— Margibi County Rep. Clarence Gahr walks out in protest, as lawmakers insult each other
Tuesday’s session of the House of Representative has been viewed ‘illegal’ by Margibi County District #5 Clarence G. Gahr and, in protest, he angrily walked out and threatened to sue the Lower House for ratifying laws and conducting business in an ‘unlawful’ session.
Rep. Gahr is the second lawmaker to walk out of session in protest and threaten lawsuit for either the procedures or the control of the session by the House Speaker Bhofal Chambers. The late Rep. Adolph Lawrence walked out several times and was thrown out twice.
The Margibi County lawmaker argued that the necessary quorum of 37 being present, was never required in Tuesday’s session in consonance with the 1986 Constitution of Liberia and the House’s Rules and Procedures.
Rep. Garr told journalists on Tuesday, that the bodily turnout of members of the Lower House yesterday, which marked the 29th day sitting, was below 20 persons, contrary to the 1986 Constitution of Liberia which called for a ‘simple majority.’ The House’s simple majority is 37.
Article 33 of the Constitution says: “Simple majority of each House shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business, but a lower number may adjourn from day to day and compel the attendance of absent members….”
The House’s co-chairman on the Committee on Public Accounts and Expenditure, who was visibly upset, said Speaker Bhofal Chambers is stonewalling the House’s Rules and Procedures, which said only a motion can compel the attendance of absent members to form part of a quorum for the House to conduct a business of the day.
“Without motion to compel the attendance of absent or excused members to compel the attendance to have a simple quorum of 37 is illegal,” Rep. Gahr said. “Tuesday’s session was illegal, we were below 20 and we didn’t have a quorum, because the motion was not carried.
“Rule 12 of the Rules and Procedure of the House of Representatives says: “A quorum shall consist of a simple majority of the members of the Honorable House of Representatives. Quorum shall be necessary for the transaction of business. However, a minority may meet from day to day. Meetings at which a quorum is not present, only a motion to compel the attendance of absent members or to adjourn may be made.”
During the reading, correction and amendment and adoption of Tuesday’s agenda, Sinoe County District #3 Rep. Matthew Zarzar denied the amendment from Rep. Gahr that the motion should include the attendance of absent members to form part of the quorum to have a simple majority.
Rep. Zarzar said the amendment was ambiguous, but Rep. Gahr said the Sinoe lawmaker ‘is not reading and therefore is part of the problem for the session to be illegal.’
He furthered: “I am contemplating of suing the House of Representatives for having an illegal session to pass bills and conduct business of the day.”
Accordingly, the Chief Clerk has recorded 37.
Low attendance has for the past months has been chronic problem and has prompted Montserrado County District #8 Representative Acarous Gray to indulge members of the House of Representatives to effect Rule 21.1 of the Rules and Procedures of the House of Representatives, which called for punishment for ‘absent lawmakers’.
“No House member shall stay away from sessions without the expressed approval of the House for a period of more than two weeks; for a period less than two weeks, permission may be sought from the Speaker. Violators shall be penalized in a manner deemed appropriate by the leadership of the House in consultation with plenary,” the rule says.
Buttress Rep. Gray’s point, Rep. Gahr added that absent lawmakers who have not given expressed excuse for a period of more than two weeks, should be penalized without salary and allowance.
Meanwhile, before session would begin, Nimba County District #1 Representative Jeremiah Koung and Grand Bassa County District #4 Representative Vincent S. T. Willie, insulted each other in the Chambers of the House of Representatives.
The lawmakers insulted each other with language such as: “corrupt, spying in class, parasite, dirty,” among others.
The confusion was triggered by an alleged comment on Truth FM recently that the lawmakers were receiving their legitimate benefits, which prompted Rep. Willie and members from the Independent Legislative Caucus (ILC) to disagree.