Amid the Presidential emergency declaration and adherence of the State of Emergency throughout the 15 counties, beginning at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, April 10, President George M. Weah, is expected within not later than seven days to submit before the Legislature the facts and circumstances leading to the declaration including an action plan, or be revoked through a Joint Resolution.
Margibi County District #5 Representative, Clarence Gahr, in a telephone conversation with the Daily Observer said on Friday that the countdown for the submission of the ‘Declaration of a State of Emergency’ began on Thursday, as well as the formally resumption of works by the Legislature in accordance with Article 88 of the 1986 Constitution.
“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…,” Article 88 says.
The House’s co-chairman on Public Accounts and Expenditure and member of the Budget Committee, said the House of Representatives and the Senate are expected to have quorums on Monday, April 13 to ‘ conduct business’ having failed on Thursday, April 9 as requested by the President, arguing, because they have earlier closed for Easter and most of them have gone to their constituents to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and continue the fight to stop the spread of COVID 19.
The Margibi County lawmaker said following the Presidential emergency power, the Legislature is under constitutional obligation to reconvene without being recalled if either House or both Houses are closed.
“Where the Legislature is not in session, it must be convened immediately in special session and remain in session during the entire period of the state of emergency,” he quoted Article 87(a).
Rep. Gahr intoned that hopefully on Monday, if the President lays before the Legislature the Declaration of State of Emergency and the action plan, the Legislature must act, in specially convened session, in 72 hours (three days), by joint resolution, with two-thirds of the membership of each house, to decide whether the proclamation of a state of emergency is justifiable or whether the measures taken thereunder are appropriate, according to Article 88.
The constitution is silent on the failure of legislative action after 72 hours the declaration of State of Emergency is submitted, but legal pundits stated that it would mean that the declaration had automatically been approved.
“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 emergency automatically shall be revoked. Where the Legislature shall deem it necessary to revoked 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,” Article 88 states.
Two-thirds of the House of Representatives are 39 Representatives (signatories) and the Senate are 19 (signatories).
However, Rep. Gahr further said that if they don’t get the required signatures for the let-go, the emergency automatically will be revoked through another resolution.
He indicated that the Legislature can deem it necessary to modify the measures of the Declaration of State of Emergency.
“The President is under constitutional obligation to act accordingly, and immediately carry out the decisions of the Legislature,” Rep. Gahr said.
It may be recalled that on Wednesday, April 8, the President has declared a State of Emergency throughout the country, which he said was done in consultation of House Speaker Dr. Bhofal Chambers and Senate President Pro Tempore Albert Chie, in accordance with Article 86 of the Constitution.
“The President may, in consultation with the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, proclaim and declare and the existence of a state of emergency in the Republic or any part thereof. Acting pursuant thereto, the President may suspend or affect certain rights, freedoms and guarantees contained in this Constitution and exercise such other emergency powers as may be necessary and appropriate to take care of the emergency, subject, however, to the limitations contained in this Chapter.”
The President has also issued stringent measures by ordering residents in four counties, namely, Montserrado, Margibi, Nimba and Grand Kru, to stay at home as well as deployed the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) to mend the regulations with consonance of Article 85.
“The President, as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, may order any portion of the Armed Forces into a state of combat readiness in defense of the Republic, before or after the declaration of a state of emergency, as may be warranted by the situation. All military power or authority shall at all times, however, be held in subordination to the civil authority and the Constitution.”