House Elects New Speaker

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Rep. Emman Nuquay.jpg

Members of the House of Representatives have overwhelmingly elected Margibi County District #5 Representative J. Emmanuel Nuquay as the new Speaker of the 53rd Legislature after over three months of in-house wrangling.

Speaker Nuquay has replaced Bomi County District #2 Representative J. Alex Tyler Sr.

Rep. Nuquay was unanimously elected by ‘white ballot,’ with the attendance of 50 Representatives.

The Speaker’s election was based upon the lifting of the Stay Order placed on it on Monday, October 3, by Justice-in-Chambers, Sie-A-Nyene Gyapay Youh. The Stay Order was petitioned by Montserrado County District #15 Adolph Lawrence.

Justice Youh further declined to issue an alternative Writ of Prohibition against the election, from which the deposed Speaker said he was unconstitutionally removed.

It may be recalled that the former Speaker was removed by 49 lawmakers, comparable to two-thirds members, through a resolution amid a major row over his criminal indictment relating to bribery as alleged in the Global Witness Report.

The resolution referenced Article 49 of the 1986 Constitution and Rule 9.1 of the House’s Rules and Procedures qualifying the Speaker’s removal on Tuesday, September 27, during the 8th Day Extraordinary Sitting.

Article 49 of the Constitution says: “The Speaker, the Deputy Speaker and other officers so elected may be removed from office for cause by resolution of a two-thirds majority of the members of the House” and also Rule 9.1 of the House’s Rules and Procedure states: “The Speaker, Deputy Speaker and other Officers of the House may be removed from office for cause by a resolution of a two-thirds majority of the members of the House.”

Chief Clerk Mildred Sayon, the Chief Administrator of the House of Representatives, served as the Chairman of the Election Body, aided by Sergeant-at-Arms Gen. Martin Johnson.

Meanwhile, before Justice Youh’s decision yesterday, another lawmaker, Representative Adolph Lawrence, had raised a similar concern against the holding of the election on grounds that it was unconstitutional.

Rep. Lawrence’s lead lawyer, Cllr. Cooper Kruah, had argued that the lawmakers’ action to hold the election contradicted Article 49 of the 1986 Constitution.

Article 49 states: “The House of Representative shall elect once every six years a Speaker who shall be the presiding officer of that body, a Deputy Speaker, and such other officers as shall ensure the proper functioning of the House. The Speaker, the Deputy Speaker and other officers so elected may be removed from office for cause by resolution of a two-thirds majority of the members of the House.”

Cllr. Kruah in his argument said Deputy Speaker Hans Barchue, who was then next in line, should have been elected as Speaker to complete Tyler’s remaining six years without any election.

In counter argument, Cllr. Beyan Howard, who represented the lawmakers pressing for the election, said his clients were not proceeding wrongly to hold the election.

Cllr. Howard argued that they acted in line with Rules 10.1 adopted by the House of Representative.

Rules 10.1 provides that “When the office of the Speaker shall become vacant by reason of removal, death, resignation, inability or other disabilities the Deputy Speaker shall act as Speaker until a new speaker is elected within Sixty days. And when the Speaker is absent from session, the Deputy Speaker shall act in accordance With Rule 8.1 and 8.2. In the absence of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker such Member of the House as the House may elect for that purpose shall preside. Such member shall be known as ‘Speaker Pro-Tempore.’”

Also, article 38 of the 1986 Constitution provides that “Each House shall adopt its own rules of procedure, enforce order and with the concurrence of two-thirds of the entire membership, may expel a member for cause. Each House shall establish its own committees and sub-committees; provided, however, that the committees on revenues and appropriations shall consist of one member from each County. All rules adopted by the Legislature shall conform to the requirements of due process of law laid down in this Constitution.”

According to Howard, Rule 47 of the House also provides that “Any member who claimed that their right is violated should subsequently submit a written communication to the Chairman of rules, orders and administration.”

Cllr. Howard claimed that Rep. Lawrence failed to take advantage of that provision, but went to the Supreme Court, which was a complete violation of the proceedings at the House.

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