By Kadiker Rex Dahn, MA, M.Ed, PhD
The Daily Observer on May 27, 2019, carried a story under the caption: “House Speaker Chambers, Senate President Pro Temp Chie Urge Liberians to Abandon June 7 Protest.”
I was shocked to hear a call by two leaders of the legislature, both from the same geographical region of Liberia; both from the same political party; and both who masterminded and unconstitutionally removed an Associate Justice from different region of Liberia at the detriment of the Liberian Constitution. These two men failed to realize that they are equally leaders for all Liberians and not just the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) since they were also elected.
Both men actions and inactions as leaders of the Lower and Upper Houses bring to question their leadership style and inability to serve as referees to unite our country, since they are part of the country’s problems. They have not ably represented the legislature, and their performances and failure to impress on the executive to have a government of unity speaks volume.
The purpose of this article to call on Speaker Chambers and Pro Temp Chie to keep quiet, because, they are players in the present political discourse, and therefore, are wrong referees, faces and leaders to call on citizens to abandon protest.
Political gimmicks will not serve our country very well. We said gimmicks because both Speaker Chambers and Chie as leaders of their respective Houses have created division among members of those they lead.
Speaker Chambers and members of the independent lawmakers are not bedfellows. He does not allow any of their members to speak on the floor. Of recent, Speaker Chambers reshuffled the leadership of the House where all independent lawmakers were affected. He does not like to see Representative Yekeh Kolubah, and at one point, approved of Kolubah’s arrest.
Speaker Chambers and a select few lawmakers from the CDC maneuvered, masterminded and eventually crafted an impeachment bill against former Justice Ja’neh. How in the world could Speaker Chambers, with such divisive characteristics, call for unity and asking citizens to avoid peaceful protest when he has miserably failed to put his own House in order? We ask, if speaker Chambers cannot reconcile 73 members of the House of Representatives, how can he reconcile four 4 million Liberians?
Keep quiet, Honorable speaker! Reconciliation is not your area, neither is it Pro Temp Chie’s. The Senate, where Albert Chie is the Pro Temp, is in many instances referred to as the House of Elders. House of Elders in the sense that, politically, senators are expected to be politically experienced, and matured in decision-making.
Senators, though politicians with their legislative responsibilities are those who mediate, mitigate tension and whatever they do, the unity of the country is of paramount concern, thus the eldership. The ugly manner in which Pro Temp Chie conducted himself, and the so-called House of elders was both disturbing and politically immature. Whether the behavior exhibited by Chie and leadership still qualifies them as elders is something that we cannot address at the moment. The Senate, like the House of Representatives after the impeachment of Kabineh Mohammed Ja’neh, is polarized and yet these men, without compunction of their roles in the impeachment of Ja’neh, are calling on citizens to abandon the June 7 protest.
These men cannot be referees and players at the same time. At this juncture, we want to question the legislative competence of the two men. Both the Speaker and Pro Temp are fully aware of the deteriorating condition of the Liberian economy, the alienation of 85 percent of non-southeastern citizens in the CDC-led government, the US$25 million mop-up saga, misuse of donors’ funds, among others. Had it not been former Senator Cletus Wortorson to visit the Senate, and urged Pro Temp Chie and the leadership of the senate with respect to the prevailing circumstances, Albert Chie could still be sitting in the luxury of the senate, unbothered.
Secondly, both men were able to call on citizens to abandon the June 7 protest, because of the visit by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Representative. If Chambers and Chie do not know that the state of affairs in the country is not conducive and troubling, it shows that they are not in tune with the Liberian people. If they are aware of Liberians’ plight and deliberately failed to act, it equally demonstrates questionable leadership style. Chambers claims that, “protest over the years have had bad omen” referencing April 14, 1979. Should Liberians not peacefully protest, because of bad omen or is this also another clever attempt to engage in scare tactics to undermine Article 17 of the Liberian constitution? Because the protest in 1979 was violent, does that mean protest on June 7, 2019 will equally be violent? That’s a genetic fallacy.
Consider the level of democratic maturity the country has experienced since 1979 up to present. Enough is enough. We must not undermine and mess with the Constitution; the Constitution is our reliance. Elementary argument: Do not compare sickness with death. What is elementary is the concern Speaker Chambers raised in the Daily Observer. He stated, “During the tenure of former President Ellen Sirleaf, worse things occurred, including the collapse of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL), which did not prompt a protest. Instead, he wondered why the George Weah administration, which has spent two years in office, cannot be given chance to fulfill its mandate to the Liberian people.”
Here the Honorable Speaker is comparing sickness with death. During the time in question, a scratch card was not sold at L$210, but under Weah’s leadership, it is. During the time in question, a half bag of rice was not sold at L$3000, but under Weah’s leadership, it is. During Sirleaf’s tenure, donor partners did not write Sirleaf and warn her government of irresponsible ways of using donors’ funds, but donors did that with Weah. During Sirleaf’s tenure, civil servants received salaries on or before the 25th of every month, but in Weah’s, leadership, civil servants go three months without pay. During President Sirleaf’s administration, every ethnic group was represented, but under Weah, regional or geographical nepotism is the cornerstone. These are some of the reasons why, Honorable Speaker, the Liberian people want to peacefully petition President Weah of the wrong direction and trend the country is taking under his watch.
In such tough time in our country, for a sitting speaker to make such an elementary statement is disheartening. We wonder what has been the contribution by these leaders of the legislature to the government in these tough times? We say to the two leaders that, being a speaker and pro tempore to influence the appointments of relatives and kinsmen to lucrative positions and to impeach unconstitutionally, simply because you are the leaders, are not all to it. In these strenuous times in the political and economic history of our country, one expects congressional delegation headed by leaders of the both Houses to lobby with economic power houses like the United States and European countries, but these two leaders, to the best of my knowledge, have not been able to do so, because of limitations.
Bluntly speaking, in addition to their limitations, these two leaders cannot approach the United States and European countries on behalf of the Liberian government because first, their lack of international connection, and second, the manner in which the Liberian government diverted, misused and corrupted donor funds.
As a way forward, Honorable Speaker and Pro Temp, as demonstrated above, you are not neutral in the entire process. You are part of the problem; you cannot be players and at the same time be referees. We maintain that you have failed the Liberian people.
Certainly, we say this in good faith because both of you leaders are wrong referees, faces and leaders to caution against protest.
About the author:
Kadiker Rex Dahn holds a PhD in Historical, Philosophical and Social Foundations from the University of Oklahoma. He formerly served as a Deputy Minister of Education and a Deputy Director General, National Commission on Higher Education. He is a member of the North America Scholar Consortium, membership with Highest Honor. Contact: [email protected]