Margibi County’s District # 1 Representative, Roland O. Cooper, is expected to be suspended from the Legislature for at least 30 days without pay for attempting to molest Speaker J. Alex Tyler. Rep. Cooper is also accused of having assaulted Bong County’s District # 6 Representative Adam Bill Corneh who tried to stop him.
Last Thursday, while Speaker Tyler was announcing the new chairs, co-chairs and members of the statutory and standing committees, Rep. Cooper allegedly attempted to bully the Speaker, but slapped Rep. Corneh in the face, when he (Corneh) obstructed him. The physical attack claimed the immediate attention of fellow representatives as Corneh, who according to some of his peers, suffers from high blood pressure, fell back into his seat. His colleagues took papers to fan him as he lay helpless. Corneh later recovered and left the chambers.
Unconfirmed reports say prior to his election in 2011 to the House, Representative Cooper was among many accused of illegally selling land to people more than one time and has a history of violence. The argument got heated between the two lawmakers, leading to Representative Cooper smashing his colleague's face with his hand.
An authoritative source, who begged anonymity, told our reporter over the weekend, that Representative Cooper’s action would cause him to suffer suspension according to the Chapter 40 of the Rules and Order of the House of Representatives. This would serve as a deterrent against lawmakers who misbehave in spite of the House’s code of conduct.
The source told our reporter, in fulfillment of Rule 48.3 that a written complaint and evidence against the Margibi Lawmaker will be part of this week’s agenda to be given to the Speaker, by a member of the House; and the Speaker will swiftly submit the matter to the Rep. Jeh Byron Brown’s Committee on Rules, Order and Administration.
“The House, after examining the report and recommendation submitted by that committee, shall render its decision and the decision shall be final,” the source said. “And if Rep. Cooper isn’t satisfied with whatever disciplinary action he is given, he has the right to due process of law.”
Article “42.2 of the House Rules says, ‘No Member shall insult, abuse or harass other persons within the
confines of the House, or cause disturbance to the activities of the House’”’ the source said, quoting the House Rules and Procedures. “48.1: The House shall take disciplinary measures against any member who violates or fails to comply with the House’s ethics and procedure specified in this rule.”
The source added: “Where any member is aware of the existence of a breach of the code of conduct and procedure, he/she may request the House to take the necessary disciplinary measures against any member who is alleged to have committed the breach.”
However, according to Rule 48.7, the decision can be either of the followings: oral warning; written warning; suspend a member for not more than 30 days of meeting; stop the payment of salary and allowances due him/her for the days of suspension, as the case may be; and expel a member from the House where the breach is very serious or where it is committed repeatedly.
The Margibi County lawmaker is also a signatory to the letter accusing Speaker Tyler of harming the Honorable House of Representatives by soliciting US$25,000 from the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) for a local contract on the draft Oil and Gas Laws.
Although Rep. Cooper was not the only one who exhibited disorderly conduct that day, other Representatives who also acted disorderly, our source said, and their actions appeared justified as ‘venting frustration on floor politics.’
For example, Montserrado County Representatives Edwin M. Snowe, Henry Fahnbulleh and Bill Tweahway wrapped the Session’s agenda and threw it at the Chief Clerk; Nimba County’s Rep. Samuel G. Kogar, walked to the Speaker's desk and banged it to draw attention to himself.
Meanwhile, Thursday’s melee marked the second day in a row that the House of Representatives has failed to hold a session to discuss the interests of the Liberian people. Many political observers were baffled that the key issue of the controversial reopening of schools in the midst of the Ebola situation, which was expected to be on the agenda for debate was not addressed.
Many parents facing the challenge of finding money to get their children back in school are scrambling for answers as lawmakers continue power struggles among themselves.
Despite the melee on Thursday, Speaker Tyler went ahead and released the names of newly-appointed members of the House Standing committees, a sticky point to what many say is the burning core of the unfolding saga in the lower house. Many of those currently calling on the speaker to submit himself to a probe were left without committee memberships.