— Senators Lawrence, Cooper, Naatehn, Wesseh, Sando Johnson vent anger on Saah Joseph
The Senate was on Thursday, August 22, 2019 plunged into chaos and uproar following a motion that unceremoniously ended its plenary hearing that brought together national security heads, including those at the helm of the Liberia National Police (LNP), Liberia Drugs Enforcement Agency (LDEA), Liberia Immigration Services (LIS), National Security Agency (NSA) as well as the ministries of Justice and National Defense.
The Senate has invited heads of the security apparatuses in response to a joint communication from Senators Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, Conmany B. Wesseh, and Abraham Darius Dillon in which they decried the seeming breakdown of law and order with respect to electoral violence.
After many interruptions and verbal exchange between the presiding officer, Montserrado County Senator Saah Joseph as chairman of the Executive Committee and some Senators, the Inspector General of LNP, Patrick Sudue, took the witness stand, and made a lengthy statement backed by documents, referencing violence as far back as the MNG Gold mine incident in Bong County, and as recent as the electoral violence in Logan Town.
In accordance with the standing Senate Rules, Senators were expected to cross examine the witness and also allow the other invited security heads to have input since they were cited separately. But within a twinkling of an eye, Bong County Senator Henry W. Yallah called the attention of presiding officer Joseph to allow him proffer a motion, and he was recognized and allowed to do so.
In his motion, Senator Yallah spoke thus: “Where we are now, having listened to the principal actor that has to do with the police and the MoJ and the IG exhibited several documents of exchanges between him and the complainants, and others that were perceived to be perpetrators and what have you.”
Yallah continued that “people cooperated and some did not; investigation is still ongoing… while it is true that the plenary invited them to this open plenary, but the way the Senate works to reach to the root of issues has to do with specialized committees that will receive the different evidences required, investigate in depth, and report to this plenary”.
“While on my feet, I move that if I can obtain a second that all of the pieces of evidences presented by the IG together with the MoJ in conjunction with what we have as some senators as exhibit should be presented to the Committee on National Defense and Judiciary, that this team appear before them, and that they do thorough investigation, and the both committees report to this plenary for plenary action,” he said.
Presiding Senator Joseph’s call to vote on Yallah’s motion was greeted with a resounding nay (no!)
Shortly thereafter, chaos ensued with some senators calling the names of the presiding officers, while Grand Bassa County Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, one of the three writers of the letter that brought the top security heads, displayed her anger and disbelief by drenching presiding Senator Joseph with a small bottle of water, while the Senate unceremoniously adjourned.
In a post-session press briefing, Senators Conmany Wesseh, Oscar Cooper, Daniel Naatehn, Sando Johnson and Lawrence in their strongly-worded outburst described the behavior of Senators Yallah and Joseph as “appalling and unbelievable.”
Senator Wesseh: “There are just few people, who are giving the Senate and Legislature a bad name, but we will not, those of us who call ourselves senators for constitutional justice and peace, and the good number of others will fight until the dignity of our country is restored. That, people will see this country is ripe for foreign investment in our children; our youth and everybody will have the possibility to live in peace and happiness.”
Bomi County Senator Sando Johnson, said what occurred in the Chambers did not come as a surprise for presiding officer Joseph to “railroad us and obtain a motion that would not have been done in the first place, which was cleverly done so as to bring the entire Senate to public ridicule.”
While the presiding officer and others were finding humor in the situation at hand, Senator Sando Johnson said that other people’s children are in hospital for major injuries from the Logan Town incident, “but Saah Joseph is simply telling us that he does not have human feelings.”
“I don’t have trust and interest in the current police leadership, and so we now have to protect ourselves. We brought a video footage in chamber (today) so the Liberian people could see for themselves what really transpired, but people like Saah Joseph, did not want the truth to be brought out, because it would disgrace the CDC and police,” Sando Johnson said.
Senator Oscar Cooper did not mince his words and anger when he described the Thursday’s plenary uproar as “a total disgrace for the Senate not to delve into the well-being and safety of the Liberian people.
“I have never seen such a criminal behavior by Presiding Saah Joseph, and another criminal behavior by a motion proffered by Bong County Senator Henry Yallah. We cannot tolerate these things anymore in our country; making mockery of the joint security and that of the Senate.
“The day you see me sit under the gavel of Saah Joseph in the Senate, curse me… he is a criminal, Yallah is a criminal, their behaviors are criminal, because they are jeopardizing the stability of this country, and we will fight against it,” Senator Cooper declared.
Gbarpolu County Senator Daniel Naatehn, who also spoke in like manner, recalled that the past war was necessitated by similar “dishonest behavior by people in governance.”
Naatehn: “I will invite you all beginning Tuesday, August 27, 2019 to visit the Senate Chambers every session day. I am going on strike, and will not allow the presiding of Senator Saah Joseph until I get the number to remove him as chair on the executive committee. He will not preside as chair on executive in the absence of the Pro Tempore. I will disturb and let me see who in the senate can expel me or suspend me. All of us (senators) are speaking to you that we are at security risk. If you hear that my house is attacked, know that it is the government that has ordered the attack.”
Senator Karnga-Lawrence, who chairs the Senate Committee on Rules, Order and Administration, and in whose office the post-session briefing was held, described what obtained in their Chambers with respect to the IG’s presentation as an embarrassment to the country.
“We expected this day to be a day that we would have made a decision to redeem our people when it comes to security; unfortunately, some of our senators and leaders connived and held a meeting to disrupt the hearing today,” she said.
She called on her colleagues to look beyond party lines, for the good of the country, noting, “Our peace here is fragile. This means all of us are in danger, because everywhere is compromised, and it is pathetic. Today, as you asked whether I wasted water on Saah Joseph, yes I did so, because the mother and woman side of me came out as the only female in the Senate. I did not regret my action.”
Meanwhile, during his presentation, IG Sudue expressed regret that in some instances, the police is not effective, because the entity lacks sufficient budgetary allocation, and appealed for reasonable appropriation in the ongoing 2019/2020 national budget. He did not address main issue for which he was called, which was the alleged partisan posture of the LNP, as seen on numerous video footage, where police officers in riot gear are seen standing supinely watching as opposition leaders and their supporters were being attacked by marauding gangs loyal to the ruling party, the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC). The Senators were expected to cross-examine the Police Inspector General, when the Senate chamber erupted.