The author of the letter that is creating a feud between the Executive by way of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning and the Legislature, specifically the Senate, is expected to face the latter soon.
The Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Executive, Montserrado County Senator Geraldine Doe-Sherif has made it known that Deputy Minister of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) for Fiscal Affairs Dr. James Kollie will be summoned by the Senate plenary to show reason why he should not be held in contempt.
Kollie who escaped appearance before the Senate after his boss took responsibility for the tone of his communication and eventually apologized for it, recently called a press briefing and announced that his Ministry will go to the Supreme Court “if there is a misinterpretation of the Constitution during Konneh’s contempt hearing,” adding, “we will be forced to test our democracy.”
Senator Doe-Sherif’s statement came less than 24 hours after the Senate received from the Supreme Court an injunction on Contempt of Legislature proceedings against MFDP Minister Amara Konneh.
Mr. Konneh was on Tuesday pronounced guilty of contempt of Legislature and sentenced to serve 48 hours in jail, but his trip to the Monrovia Central Prison was aborted after Grand Gedeh County Senator G. Alphonso Gaye filed a privilege motion for reconsideration against the decision voted for by 18 Senators, with three against and three abstentions.
The decision to jail Minister Konneh will, however, still go ahead unless the motion wins the needed two-thirds votes, which is not likely to happen now, with this latest development.
Senator Doe-Sherif told journalists that the Legislature was not fighting a personal war, but that the Senate was trying to make sure that the Constitution is not breached, and clarified that the issue was not about cuts to their budget. “We agree that everybody will have a cut and it is imperative that we all cut back for this country to move forward.”
In an emotionally charged response, Senator Doe-Sherif asserted that the lawmakers are talking about a Constitutional breach with another branch of government placing a stay order on their actions held within the sanctity of their Chambers.
Senator Doe-Sherif also had some blame for her colleagues, decrying the disunity among Legislators. “What is disheartening is the matter of fact that we … are not together to take decisions to correct this nation,” she charged, adding, “It is sad.”
She continued, “All we can ask the Liberian people (to do) is to continue to support us, (given) all the critical analyses we can be doing to adjudicate this matter so that Liberia can win, the poor people of this country must win. And we are not against Amara Konneh. We are friends, but being friends does not give him the right and audacity to breach the Constitution and insult us and think he will go with impunity because you are big and bad…it is not right and acceptable,” the ranking Montserrado Senator countered.
She threatened that: “If it means we put everything on hold, no confirmations! I will lobby with my colleagues to make sure that nothing goes on until this matter is adjudicated.”
The leadership of the Senate meanwhile, held a closed-door leadership meeting Wednesday to discuss their next course of action on the expected re-appearance of Konneh and the vote on Senator Gaye’s motion for reconsideration, which should be heard after three sittings.
In a related development, one of Britain’s leading newspapers, The Telegraph, on Wednesday published a report under the headline: “African ‘Finance Minister of the Year’ Facing Jail for telling his Country’s Politicians to trim Their Perks.”
According to The Telegraph: “The Senate is angry about Mr. Konneh’s proposal to cut their budget,” said James Kollie; Konneh’s deputy. “They will have to cut their budget by about US$1.2m, which will mean they will lose out on things like vehicle allowances, home allowances, and other things. This is all about their personal perks. It is an abuse of power, and a means to try to intimidate him so that they cannot be cut,” reported the newspaper.