By C. Winnie Saywah-Jimmy
The Liberian Senate has begun its fourth session with faulty proceedings as noticeable errors are being displayed daily since the resumption of the National Legislature following its Agricultural break.
According to Article 32 as required by the Liberian Constitution, “the National Legislature shall assemble in regular session once each year on the Second working Monday in January,” however, that session assemblage was turned into a big State program on January 12.
As guests were arriving, the Liberian Senate unprecedentedly reverted to its plenary with a one agenda item that allowed Senators-elect to present their certificates and other credentials which they termed as the first day sitting.
The Senate plenary’s session entertained a recitation of Chapter 2 Rule 1 Section 1 and Chapter 5 Rule 16 Section 4 of their rules by each senators-elect following which time the documents were presented to the Secretary of the Senate in a normal session proceedings which closing with a motion for adjournment.
Rule 1 Section 1 states, “The presentation of credentials of Senators-elect shall be on the first day of attendance at the session following their election while Chapter 3 Rule 4 Section 1 is in line with Article 32 of the Liberian Constitution but was modified with emphasis which states, “The Liberia Senate shall convene in ‘Regular’session once each year on the second working Monday in January.”
Legislative observers are confused as to the emphasis placed on the session and wondered if the opening session was just an opening ceremony with an elaborate program organized by the National Legislature or as described by the law be a ‘Regular’ session to receive certificates of senators-elect and why the same could not be applied to the announcement of a vacancy in the position of a President Pro-tempore as stated in Rule 14 Section 1.
Rule 14 Section 1 of the Senate rules is clear on election of a president Pro-tempore and it states, “On the first day of the ‘Regular’session following a general and presidential election, the Secretary of the Senate or Assistant Secretary shall call the Senate to order, conduct devotions and announce to the senators present that the Senate is without a President Pro-tempore to serve for a term of six years.”
Having abided by Chapter 2 Rule 1 Section 1 of the rule, the plenary continue to proceed with its session pretending not to notice that it was by the same rule they have allowed senators-elect present their certificates and credentials and so the same rule should be followed if it will not be business as usual during this fourth session.
Following the brief plenary session just for the presentation of certificates given new senators by the National Elections Commission, the protocol had the senators-elect seated together with the seated senators during the opening ceremony as if they were already inducted senators.
To prove that some of the Senators are eager to have senators-elect inducted, they chose to ignore the organic law that senators of the first category vacate their seat at the expiration of the ninth year giving way for the new senators to be seated instead it announced that induction of the new senators will be carried out in a special session today, an idea-birth by Senator Henry Yallah who believes that it is a procrastination if the in-coming senators are not added to allow for a quorum.
Article 46 of Liberian Constitution in part states, “The seat of the senators of the first category shall be vacated at the expiration of the ninth year.” Political observers take keen that the senators of the first category referred to were inducted on January 15, 2005 and as such should be allowed to be vacated on January 15 which satisfies the constitution and anything on the contrary could be a violation.
But it is being rumored that the majority block believes that if the induction is carried out including the senators-elect, there will be immense support to their candidate Senator ArmahJallah based on lobby and floor politics based on seniority but others believe that the rules must be followed since this is the first time that the National Legislature has witnessed a transition of senators in this manner.
At the session yesterday, which was its official first day opening, the Senators again failed to have the Secretary of the Senate announce a vacancy of a President Pro-tempore, because it was already on the agenda as Business on President’s Desk, but Senator ArmahJallah, one of the senators eying the Pro-tempore’s position begged the indulgence of the presiding officer to allow the Secretary inform the plenary what were contained in what the Secretary had to say for which he was included on the agenda.
Knowing that the rules states among other things that it is during the first day session that the Secretary of the Senate shall announce that vacancy for the position of a Pro-tempore, the majority of the founding members of the Jallah block present in session argued that that portion be tabled until there is a quorum which is until their other colleagues are inducted; an idea which was bought by the acting presiding officer, Dan Morias, is a founding member of the majority block, thereby ignoring their rules.
To have a quorum which is the expressed fear of most senators present for which the people’s business cannot be carried out, legislative observers are of the view that the outgoing senators be encouraged to return to session so as to establish a quorum to induct the new senators today.
However, an issue raised by outgoing senators as per their absence is that they were not formally invited back to session for continuity until the vacating period, which is now beginning a serious issue of debate but the Senate Secretary said in a local talk show yesterday that his function is being usurped by the Rules, Order and Administration Committee.