By C. Winnie Saywah-Jimmy
The plenary of the second session of the Liberian Senate has begun exerting its constitutional ‘contempt’ power on government actors as Youth and Sports Minister, Eugene Nagbe, is the first to receive his package.
Yesterday, it seemed as though all expectations of what a real legislative ‘contempt’ should have meant was dashed when the highest decision making body of the Liberian Senate as usual upon quizzing the Sports Minister, instructed him to formally communicate his apology to that body in three local dallies.
The plenary stressed that the apology be particularly published in the Frontpage Africa Newspaper where he had earlier published his response with copies sent to members of that committee and that he also avails himself to the committee so that together they redirect their energies so that the county meet comes alive.
Minister Nagbe whose appearance attracted youths to the balcony of the senate chamber to witness him explain why he should not be held in ‘contempt’ had earlier informed the Senate ad hoc committee on Sports chaired by Senator George Weah which had invited him to a public hearing on the pending county meet that he would rather urge the committee to refrain from holding public discussion for an activity that has no allotment and instead redirect its energy to finding ways to make allotments in the budget.
The committee without any further exchange of communication, informed plenary that Sport Minister Nagbe had disrespected it and that the only resort was to seek plenary’s intervention on the matter.
Even though some of the colleagues especially the new ones like Commany Wesseh, Milton Teahjay and Gbleh-bo Brown are strongly convinced that inviting individuals before plenary when the Senate’s job should be mostly carried out in committee rooms will be a waste of time and would degrade that highest decision making body if the invitee remains adamant or otherwise.
The senators advised the plenary to give its committees the power to take concrete actions instead of forwarding complaints of lack of cooperation from individuals or government actors; which indeed is a form of impeding the Senate’s work and carries a penalty tantamount to ‘contempt.’
However, Minister Nagbe appeared yesterday in his usual cool mood; even though at some point he tried to justify his action for not appearing relative to why his response to the committee was made public, he finalized his entire speech with apologies of any form whenever there would be questions or even if Senators’ comments come with unfavorable choice of words to sway him.
He informed the plenary that he did not intend to impede the work of the Liberian Senate but the lack of funding to hold county meet was his frustration and his response was suggesting to the committee that there was no need to hold public hearing when there was no allotment made to carry out the work.
Minister Nagbe said out-rightly that his institution has a proper communication flow and management therefore there is absolutely no way a document could be leaked from his office as done in other government institutions therefore to comment on how his communication was made public would be a separate investigation.
Meanwhile, the Senators considered that choice of Minister Nagbe’s words in his communication to the committee to mean that he was directing it how to do its work when he used ‘advise’ when he himself was not advised well as to how to communicate to the Senate; while in his communication, he said urge to mean suggest, and refrain to mean discuss.
Senator Wesseh pleaded with his colleagues to pardon the Youth and Sports Minster since he deals with youths and sometimes the frustration has the tendency to make one behave like them; an intervention which many of the Senators took in good faith thereby advising Minister Nagbe to go but to sin no more.
By C. Winnie Saywah-Jimmy