-Says, when assigned by Pres. Weah, he “couldn’t say no”
The current Liberian “Ambassador” to the United States of America, George Patten on Thursday, February 21, 2019, offered a public apology to the Senate for taking up assignment without being confirmed by that august body. Patten immediately promised to formalize it with a letter today, February 22.
Mr. Patten offered the apology in the Chamber of the Senate when he appeared before the Senate committee on Foreign Affairs for confirmation proceedings, having prematurely taken up his assignment and commissioned by President George Weah outside the normal procedure. As ambassador-designate, Patten should have first appear for confirmation hearing by the Senate.
Patten, whose career as a diplomat and a lawyer spans more than three decades, was questioned on whether he had fulfilled Article 54 of the Constitution before taking up his assignment in Washington, D.C.
“I am an emissary of the President and an envoy given an official letter to deliver; I serve Liberia and the President, but the realization was that I have to come back here and I complied; that’s why I am here,” he said.
Mr. Patten, in response to further questions, said he realized his mistake later when the Senate asked him to return, “and that’s why I am here to have this discussion, this dialogue.”
He admitted being knowledgeable of the Constitution, but said that he is an emissary of the President, “and when the head of state requires you to undertake an urgent assignment, challenges may be there, but you could not possibly say no…”
Patten was positive of being confirmed, “because for over 30 years, I have dedicated my life in serving Liberia in the foreign service since leaving school; to countries like The Gambia, Libya, Ethiopia, and now the United States.”
“With the experiences that I have, I believe I can be very useful in Washington, cementing that historical relationship between Liberia and the United States, which we intend to strengthen further,” Patten said.
Senator Henry Yallah of Bong County asked whether Patten will go back to the United States as Ambassador, if denied by the Senate. In his response, he was not coherent.
Again, asked by Senator Oscar Cooper of Margibi County as to whether by a directive of the President, he (Patten) would do something unconstitutional, Patten fumbled, but said finally: “I don’t think I will violate the Constitution, no sir.”
Sen. Cooper insisted on the question of why did he violate the Constitution in the first place by taking up assignment without meeting the constitutional requirement? But Patten took refuge in the excuse that he could not resist the urgency of the assignment from the President.
Following brief inquiries from other members of the Committee, Mr. Patten was discharged from the stand and told to go home but with a caveat that other issues would be discussed at the level of the Foreign Ministry at a later date.
Senate Goes into Urgent Session
Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday went into an unusual urgent executive session, midway into the debate on “An Act Prohibiting the Tenure of Public Officials within the Executive Branch of government.”
The decision came minutes after senators Thomas Grupee, Henrique Tokpa and Henry Yallah disagreed over a bill to the Legislature and which was submitted by President Weah for the prohibition of all tenured positions for public officials.
Senators Grupee and Tokpa were emphatic that the bill be returned to the President and, if he was not satisfied, he could go to the Supreme Court.
“This is the Genesis of how imperial presidency develops, and we are still reminded of our recent past of a long conflict, which was as a result of bad governance,” they said.
The debate is expected to continue next Thursday, February 28.