A decision to reprimand long-absent Representatives, in accordance to the House’s Rules and Procedures, has been finally approved by Plenary, the highest decision making body of the House of Representatives.
A quorum of the House’s leadership, comprising of the chairmen and co-chairs of 14 Statutory Committees, including the Speaker and Deputy Speaker, will decide the fate of delinquent lawmakers on Monday, August 8 in a leadership meeting, and formally announce who the delinquents are on Tuesday, August 9, during the 50th Day Sitting.
The unanimous vote was reached on Thursday, August 4, during the 49th Day Sitting predicated upon a letter from Nimba County District # 8 Representative, Larry Younquoi.
House attendance rules
It will be the first time for the House’s Plenary to punish absentee lawmakers, since the inception of the 53rd Legislature in 2011, if the rules are followed.
Rule 21.1 of the House’s Rules and Procedures says: “No House member shall stay away from sessions without 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. Violations shall be penalized in a manner deemed appropriate by the leadership of the House in consultation with plenary.”
Nimba County lawmaker Younquoi argued that Article 38 of the Constitution empowers each House of the National Legislature to adopt its own rules of procedure and enforce same, which is aimed to ensure stability, decorum, orderliness, discipline and the proper distribution and delimitation of power, responsibilities and jurisdiction in the House.
Article 38 of the Constitution states, “Each House shall adopt its own rules of procedures, enforce order, and with the concurrence of two-thirds of the entire membership, may expel a member for cause… All rules adopted by the Legislature shall conform to the requirements of due process of law laid down in this constitution.”
Paid for not working
“Mr. Speaker, distinguished colleagues,” Rep. Younquoi wrote, “my attention has been drawn to the continuous absence of some of our colleagues in recent times from Plenary as well as committee works; a situation that threatens to stall the work of the Legislature, has it not been for the fortitude of some committed members of this body who have always ensured that a quorum is obtained for the conduct of normal legislative business.
“Hon. Speaker,” he continued, “what is even of interest and unjust about this is the fact that while the aforementioned group of lawmakers are staying away, they continue to receive the same salary and benefits as the rest of us who are making the ultimate sacrifice to maintain the sanity of the Legislature in these trying times of our nation.”
Rep. Younquoi called for appropriate action to ensure a reversal of such a trend by the delinquent lawmakers, and to do what is expected of them.
Sources said about 22 lawmakers might suffer the wrath of Plenary next Tuesday, while others said the exact number is unknown.
In the debate of rendering retribution, Rep. Mariamu Fofana said the absence of the lawmakers is “outrageous and immoral,” and suggested that they be chastised.
Further, Reps. Garrisu Yealue; Lester Paye; Prince Tokpa; Solomon George; Emerson Kamara; Adam Bill Corneh; William Dakel; and Matthew Zarzar said the absence of the lawmakers shows that they don’t have their respective constituencies at heart.
They argued that the lawmakers’ delinquencies portray a lack of moral integrity, in that they collect pay for not working.
For his part, Rep. Gabriel Nyenkan described the absences of his colleagues as treasonable, but urged Plenary to give at least an additional week before considering the intended action, a recommendation that was vehemently rejected.
Since the May 11 Global Witness report and subsequent indictment of the House Speaker, there has been an uprising in the Lower House over the recusal of the Speaker.
Some lawmakers, including Reps. Emmanuel Nuquay, Edwin Snowe, Bill Tweahway, Josephine Francis, Tokpa Mulbah and Prince Moye have led the campaign for the Speaker’s recusal. After the first attempt, Deputy Speaker Hans Barchue and other lawmakers joined but failed on the second attempt.
This attempt, which marked the third time, includes about 33 lawmakers, out of which about 15 lawmakers are expected to be punished.
Some of the alleged Representatives who would suffer penalty for long-absences include Dep. Speaker Hans Barchue; Rep. Emmanuel Nuquay; Rep. Josephine Francis; Rep. Tokpa Mulbah; Rep. Adolph Lawrence; Rep. Eugene Fallah Kparkar; Rep. Thomas Fallah; Rep. Bill Tweahway; and Rep. Henry Fahnbulleh, amongst others.
Eclipsed by resolution
Up to press time yesterday, impeccable sources told the Daily Observer that the punishment of absentee lawmakers would be eclipsed by the long-fought resolution to compel the Speaker to step down, which is expected to take place the same day. The resolution, comprising a simple majority, must constitute at least 37 signatures, and perfected through physical votes.
Other sources said the procedure of commencement of business and motions to be placed on the agenda, which lies with the Speaker in according with the rules, would give the Speaker leverage.
The sources said the Speaker also has the power to invoke a motion for adjournment, take a recess up to a certain time, proceed to the consideration of executive session, and to postpone, among others.