President Ellen Johnon-Sirleaf’s latest progress report on the implementation of the recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), for the establishment of an “Extraordinary War Crimes Court”, was overwhelmingly rejected yesterday by the House of Representatives, who labeled said report as incomplete, inconclusive and confusing.
Twenty-nine representatives voted to reject the report and return same to the President for completion. While there were none against the rejection vote, Margibi County Representative Edward Karfiah abstained from the vote.
The vote emanated from a report by the Joint Committee on Peace, Religions and Reconciliation and Judiciary chaired by Nimba County Representative Ricks Toweh.
The lawmakers argued that President Sirleaf should have included reports from the Education, Health and the Gender ministries in her progress report, as required by the implementation procedures of the recommendations of the June 30, 2009, Final Report of the TRC.
The legislators made the decision on Tuesday, October 13, during the 12th day sitting of the extraordinary session.
Nimba County Representative Garrison Yealue made the motion, which was amended by Grand Kru County Representative George Wesseh Blamoh, noting that the document should not be called a “report”, given its incompletness, but merely a communication.
The final motion carried that the ‘communication’ be rejected and returned for the President to include the reports from the ministries of Education, Health and Gender.
Lofa County Representatives, Moses Kollie and Clarence Massaquoi, as well as Maryland and Bong Representatives, Bhofal Chambers and George Wesseh respectively, and Sinoe County Representative Jefferson Karmoh, argued separately on the report, which was overwhelmingly rejected.
Nimba Lawmakers were in their numbers that rejected the President’s report. A legislative expert interpreted the stance of the Nimba lawmakers as a response to the alleged implication of a number of their kinsmen including the leader of the disbanded Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL) led by now Senator Prince Yormie Johnson, who gained notoriety for the capture and brutal murder of the late president Samuel K. Doe, on September 9, 1990.
The Presiding Officer, Deputy Speaker Hans Barchue of Grand Bassa County, instructed the Chief Clerk to return the President’s letter with a communication requesting that she include the reports from the ministries of Education, Health and the Gender, in her progress report on the implementation of the TRC recommendations.
There was, however, no definite time given for the President to return the “report” upon completion.
As part of their constitutional mandate for establishing special courts, President Sirleaf wrote the Lower House arguing that it is in line with the constitution since it requires the joint effort of the Executive and the Legislature.
According to the President’s letter, there are 207 recommendations contained in the TRC Report.
“Some 18 of those are essentially general principles which do not lend themselves to practical implementation of actualization,” the President wrote, adding, “Forty-two are basically concepts intended to facilitate the fostering of good governance progressively.”
President Sirleaf said, “For example, it projects a 30-year period for the implementation of a national reparations program. The establishment of special court to prosecute persons listed as allegedly bearing the greatest responsibilities for the war and also for crimes against humanity also falls in this category.”
“Consequently, actual recommendations that are implementable in a short-to-medium time-frame are about 142,” the President said.
She informed the lawmakers that she has implemented or is well advanced in implementing, majority of the recommendations – arguing that a large number of the recommendations are being addressed in the National Vision (Liberia Rising 2030), such as the National Symbols Project and the Strategic Roadmap for National Healing, Peace-building and Reconciliations.
The President pointed out that in her August 27, 2010 progress report; a Task force was constituted to review the TRC Report and Recommendations and advised on implementation.
“The TRC report proposes a reparation program of approximately US$500 million to be implemented within a 30-year period,” the President said in her letter to the Lawmakers. “In my report of August 2010, I suggested that given the widespread nature of our conflict, individual reparations will be prohibitively expensive and difficult to implement.”
“Therefore,” she said, “we should consider community type reparation through reconstruction and renewal of institutions and public facilities that were destroyed during the conflicts.”