretary of the Senate not later than 20 calendar days from the date of announcement of the vacancy.

The rule goes on to state that, “The Secretary of the Senate shall circulate all declarations received to all members of the Senate not later than 5 calendar days prior to the date of election. D) the plenary at which the election shall be held shall have only one item on its agenda which shall be the election of the President Pro-tempore of the Senate and on the day of the election, the President of the Senate shall preside, or in the stead, the Secretary of the Senate amongst others.

Even though the three-year old seated Senate Pro-tempore, Gbehzohngar Milton Findley, did not get re-elected as a Senator by his constituents, the residents of Grand Bassa County, the Secretary of the Senate is yet to announce a vacancy for the Pro-tempore position in the Senate.

The Liberian Senate has gone ahead in accordance with what is also presumed as ‘its own rule’ to allow the Chairperson on the Foreign Affairs, Dan Morias serve as the acting presiding officer, with emphasis on the dress-right-dress procedure in any parliament based on best practices.

With the booting out of several senators of which were the chairpersons of three of the Senate’s standing committees, the Senate is also faced with conducting elections for chairpersons on three of its leadership committees.

The Committees are Executive chaired by outgoing Margib County Senator Clarice Jah, outgoing Lofa County Senator Sumo Kupee chaired on Ways, Means, Finance and Budget and protesting outgoing Bomi County Senator, LahaiLansannah chaired the committee on Rules, Order and Administration.

Now that the announcement of a vacancy for the President Pro-tempore has not been heard or entertained in the Senate plenary, makes it squarely impossible for the election of new leaders on the three leadership committees because Rule 43, section 2(a) of the Senate rules says it is the President Pro-tempore who shall administer the oath of office to the committee chairpersons immediately following their elections.

Besides the rules and floor politics, the position of President Pro-tempore is gaining steam just from the fact that Gbehzohngar Findley was not re-elected and it has become an open support pledged by members of the majority block for Gbarpolu County, Senator ArmahJallah as the successor of Gbehzohngar Findley.

The spokesperson of the newly created block in the Liberian Senate, Sando Johnson said they believe that Senator Jallah is the best among other contenders because he will serve as a balance between the Executive and Legislative Branches of government. Founding members of that majority block led by Montserrado County Senator Geraldine Doe Sheriff are known to be Senators SandoDazoe Johnson, Peter Coleman, Henry Jarlah, Jewel Howard-Taylor, NyonbleeKarngar-Lawrence, George Tenbgeh, Dallas Guehand and Dan Morias.

In other legislative report, the President of the Liberian Senate, Joseph Boakai and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alex Tyler have jointly challenged in-coming Senators to take heed of the electorates’ message to them during the time of elections.

The voters’ agenda message to their elected representatives was ‘Serve us and not yourselves’ and that message according to the heads of the National Legislature signifies expectation especially on the part of candidates of their choice whose election has effected change in the Liberian Senate.

Speaker Tyler said, “Democracy does not always favor our choice, and as we were willing to win; when good fortune favored us, we should likewise be ready to lose believing that fate has hit us that way.” Joining the calls from the public, the new Senators have also been urged to remember their promises to their electorates noting that none were made out of duress.

Meanwhile, the Liberian Senate resumed its fourth session with the receipt of certificates and other required credentials from 13 of the 15 newly elected senators. The 13 senators were certificated by the National Elections Commission (NEC) leaving out three due to a stay order placed on their certification process by the Justice in Chamber, Philip Banks.

The Secretary of the Liberian Senate received the election certificates from the 12 new senators during the first day sitting yesterday informing them of their endorsed representation for Montserrado, Bong, Grand Bassa, Lofa, Gbarpolu, River Gee, River Cess, Sinoe, Grand Gedeh, Nimba, Maryland and Grand Kru Counties in accordance with Chapter 2 Rule 1, Section 1 and Chapter 5, Rule 16 and Section 4 of the Senate standing rules.

The certificates along with other required credentials have been referred to the committee on Rule, Order and Administration to examine same and report to plenary; even though there was absolutely no time frame attached to that formality.

This makes it apparently clear that the new senators might all be inducted before the election of a President Pro-tempore or on the other hand, the Liberian Senate could also have an incomplete leadership on the fourth working Monday when President Sirleaf is constitutionally required to deliver her annual address.