‘Recall or Invite Ambassador Patten for Confirmation’

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Cross section of Senators in consultation during yesterday's 6th day sitting of the 2nd Session.

Senators debate semantics

The Senate floor erupted into heated constitutional debates on Thursday, January 31, 2019, over the choice of a more suitable word needed to bring the current Liberian Ambassador-designate to the United States, George Patten, to Liberia for confirmation proceedings.

Majority of senators, among them Daniel Naatehn, Sando Dazoe Johnson, Oscar Cooper, and Gbleh-Bo Brown, argued that the appropriate word to use for the return of “Ambassador Patten” is “recall” and not “invite.”

The argument over which choice of words to use for the Patten return was prompted by a report read to plenary from the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Judiciary, Human Rights, Claims and Petitions on the appointment of Mr. Patten.

The Joint committee’s report was a mandate from the plenary, after that body recently received a letter from the chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules, Order and Administration Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, seeking the indulgence of Senate plenary to request the appearance of Foreign Minister Gbehzongar Findley and George S. W. Patten, Liberia’s Ambassador-designate to the United States, for “the 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…”

The Senator’s letter was days later followed by a letter from President George Weah, in which he informed that body that in accordance with Article 54 of the Constitution of Liberia and the Senate Standing Rule, Rule 55 Section 6, he has made an appointment to 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.

Like Sen. Lawrence’s letter earlier, the President’s letter was also sent to the H. Dan Morais and H. Varney Sherman-committee to report in a week.

In the committee’s joint report yesterday, it was recommended that in line with both the Constitution and the Senate Rule, the Senate should perform its function as provided for in relation to confirmation.

And in his motion, which caused an eruption in the Senate, Maryland County Senator Gbleh-bo Brown proffered a motion that, “Although the report did not go as far as some of the issues that we wanted to see, I want to move that this report be received; and given the fact that the committee’s recommendation in this report said that the Senate should take its responsibility. As senator of Maryland County, I moved that this Senate act appropriately by advising the Executive to immediately recall the ambassador-designate from the United States of America; and that he should be made to appear before this body to go through the formal confirmation process until he can be reassigned.”

But in his unreadiness to vote on that motion, Senator Sherman said he would be ready to vote if Sen. Brown would “reconsider the use of the terminology recall; recall of the ambassador would necessarily mean that the appointment was invalid. You can invite the ambassador to come back for confirmation hearing; because the Senate Rule says that that appointment can be made pending confirmation. So we want him confirmed, let him come and go through a confirmation hearing, but when we say recall then you invalidate our own Rule.”

Other like minds that followed Senator Sherman agreed that the word “recall” was against their own Rule, but fell short of admitting that the Constitution is supreme over all order rules.

Senator Sando Johnson, who is gradually becoming vocal in sensitive and controversial proceedings, was seen loudly disagreeing with Senator Sherman, clarifying that Mr. Patten is still ambassador-designate and can be recalled for reassignment, not invited.

However, having stayed adamant on his motion for the word “recall,” Senator Brown agreed to an amendment by Montserrado County Senator Saah H. Joseph on the terminology to use recall in place of an invite.

“Invite or recall, Patten must be recalled by President Weah, and we can invite him; but he must be addressed as a nominee, not as ambassador proper,” Senator Sando Johnson and other dissatisfied senators said.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Whether the term is recall/invite the ambassador should not be confirmed. The guy knew he was cooperating with Dr. Weah to violate the constitution when he was commissioned without being confirmed.

  2. Because the appointment of Patten was made during recess, the best thing that can be said is this:
    “President Weah, please urge ambassador Patten-designate to return to Liberia for a full Liberian Senate confirmation. We the members of the Liberian Senate will be willing to perform our constitutional duties as soon as possible.

    What do the words “invite and recall” imply? First of all, it shows that the Liberian Senate is evenly split between two groups. Let’s take a listen.

    The word “invite” shows courtesy, respect. It simply doesn’t mean that those who prefer to say “invite” are insoucient. Of course not. Rather, the members of this group are common-ground-seekers. They are the liberal types. Like their counterparts who prefer to say “recall”, they respect the Liberian constitution.

    The word “recall” shows anger. Supporters of the word “recall” feel slighted or disrespected based on the recess appointment that was made by Mr. Weah.They present themselves as the traditionalists or what you may call conservatives. They prefer the strictest interpretation of the constitution. No recess, no nothing!

    Ultimately, Patten will be officially confirmed.

    The Liberian Senat deserves to be given a credit for once. The fact that they did not fist-fight in order to resolve this embarrassing ambassadorial kerferfle, shows that good democratic debates can be held. Let’s give them a B-minus on this particular issue.

    On the other hand, while they do their job, the Liberian Senate is expected to show sensitivity all the time. The lawmakers are well paid. The sensitivity aspect that must be considered by the lawmakers is that while they receive”fat checks” monthly, the youth of Liberia do not have their full set of textbooks, photocopy machines, small generators, overhead projectors, etc. The Ministry of Education is an institution of the government. The judiciary is also an institution of the government. Well, does it make sense for the judiciary branch of government to have all the goodies? Yes it does! Does it make sense for the Ministry of Education to exist without having the basic tools for our youth?

    The reader decides.

  3. If Patten is confirmed its going to set a precedent that will be difficult to recover from. With every unconstitutional action by Weah, and resulting inaction by the Legislature, Liberia moves closer and closer into a dictatorship. If Donald Trump had violated the US organic and statutory laws the number of times Weah has violated Liberia’s organic and statutory laws he would have been kicked out of the White House a long time ago; but the US of course has a Legislature that has more balls than ours and that includes their female Speaker.

  4. Patten’s appointment as ambassador was not done to bypass the Liberian constitution, neither was it meant to show the simplicity of the lawmakers of Liberia. An ambassadorial appointment is low-keyed, of course despite that, it cannot be completely legal without the confirmation process. Usually in cases where such an appointment is made, the nominee eventually gets confirmed by the Senate. When Patten returns, I am sure that the Liberian senate will fulfill its obligation.

    I understand how obsessed some of Weah’s opponents are. There’s nothing on earth that Weah could do that will please his opponents. Absolutely nothing! I was not an early supporter of his. But, I experienced a sort of an epiphany. I felt then and now that (my, or our) country needs help. In my view, I cannot render any help to my country by making outlandish statements that could polarize us. I speak for myself. Every dignified Liberian makes his or her own assessment. I hope it will be understood by people that I can disagree with Weah. In America, there are thousands of Republicans who disagree with Trump. But still Republicans who disagree with Trump believe that he can modify some of his political-embraced positions. That’s how I feel about Weah. Weah will make progress! He continues to drive carefully in his lane. I have no illusions about that.

    It is my hope that Patten will be confirmed eventually by the Liberian senate. There are many things that need to be done by a Liberian ambassador in Washington, DC. Example, the battle of TPS is under discussion on The Hill in DC. Let’s not forget that Liberia’s relationship with the US has been very helpful. Example, because of Liberia’s historical relationshi with the US, president Trump gave a one-year repreive to all Liberian TPS holders. I am not a TPS holder. I have never been. However. the presence of a Liberian ambassador in the US is crucial. Since the interest of Liberia is greater than Weah’s opponents’ self-interests, I certainly hope that Patten will be confirmed by the Liberian senate without political points being scored.

    Finally, Weah and his Foreign Minister are viewed by many people, including me as being equanimous. Because of that, I am very optimistic that the two gentlemen will explain to the Liberian people, and not just the Liberian senate. why Patten’s appointment was made during the Christmas break. Hopefully, we will move on.

    • Doesn’t matter whether or not it was not done intentionally. It violated the Constitution period! Ignorance is no excuse! Let him nominate Patten to another ambassadorship somewhere else and do it the right way this time.

  5. In its February 2 publication, FPA (Front Page Africa) has confirmed that Patten will not be “recalled”, but rather “invited” to be confirmed by the Liberian senate. Rule 55 of the country’s Living Document states that a recess appointment is allowed. After his confirmation, Patten will head back to the US in order to carry out his official ambassadorial duties.

    The bottom line is that the Liberian senate has reached an accomodation. Although I do not agree with them always. I’ll go an extra mile by heaping praise on them this time. Kudos, Liberian senate!

  6. Why do we always find imaginary opponents though we see hard facts intentioned deliberately carried out; notwithstanding, we use but, but, when we should help fix the situation.

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