Senate In Uproar over Patten’s Ambassadorial Appointment Procedure

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U.S. President Donald J. Trump (left) receives the Letters of Credence of Liberia's Ambassador to Washington, D.C., George Patten.

The Senate was plunged into near uproar on Tuesday, January 23, 2019, minutes after the reading of a letter from President George Weah, appointing George S. W. Patten, Sr. Ambassador to the United States of America.

President Weah’s letter, dated December 26, 2018, read: “In accordance with Article 54 of the Constitution of Liberia, and the Senate Standing Rule; Rule 55 Section 6, I have appointed the following position in government: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, George S. W. Patten, Sr., Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Liberia to the United States of America…”

Hardly did the secretary of the Senate complete reading the letter almost a dozen Senate hands went up for comments.

It was Grand Bassa County Senator Jonathan L. Kaipay who received the green light to proffer a motion and, in doing so, he moved that the President’s letter “be received by plenary and sent to the Committees on Foreign Affairs and Judiciary and report to plenary in two weeks.”

However, Senator H. Varney Sherman, who chairs the Judiciary committee, requested that his committee be omitted from the Kaipay motion after he had read Senate Rule 55, section 6, which gives the President the power to appoint when the Senate is on break.

Maryland County Senator and chair on Foreign Affairs committee, H. Dan Morais, said his committee has the sole responsibility to handle such a matter in accordance with the Senate Rules.

The argument that ensued placed senators in at least two groups, with some senators suggesting that the letter must be returned to the President, because the Senate only receives letters of nomination, not of appointment; especially when an appointee had already been commissioned by the President.

Another group argued that the Foreign Affairs and Judiciary committees take possession of the letter and advise plenary on the Constitutional implications, especially as the Senate is yet to receive such a letter in recent time.

Still, other Senators like J. Milton Teahjay of Sinoe County maintained the need to keep the Judiciary on the joint committee, reminding his colleagues that the Senate Rule “gives the President the right to do this appointment during our recess. Now what the Rule is saying is that the President should do what the Constitution is silent on, so we want the Judiciary to join the advisory team to get a piece of legal advice so that we don’t have to come back to where we are.”

Maryland County Senator and chairman of committee on Internal Affairs, J. Gbleh-bo Brown, sent a stern warning that; “the issue at bar hinges on the credibility of this Senate, and it is appalling that some of our colleagues will equate the Senate Rule to that of the Constitution of Liberia.”

“We should not fool ourselves that we do not know what that letter is saying, so to protect the integrity of the Senate, I am suggesting that this letter which was written to this Senate informing us of an appointment and not the nomination, be returned,” Sen. Brown said.

Nimba County Senator Thomas Grupee, like the others, suggested that the letter of appointment from the President be immediately discussed and disposed of in a decision. The letter, however, amid a ‘yea and nay’ vote, was sent to the Foreign Affairs committee.

The chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules, Order and Administration, Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, last week sent a letter to the Senate plenary requesting the appearance of Foreign Minister Gbehzongar Findley, and George S. W. Patten, Liberia’s Ambassador-designate to the United States for” their blatant violation of Article 54b of the Constitution of Liberia.”

“The Constitution, which is the organic law of the state is very clear and for the sake of understanding and observance, depicts in Article 54b: “The President shall nominate and, with the consent of the Senate, appoint and commission ambassadors, ministers, consuls…,” Senator Lawrence’s letter, dated January 14, 2019, and read before plenary on Tuesday, noted.

The Grand Bassa County Senator wondered: “How then the President nominated, but without the consent of the Liberian Senate, appointed and commissioned Mr. Patten? This action by the Executive is a sheer violation of the Liberian Constitution.”

Sen. Lawrence further requested the Senate for its constitutional indulgence to “invite the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Mr. Patten to explain their actions and reasons which necessitated the constitutional violation.”

That letter is presently before the Committee on Foreign Affairs.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Is double standard becoming the new norm in Liberia’s Senate Confirmation Hearings?

    If my memory serves me right, I recall how a veteran educator, educational psychologist, former U.S. college administrator, with so many years of experience retired from her high profile job (Provost & V.P. for Academic Affairs at SUNY @ Cortland, New York) in the United States.

    Dr. Elizabeth Davis-Russell came back to her native land, Liberia on the bequest of former President Sirleaf, to reestablish Tubman University to a university of prominence.

    After Dr. Elizabeth Davis-Russell outstanding performance in heading Tubman University, she was nominated by President Sirleaf to serve as the new Minister of Education due to her stellar qualification for the job.

    All of a sudden, it was the same Liberian Senate that became politically sanctimonious in upholding the tenets of the Liberian constitution in reference to non-dual citizenship: to reject Dr. Elizabeth Davis-Russell’s nomination on grounds that she was a naturalized U.S. citizen which she honorably confessed during her confirmation hearings.

    Her denial at that time was a total violation of Article 28 of the 1986 Constitution which states: “Any Person, at least one of whose parents was a citizen of Liberia at the time of the person’s birth, shall be a citizen of Liberia; provided that any such person shall upon reaching maturity (no specified age) renounce any other citizenship acquired by virtue of one parent being a citizen of another country.”

    It may be noted that there is no statute under Article 28 (Citizenship clause) for the renunciation of Liberian citizenship when both parents of a child whose parents are/were both Liberians during birth.

    If that is the case, by virtue of Article 28 1986, Dr. Russell is still a Liberian Citizen by birth because both of her parents were Liberians regardless of her becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen.

    Remember, Dr. Russell was not nominated for an ambassadorial position overseas. She was nominated to serve as Minister of Education: to help bring back Liberia’s failing education from the abyss (bottom). However, she was disqualified in becoming Minister of Education by virtue of her being a U.S. citizenship, which subsequently went to the former Minister of Education, George K. Warner.

    Paradoxically, if the Senate saw reason to disqualify Dr. Russell’s nomination (under a questionable interpretation of Article 28 Citizenship status requirement) to become Minister of Education on grounds that she was a naturalized U.S. citizen, why did the same Senate confirmed Madam Teta Gurley Gibson as Ambassador to United States who also is a U.S. citizen?

    Consequently, Ms. Gibson was rejected by the U.S. for such high profile diplomatic post because she is a U.S. citizen? She was later reappointed by the President to serve as Liberia’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom despite her U.S citizenship.

    If this isn’t a double standard and political favoritism being ushered in this CDC government, then I don’t know what it is?

    Yes indeed, the President can appoint an Acting Ambassador during congressional recess, however, that individual has to pass the constitutional requirements by being duly confirmed by the senate. It is the law.

  2. Liberian jurisprudence? The point here is that the 1986 constitution was ordered as a replacement to the 1848 by the military junta to serve the conscience of those native who had opposed the the misuse of the founders constitutional request and disliked party system that destroyed Liberia’s future for many years, introducing the constitutional crisis. After the 3 years promise to return to civilian rule, when the soldiers took over, the Liberian constitution should have been restored and the 1986 document most of which comprised military decrees with corrupt dictators benefits, should have been revisited and replaced in the form of amendments. Some legislators, thou served their people (counties) under past tyranny, were forced to power, not originally elected and physically or financially involved in the war either as children or adults. Now instead doing their people they represent jobs in both houses based on the promises they made when they canvassed, their focus is now on how to dismantle or set the nation’s supreme laws to suit personal power or wealth. What power? It is only the people that got the power and wealth as a people or nation. There was no confirmation hearing in the constitution prior to 1940 or if application may if set forth. There was not even a need to ask the Legislature to confirm currency. These functions were purely Executive. To make the legislative branch of the Liberian Government Healthy again, we the people should mandate the lawmakers to sifter these laws again or be voted out. Lastly, do not chat with me or answer me. Tell the Liberian people. I am off this net line for a long time. Happy new year.
    Gone to silent majority.

  3. Senate rule 55, section 6 absolves Weah of any wrongdoing by appointing Patten as ambassador. The Liberian senate was on a break when Weah made the appointment.

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