Liberia: ‘Empty Hills’ or ‘Empty Heads’?

Senator Conmany B. Wesseh,left, and Senator Edwin Melvin Snowe

.... What seemed like a jestful spar between Senators Wesseh and Snowe ended up with the latter making an uncouth remark about the other’s wife

The Liberian Senate was yesterday plunged into a disruptive uproar over an apparent misunderstood, off-the-cuff comment by River Gee County Senator Conmany B. Wesseh, against his Bomi County colleague, Senator Edwin Melvin Snowe.

The situation was so electrifying that Senate Pro Tem Albert Tugbe Chie was left with no option, but to announce the session, which was the last day of the 30 days special session to a close, adjourned until Friday. He declared that he was taking charge of the situation and invited the Senate leadership to a Conference in his conference room.

The fracas started when Senator Wesseh, who is member of the Senate committee on Education and Public Administration, was briefing the Plenary on an Act to Revise and Restate the charter of the University of Liberia, a debate.  Midway through his opening statement for the debate, Senator Snowe apparently joked that he (Wesseh) needed to be elected. In response and apparently similar joking manner, Senator Wesseh stated: “Those whose hills have been emptied always distract attention.”

Snowe then reacted by saying that his colleague’s wife (Madina Wesseh, Secretary General, Mano River Union) does not attend meetings.

At this juncture, Sinoe County Senator J. Milton Teahjay requested Wesseh to apologize to Snowe for his comment. But a surprised and bewildered Wesseh wondered why he should apologize for a comment he did not make. “With my disciplined background, I will and have never insulted a colleague with such a word as ‘empty head’; if anyone should apologize I think it will be Teahjay who misunderstood my comment, I did not say that, colleagues.

In a rare intervention in such a situation, Gbarpolu County Senator Gbotoe Kanneh suggested that, instead of Wesseh apologizing, it should instead be Snowe who should apologize for bringing Wesseh’s wife into a debate that is purely a plenary discussion.

Meanwhile, Legislative reporters who later listened and watched a video recording were unanimous that indeed, Wesseh mentioned hills instead of heads.

It is an open national fact that many Liberians today jokingly refer to Bomi Hills, the once thriving iron ore mining town, as a place left with empty holes from the hills mined by the Liberia Mining Company that ended operations in the mid 1970s.

In a related development, the Senate yesterday placed a stay on its adjournment until Friday, to allow plenary to revert to a committee of the whole, to discuss the possibility of introducing a biometric system into the 2023 presidential and Legislative Elections.

Already, per the decision to invite local and or international elections monitoring groups to the Friday public hearings, there were indications from a brief debate among committee members and other Senators that the likelihood of a biometric voting system for 2023 is, if not impossible, very slim.

Also yesterday, Foreign Minister D. Maxwell Kemayah for the fourth time failed to honor a citation to appear before Senate plenary, with a phone excuse to the chairman of the Senate committee on Foreign Affairs that he was working on documents for a foreign trip.

Senator Abraham Darius Dillon’s call for a vote of no confidence against the Foreign Minister was labeled by both Senators James Biney and Albert Chie as emotional, and the Pro Tem assured that Kemayah, who is said to still be under oath, will eventually appear through his intervention.