The Liberian Senate at its 50th sitting Thursday, August 7, voted by consensus to hold a special extraordinary session today, Friday, beginning at 12 noon to deliberate on the communication from President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, informing that body about her decision to declare a state of emergency in order to adequately address the Ebola epidemic.
The issue of the State of Emergency, which was not on the proposed agenda for Thursday’s sitting, was, however, placed there after Senate Pro Tempore Gbehzohngar Findley had informed his colleagues that he and House Speaker Alex Tyler were informed earlier by President Sirleaf about her intention to declare a state of emergency in the wake of the widening spread of the epidemic.
“Five days ago, the President called the Speaker and me to inform us of her intention to declare a State of Emergency. After the consultation, the Speaker, the President and I agreed on her declaring a State of Emergency. We have received a communication a few minutes ago on the State of Emergency she declared…”
Senator Findley informed his colleagues that the President acted in line with Article 86 (A) & (B) of the Constitution, and that her communication to the Senate was based on Article 88.
According to said Article, “The President shall, immediately upon the declaration of a State of Emergency, but not later than seven days thereafter, lay before the Legislature at its regular session or at a specially convened session, the facts and circumstances leading to such declaration.
The Legislature shall within seventy-two hours, by joint resolution voted by two-thirds of the membership of each house, decide whether the proclamation of a State of Emergency is justified or whether the measures taken thereunder are appropriate. If the two-thirds vote is not obtained, the State of Emergency automatically shall be revoked.
Where the Legislature shall deem it necessary to revoke the State of Emergency or to modify the measures taken thereunder, the President shall act accordingly and immediately carry out the decisions of the Legislature.”
Pro Tempore Findley, who called for motion to hold the extraordinary session today, Friday, said it was necessary for all 30 senators to be present for the deliberation, based on the important nature of reasons given for the State of Emergency.
There are indications that one of the sticky areas for the senators’ deliberations will center around the free movement of citizens, considering the fact that many Liberians live on what is commonly called hand-to- mouth.
Some senators are expected to suggest that instead of restricting the movement of people from one location to another, daily testing centers must be established for those commuting from one location to another, and those found to be suspected as carriers of the Ebola virus must be stopped and quarantined.
Majority of the senators, however, are expected to place emphasis on the availability of food in areas that will be quarantined during the period of the State of Emergency.
One senator was heard warning his colleagues that if the nutritional condition of people in areas that will be quarantined is not addressed, he fears another crisis would follow after the Ebola. “Ebola is a disease that thrives on poverty.”
With few but, rather very important amendments, the State of Emergency is expected to receive overwhelming concurrence.