Margibi County Senator Oscar Cooper has described as “repulsive and extremely selfish on the part of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the members of the Legislature who allegedly accepted payments and returned to pass the President’s proposed bills that were submitted under the false pretense of ‘matters of national concern.’”
This would be the third special sitting of the Legislature at the request of the President, since the body adjourned for constituency break in August.
The former chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Works said in a statement that the nature of bills presented to the Legislature does not fall under the category of “national emergency and concern” and does not warrant him as “Senator of the great people of Margibi County to return to the Senate.”
The President’s proclamation, according to the outspoken Senator, misquoted Article 32 (b) of the Constitution by stating that the “President shall extend a regular session of the Legislature beyond the date for adjournment or call a special extraordinary session of that body to discuss or act upon matters of national emergency or concern,” whereas Article 32 (b) of the Constitution actually states that “The President shall extend a regular session of the Legislature beyond the date for adjournment or call a special extraordinary session of that body to discuss or act upon matters of national emergency and concern.”
“I would gladly support a proclamation to reconvene for an actual national emergency and concern; for example, a calamity such as Ebola, an act of war by or against the Republic and even as a result of the inaccessibility of major counties due to the current deplorable conditions of the roads. However, I do not consider the proposed act to ratify the concession agreement of Hummingbird Mining, etc, as a national emergency and concern when that matter could have been handled during our ordinary session for which we were being paid as per our budgetary allotment passed into law.”
Senator Cooper said he has learned that the Legislature will be compensated by the Executive with over one million United States dollars, an extra-budgetary allotment which he asserted belongs to the people of Liberia and could have been spent on other matters of national emergency and concern such as remunerations of critical civil servants such as doctors and teachers.
“I find this repulsive and extremely selfish on the part of the President and those members of the Legislature who have accepted payments and returned to pass the President’s bills that have been submitted under the false umbrella of matters of national concern,” Senator Cooper noted.
For the stated reasons, Senator Cooper said: “I will not accept payment nor comply with the request to reconvene as each and every bill sent to be passed has no emergency value and can all wait until the Legislature constitutionally reconvenes in January 2017.”
He then asked if there was an appropriation for the over one million dollars spent on “this unconstitutional sitting.”
“Fellow citizens of Liberia, kindly ask your Senators and Representatives to reimburse the Liberian people’s money that they have received for this unconstitutional sitting,” he recommended.
Making up for lost time
In spite of Senator Cooper’s technical treatise on Article 32 (b), it may be argued that the President is essentially asking the Legislature to make up for time during the regular session. It cannot be ignored that the House of Representatives was divided against itself for three full months over a bid to have former Speaker Tyler recuse himself from presiding over the august body. As a result, the passage of the national budget was delayed, as were many bills originating in the Senate, a Senate source told the Daily Observer yesterday.
However, Tyler and many of his sympathizers alleged that President Sirleaf herself orchestrated the wrangling in the House by bankrolling a ‘renegade’ faction that exacerbated the deep divisions and delays in the conduct of national business. And though Senator Cooper has not weighed in on this allegation, for those who believe it, the difference might be the same.