The failure for the House of Representatives to have session on Tuesday, July 7, to begin debating the concurrence of the Extension of the State of Emergency, has stretched the debate whether the Legislature is constitutionally proceeding since President George M. Weah made the declaration on June 22.
The proposed extension of the SOE has already gone more than half of the prescribed 30 days, prompting some opposition lawmakers to threaten a protest against the move by the President.
With the presence of 26 lawmakers, Speaker Bhofal Chambers adjourned session about 12:21 p.m. and, about few minutes later, over 12 Representatives arrived which might have constituted a quorum of a simple majority of 37.
The late lawmakers appeared both angry and embarrassed, expressing shock at what they described as the Speaker’s intolerance.
The Daily Observer has reliably gathered that the Senate on Friday, July 3, approved the President’s extension of the State of Emergency, from June 22 to July 21, 2020.
The Senate’s adopted Resolution on the Extension of the SOE has been forwarded to the House of Representatives and was expected to be discussed on Tuesday, but is now pushed to Thursday, July 9.
“I present my sincere compliments and by directive of the Senate (IN SESSION), forward hereto attached, the below Joint Resolution adopted by members of the Senate of this Body in compliance with Article 88 of the Constitution of Liberia (1986) for your timely concurrence,” the Senate Secretary of the Senate, Nanborlor F. Singbeh, Sr., said in a communication to the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives, titled: “Joint Resolution #004/2020 Approving the Extension of the State of Emergency Declared by President George Manneh Weah of the Republic of Liberia.”
He added: “The above Joint Resolution was adopted Friday, July 3, 2020 at the hour of 15:21 GMT.”
If the House concurs on Thursday, this will be the second State of Emergency within one year aimed to protect the lives of Liberians and curtail the outbreak of COVID-19.
In April, the Legislature modified the 21 days’ request to 60 days, because it was expedient that the virus had amounted to clear and present danger.
As the government await the House of Representative occurrence, the Minister of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism, Lenn Eugene Nagbe, has asked members of the Collaborating Political Parties Legislative Caucus to institute legal action if they think it has passed the deadline set by the Constitution to be approved by the Legislature.
According to Min. Nagbe, the President declared the state of emergency and communicated that to the Legislature, which was done within the constitutionally prescribed period.
“The constitution also says that after the President presents a state of the emergency document to the National Legislature, they should convene. The Senate shutdown when one of its staffers was tested positive of Covid-19,” said Min. Nagbe on the OK Morning Rush Show on OK FM 99.5 in Monrovia.
Min. Nagbe further argued that President Weah cannot be held liable because the legislature has not been able to act swiftly following the declaration of the state of emergency.
“If any member, whether from the CPP or any Liberian believes that there is a violation of the constitution by the President submitting the SOE request to the Legislature, there is an avenue under our constitution and democratic dispensation for you to ask the Supreme Court to interpret because it is a matter of understanding and comprehending what the constitution says,” Min. Nagbe said.
CPP Lawmakers’ concern
Earlier, members of the CPP Legislative Caucus has called for the revocation of the State of Emergency on grounds that it has passed the deadline set by the Constitution to be approved by the Legislature.
“We, as members of the CPP Legislative Caucus, wish to bring to the attention of the Liberian people that the State of Emergency as announced by the President of the Republic of Liberia on June 22, 2020 for a 30-day extension has not yet been passed by the Legislature, as such, it has passed the maximum constitutional time frame to be enforced as provided for in Article 88,” CPP Legislative Caucus Chairman and Bong County District # 7 Representative Joseph Papa Kolleh said.
Article 88 of the Liberian Constitution states that: “The President shall, immediately upon the declaration of a state of emergency, but not later than seven days thereafter, lay before the Legislature at its regular session or at a specially convened session, the facts and circumstances leading to such declaration. The Legislature shall within seventy-two hours, by joint resolution voted by two-thirds of the membership of each house, decide whether the proclamation of a state of emergency is justified or whether the measures taken thereunder are appropriate. If the two-thirds vote is not obtained, the emergency automatically shall be revoked. Where the Legislature shall deem it necessary to revoke the state of emergency or to modify the measures taken thereunder, the President shall act accordingly and immediately carry out the decisions of the Legislature.”
Based on this, the CPP lawmakers argued that since the legislature has not been able to act on the SOE document in the period of 72-hour, they would institute measures to ensure the revocation of it.
‘Debate the Issue, Not Walk Out’
Meanwhile, Min. Nagbe has admonished members of the CPP legislative caucus to channel their disagreement or dissatisfaction through debates on the floor of the House of Representatives instead of their plan action.
Minister Nagbe maintained that though President Weah declared the state of emergency as a result of the exponential manner and form in which confirmed cases of the coronavirus are escalating, some Liberians, including members of the CPP, believed that the Constitution has been violated.
Min. Nagbe stressed that it is about time that members of the CPP members use their collective strengths to address the situation they deemed controversy by debating the matter constructively because the President acted constitutionally.
“I think if any member of the Legislature has any qualm with the state of emergency- the best place to do that is to join the debate on the floor; use your collective power to vote against it and present their reasoning to the people of Liberia. Whenever there is a controversy, try to test the law”.
“The Capitol Building is the house of politics- not protest or go-slow. The exercise of political rights should be at the forefront of all of the activities at the National Legislature. It is your right to sit in without obstructing the functions of the Legislature or to walk out. I am happy we are at the stage where our democracy has matured-where opposition can walk out of session,” he said.