By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)
Because it is generally believed in the Liberian society that “there are some truths in some rumors in this country,” I have decided to join the rumor-mongering about information circulating that there are attempts by the Liberian Senate to “expel” Margibi County Senator, Oscar Cooper for recent comments that brought his colleagues to “public ridicule and disrepute.” In recent time Senator Cooper has been involved in a crusade, advocating a cut in the budget of the lawmakers in the face of difficulties in the country.
In a special interview with HOT FM’s Hot Morning live program with Ambrose Nmah which was lifted by this paper in its August 14 edition, under the caption:” Sen. Cooper Crusades For Cut In Lawmakers’ US$ 38m Budget,” the Senator said it will be prudent for such allocation to the legislature to be reduced by twenty percent so that whatever will be approved thereof will be used for education and other developmental purposes in the country.
According to him it was not prudent to equate their salaries and benefits to that of the United States and Great Britain adding that as leaders; they must set examples by reducing their salaries to be able to engender more assistance from the international community.
When asked whether he may have more finance than other Senators, he said that it’s irrelevant because going to the legislature was not for money making but to serve the Liberian people. He said it is unfair for one hundred and three people (lawmakers) to take a large piece of the pie without considering the plight of the people who elected them.
Mr. Cooper who in recent time has been crusading for the reduction, said members of the National Legislature should start making sacrifices in order to make the international community to take that noble body seriously. He added that as lawmakers, they are to make laws that will have impact on the lives of the people who gave them what he termed as privilege to be representatives and senators rather than seeking their own interest.
Furthermore, the Senator said it was time that tax payers’ money be equitably distributed through the length and breadth of the country in order to improve the living standard of the ordinary Liberians stating that there is a need for the Legislature to reallocate its budget to citizens and also help support schools across the country. “It is time for us to do the right thing for the people who elected us into office rather than doing things in our own interest,” Cooper said.
Apparently it is because of these comments and others for which it is being rumored that it is likely that the senator may be expelled for “making himself to appear better than his colleagues.” Although in the field of journalism we are not to rely on rumor until it is cross-checked or verified, because this is not a news story which requires adherence to those ethical principles; I have decided to comment because of the general belief in the country regarding rumors.
For me, since I heard this rumor, I have been in a state of disbelief because of the caliber of people in the Liberian Senate, some of whom are my friends, and some who I hold in high esteem because of their contributions to the society. Besides, I have a former schoolmate and a former classmate from the law school, who presently is in the echelon of that body.
I doubted this because those in the Liberian Senate cannot be people to resort to the ugly day of bad governance, something that contributed to the years of civil conflict in this country. I do not believe that honorable body would take us back to the dark days of expelling their colleagues because of their role or exercising their rights under the Liberian Constitution.
I find it difficult to believe that the Senator would be punished only because he is exercising his rights to speak out on such matters. If he says there should be a cut in the budget of the lawmakers, of which he is also a part, this would also affect him and he has all rights to speak for or against anything of national concern.
As a student of law, I would support such action if the Senator had circumvented the rules or was involved in anything ultra vires. But in this case, there is no showing of such; therefore, I see no reason for the Senate to act in such manner. This is just another rumor, perhaps, a wishful thinking by some individuals, who perhaps fear that the Senator might come in conflict with his colleagues for his stance. But for me, I still can’t believe such rumor because there is nothing that warrants such action.
In addition, as I said earlier, with the kind of people in the Senate, including my D. Twe High schoolmate Sinoe County Senator, J. Milton Teahjay, who believes in press freedom; Cllr. Varney Sherman, seasoned lawyer; my law school classmate, ArmahJallah, pro-temp; my law school Contract course instructor, Bomi County Senator, Morris Saytumah, my Methodist brothers, Cllr. Joseph NyentuNagbe (Sinoe County) and Kaipaye (Grand Bassa County) and lest to talk about my own brother CommanyWesseh, who spoke against such action (“way back”) in the past.
One recent example of the dark days was during the time of then Grand Bassa County Senator, Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine, who was pro-temp was forced to resign that post in March 1999 and later from the Senate in April of the same year because he was trying to run an open Senate, something that President Charles Taylor did not welcome.
The belief by the President at the time was that anything from the Executive Branch should have a “smooth ride” and should not be subject to scrutiny by the Senate of anyone. Cllr. Brumskine was smart to resign because there was likelihood that his colleagues, mostly from his party, could have expelled him because those days it was believed that “when the old man is vexed, everybody is vexed.” But Thank God today that the Legislature can debate issues without fear.
As I end this piece, I am still in a state of misgiving that members of the Senate are contemplating on such action against their colleague. I believe we cannot turn this democratic wheel to the ugly past, as it is said in a democratic setting we may not agree with what one says, but respect his or her rights to speak out.
Just recently, some Senators disagreed with the President for commenting on the proposition to make Liberia a “Christian State,” something the President opposed, when she presented the propositions from the Constitution Review Commission (CRC) to the Senate. Some said it was usurpation of the function of the Legislature. Indeed, press freedom and freedom of speech are at work. And so, I end by saying, “this is just another Monrovia rumor; the Senate, I know, cannot take us back to the days of draconian rule. I Rest My Case.