Members of the Liberian Senate went into one of their longest executive sessions Thursday, January 23, following the reading of a communication from President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
She was responding to that august body’s letter to her, concerning a ‘siege’ at the Capitol Building, laid last September by the Liberia National Police, under the reported authorization of Police Director, Christian Clarence Massaquoi.
The President’s communication dated January 20, 2014 reads: “Dear Mr. President Pro Tempore, I refer to a communication sent under the signature of J. Nanborlor F. Singbeh of the Senate, by which he brought to my attention…action by the Liberian National Police Director Honorable Christian Massaquoi, which amounted to a siege of the Capitol Building when the Senate was in plenary session.
I have written Director Massaquoi a strong letter of reprimand…suspending him or two days to allow him time to write a letter of apology for personal presentation at a plenary sitting of the Senate. Sincerely, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President of Liberia…”
Immediately following the reading of the communication, a motion was proffered for an executive session that was unanimously agreed on for the sole purpose of deliberating the President’s two-paragraph letter.
From 11a.m. until 4 p.m., members of that Upper House of the Legislature remained behind closed doors while members of the Legislative Press Corps hung about the Capitol Building’s corridors, hoping in vain for news on what was being decided within.
It may be recalled that on the last day sitting of the 2nd Session of the 53rd Senate, a decision was unanimously taken by plenary, asking President Sirleaf to disrobe Police Director Massaquoi, for deploying over 200 armed-police on the grounds of the Legislature on September 12, 2013, while that body was conducting normal legislative functions.
The deployment of the police came after the Senate had invited Director Massaquoi to appear before the plenary and answer a complaint that he insulted a member of the Senate.
Here is a portion of the Senate’s September 13, 2013 decision as read by Senator H. Dan Morias: “It will please you to note, ladies and gentlemen of the Liberian Senate and those in the gallery that this act… took place at the time the Liberian Senate, the Honorable House of Representatives, and the Vice President of the Republic of Liberia were in the Capitol Building, carrying out their official national responsibilities.
"This act, on the part of Director Massaquoi—holding ‘hostage’ the first branch of Government, is tantamount to mutiny. This abuse and misuse of armed Liberia National Police must be stopped."
Senator Morias concluded: “The Liberian Senate therefore, calls on the President of Liberia, her Excellency Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to deal with said mutiny by the LNP, against a democratically elected Legislature. They asked that Director Massaquoi be immediately disrobed and forwarded to the Ministry of Justice.”
But what political commentators termed a legislative u-turn, came about when that august body a few days later clarified what the Senate had instead requested President Sirleaf to take due note of the Director’s behavior and take appropriate action to serve as deterrent against the recurrence of a similar act.
Quoting two paragraphs of the official communication sent President Sirleaf, Grand Gedeh County Senator Isaac Nyenabo, during a radio talk-show in Monrovia read thus: “In view of the above, Madam President, and consistent with Article 3 of the Liberian Constitution, the Senate wishes to bring this matter to your attention and respectfully request that your Excellency takes due note as well as appropriate action against this kind of conduct…to prevent misunderstanding and confusion in and among functionaries of Government.
Acting in a plenary session, the Senate reiterates its confidence and abiding faith in your leadership and therefore places the entire matter in your hands with the hope that you, as the leader of this nation, will ensure that discipline is maintained within governance process.”
Every attempt by journalist to get information on what obtained during the executive session failed; as of 6 p.m. Senators were seen still briskly moving from one office to another, apparently in search of common-ground.
Meanwhile, all other agenda items slated for deliberations Thursday were suspended. That included a report from the Committee on Banking and Currency, relative to the exchange rate between the United States and Liberian Dollars.