By C. Winnie Saywah-Jimmy
Another serious drama ensued yesterday in the Chambers when Speaker Alex Tyler, the presiding officer of the plenary of the House of Representatives read a document to effect reshuffles on all of its committees; something which is in accordance with the House’s rule that should take place after every three years.
Speaker Tyler’s attempt to read the listing beginning with chairpersons on the leadership committees prompted a serious uproar of noise from several of his colleagues who had been stiff in their resolve to have him recuse himself as presiding officer since he was undergoing an investigation at the Liberia Anti Corruption Commission (LACC).
At the helm of the group that is calling for Speaker Tyler to recuse himself until he could exonerate himself from the LACC investigation are mostly those who have been chairpersons and other members of lucrative positions in the House of Representatives like Edwin Snowe, Emmanuel Nuquay, Henry Fahnbulleh and Samuel Kogar.
The aggrieved lawmakers earlier insisted that a communication requesting the Speaker to recuse himself be placed as an agenda item since it was not done during the first day sitting, an argument the plenary agreed with as item six, but as items on the agenda were being dealt with, argument started immediately when the document of committees reshuffle was being read.
The disenchanted members of that august body did not want to allow Speaker Tyler announce the reshuffle even though it was already recalled that the session had been called to order and that there was a quorum to begin the day’s deliberation.
Already, the atmosphere was charged early morning when members of the House of Representatives began arriving only to be greeted by members of the Police Support Unit (PSU), a situation that was placed under control by the swift intervention of the President of the Liberian Senate by calling an impromptu meeting among Representatives.
While Speaker Tyler was still presiding, the disgruntled lawmakers left their respective seats and began causing serious commotion which almost resulted into fist fight but as the Sergeant-at-arms prevented the other lawmakers from reaching the Speaker’s desk, Representative Roland Opee Cooper of Margibi County slapped his fellow colleague, Adam Bill Conneh, a Representative from Bong County in an attempt to spill the fret. The entire Chambers always referred to as ‘sacred’ place soon began turning into a boxing ring but the drama ended when other lawmakers intervened and Speaker Tyler was forced to cut short the reading of the document and returned to his office to complete the process.
The protesting lawmakers claimed that their argument is about the LACC’s invitation to Speaker Tyler for an investigation to providing explanation regarding the role of his office in the consultancy contract on the performance of a detailed analysis and review of the Petroleum Bill passed by the Liberian Senate.
But many other lawmakers who believe that the transaction leading to the hiring of three consultants is not the basis of the confusion that their colleagues are fueling, instead it was due to the reshuffle of committee members, an allegation that proved to have been correct, judging from what occurred yesterday, legislative pundits surmised.
The group of lawmakers against Speaker Tyler presiding over plenary session is contending that he lacks the moral grounds to preside until he can clear himself off the allegations of a US$ 25, 000 scandal levied against him in the LACC Report.
Meanwhile, in the LACC’s communication to the Speaker dated September 30, 2014, its Chairperson James Verdier said, “The LACC informs you about an ongoing investigation stemming from a contract(s) between the Liberian Legislature and three consultants: Ms. Vulate Hage, Mr. Kwame Jantuah and Mr. Michael M. Allison.”
“The investigation acknowledges that the consultants are professionals hired by the House of Representatives in consideration for the performance of a critical and detailed analysis and review of the Petroleum Bill passed by the Liberian Senate and pending before the House of Representatives,” the communication continued.
“The LACC therefore requests your office to assist this investigation by providing explanation regarding the role of your office surrounding the consultancy contracts,” the LACC said. In the Speaker Tyler’s reply dated October 6, 2014, he said, “I acknowledge receipt of your letter and herewith attach copies of the contract for the three consultants. With regards to your request for payment vouchers, receipts, checks, etc, we request that you contact the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) as they made payments on behalf of the House of Representatives.”
However, as for the reshuffling of committees, Representative Snow was changed as chair of the committee on Rules, Order and Administration and replaced with Representative Byron Brown while Representative Nuquay who earlier chaired the committee on Ways, Means, Finance and Administration was replaced by Representative Moses Kollie, among others.
In other Legislative news, the plenary of the Liberian Senate in its second day sitting received announcement from its Secretariat regarding a vacancy of a President Pro-tempore, which observers still remind that body of being in violation of its own rule.
That announcement should have been made in the first day sitting upon the resumption of session. Most senators are beginning to notice that the plenary had started proceeding in error when the Secretary read to plenary the State of Affairs beginning with the number of bills received and passed in the year 2014, during the third session of the 53rd legislature.
The Secretary promised to circulate copies of his information reported in the State of Affairs but lawmakers took exception to the two-folded report and said there was absolutely nothing that warranted an adoption of the report when the rules are clear regarding vacancy for the position of a Pro-temp.
They quarreled with the Secretary of the Senate for always carrying out acts contrary to what he has been told by the leadership. Meanwhile, with the announcement, the Liberian Senate has 30 calendar days to fill the vacancy of a Pro-temp created by the constituents of Grand Bassa County who booted out Pro-temp Gbehzohngar Findely, a senator of that county.