About 85 legislators of the 103-member body were nowhere to be seen at the official program marking the 167th independence anniversary celebration held last Saturday at the Centennial Memorial Pavilion in Monrovia.
Members of the National Legislature, the first branch of the Liberian government, and even members of the President’s cabinet, are becoming accustomed to snubbing major functions of late, a trend that is receiving increasing outcry and criticism from the public.
The deliberate absence of senior government officials from major national events, not to even mention opposition political leaders, is gradually becoming a tradition in the country. This has on several occasions led prominent Liberians, including Dr. Amos Sawyer, to voice out their frustration about the lack of coordination in the government.
Although there was a good crowd at the program, despite some empty seats in the pavilion, the majority of the seats reserved by protocol officers for members of the national legislature were noticeably empty.
There were only 16 lawmakers of both houses, and they were seen clustered together while the vast majority of the seats were left unoccupied at the back. In addition to those few lawmakers, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, J. Alex Tyler, and Senate Pro-Tempore, Gbehzongar M. Findley, were also present and seated at the high table along with the President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the National Orator, Dr. Elizabeth Davis-Russell, and Foreign Minister Augustine Ngafuan.
Senators present at the program were: Senators Cletus Wotorson of Grand Kru County, Edward Dargoseh of Grand Cape Mount County, and George Tengbeh of Lofa County. Representatives were, Sahr Fofie Bimba of Lofa, William Darkel and Munah Pelham-Youngblood Montserrado County.
“Why is it that most of our lawmakers are always absent at major national events? Is it that they don’t want to represent the interest of their people? This is getting serious and we as Liberians need to do something about this situation,” a Liberian woman at the ceremony said in frustration.
It may be recalled that the leadership of the legislature recently snubbed the official launch of the Common African Position on the Post-2015 Global Development Agenda, held in the C. Cecil Dennis Memorial Auditorium at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Some lawmakers, prior to the Independence Day, had called for the cancellation of the entire event, but it is yet to be known whether this is the reason why they decided to snub the program. Some of them had proposed for the day to be observed for national fasting and prayer for God to heal the country in the midst of the Ebola calamity.
The lawmakers said that there is nothing about the Independence Day for Liberians to celebrate as the country is plagued with disasters.
The Liberian government, in the midst of numerous challenges including the budget shortfall and the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, decided to cancel the festive aspects normally associated with the Independence Day celebration. The celebration was slated to be held in Sinoe and Grand Kru Counties, but was cancelled due to bad roads.
Members of the opposition community also snubbed the Independence Day celebration, with the only noticeable opposition figure present being Winston Tubman, formerly of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC).