Public opinion that the first branch of government, the legislature, is under the direct influence of the president is being confirmed by a number of lawmakers of the 54th Legislature.
At a two-day conference held recently in Monrovia on the establishment of a war crimes court in accordance with recommendations of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), the lawmakers in separate views disclosed that, while the Liberian Constitution describes the role of the Legislature as “Independent” of the other branches of government, their august body does not operate as such, but is directly driven by the executive, is headed by the President.
Rostuonlyn Suacoco Dennis, Montserrado District #4 Representative, who chairs the Committee on Claims and Petitions, was bold when she added, “The legislature is not independent to do the people’s work. The power of the Legislature is just abstract, but the real power is in the executive that has influence over most of our colleagues and, until the legislature is independent, Liberia is moving nowhere.”
Rep. Dennis recalled that in the past most of their colleagues, especially those of the ruling party were tough on a number of issues here, but they are no longer demonstrating the independence they claimed to have had before.
Montserrado District #1 Representative, Lawrence Morris, said the Legislature is not independent and has misplaced priorities, adding that almost everything done there is by the executive.
“The Legislature has the power to tell the President what to do for us, but cannot do it due to circumstances my colleagues are saying,” said Representative Larry P. Younquoi (Nimba County District #8), adding his voice. “It is against this backdrop that we founded the ‘Independent Lawmakers,’ and we will remain consistent to do what we have to for our people who elected us.”
Another Nimba lawmaker, Roger Domah (District #7), said “The problem with the Legislature is integrity; The House is a place of suspicion and everyone goes for the cash,” adding, “The House is no longer a place for making laws, but a place for implementing projects for which everyone looks up to the Executive.”
Representative Johnson Gwaikolo of Nimba County District #9 also concurred that the executive has high influence over the legislature.
Also, Representative Vicent S.T. Willie, II of Grand Bassa County District #4 said, “Our friends who were once vocal on national issues are no longer tough, but following everything the President says, and are more loyal to the party than to the state.
On the subject of justice, for which the lawmakers had gathered in response to the invite from advocacy groups, including the Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP), the secretariat for the Establishment of a War Crimes Court in Liberia (SEWACCOL) and Civitas Maxima, the lawmakers, however, said they will do their best to reach out to their friends to solicit the remaining 40 signatures required to pass the resolution calling for the establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia to give justice to victims of the 14-year civil war.