-Legislature Ends 1st Session Today
A report from the House’s Joint Committee on implementation of the Truth & Reconciliation Committee’s (TRC) recommendations and the establishment of a War & Economic Crimes Court has been stalled by Nimba County District #1 Representative Jeremiah K. Koung.
Rep. Koung is a co-founder and executive member of the Movement for Democracy and Reconciliation (MDR), a party which Senator Prince Y. Johnson heads as standard bearer and political leader.
The report is entitled: “An update from the Joint Committees on Claims & Petition, the Judiciary; Ways, Means, Finance & Development Planning, Peace, Religion & National Reconciliation and Good Governance & Government Reform on the Petitions for the establishment of a Special Criminal Court and the Implementations of the TRC Recommendations.”
Many observers believe that the stalling of the Joint Committee’s report by the Nimba County lawmaker is intended to buttress and prop his party’s standard bearer and kinsman, Senator Johnson, who has expressed strong opposition to the establishment of a War and Economic Crimes Court in Liberia.
Senator Johnson, the founder of the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL), according to the TRC report, was accused of committing egregious crimes ranging from “extortion and massacre, destruction of property, forced recruitment, assault, abduction, torture, forced labor, and rape.”
On Thursday, September 13, Representative Koung expressed his reluctance to vote on a motion seeking to include the Joint Committee’s report on the agenda of the 57th day sitting of the House of Representatives on grounds that Ways, Means, Finance & Development Planning was not involved in the hearings that impelled the report.
The co-chairman on the House’s Ways, Means, Finance & Development Planning Committee’s objection sparked a debate, with the chairperson on Claims and Petitions, Representative Rustonlyn Dennis, arguing that at least five members of the Ways, Means, Finance & Development Planning Committee had affixed their signatures.
House Speaker Bhofal Chambers’ review of the signatories to the Committee’s report revealed that six out of the 15-member committee had signed, while three of the six-member committee members of the Claim and Petition Committee had also signed.
All the members of the Judiciary Committee affixed their signatures.
“With non-majority signatures of two of three leading committees, it means the update report on the implementation of the Truth & Reconciliation Committee’s (TRC) recommendations and the establishment of a War & Economic Crimes Court cannot be included in today’s agenda,” Speaker Chambers said.
“A joint committee report needs a signature of 50+1 members’ signatures,” the Speaker added.
Joint Committee’s Report
According to the report, the House’s Joint Committee received two petitions from the Citizens of Liberia, for the Establishment of a War & Economic Crimes Court and Citizens Against the Establishment of a War & Economic Crimes Court.
“The petitioners called Citizens Against the Establishment of War & Economic Crimes Court’s sole reason was predicated upon the current economic constraint faced by the people of Liberia, terming their counterparts as an enemy against President Weah’s agenda. The other petitioner, Citizens of Liberia for the Establishment of War & Economic Crimes Court, on the other hand, sole motive is to seek justice and to promote peace, unity and abrogate the culture of impunity,” the report said.
The report further said it is on the right trajectory to come up with a substantive document for or against the establishment of a War & Economic Crimes Court and the implementation of the TRC recommendations, having carefully reviewed the TRC report, considered the arrest of alleged war criminal Awaliho Soumaworo aka “Kunti K.” and read and comprehended the resolution introduced by US congressman Daniel Donovan, supporting the call for a war and economic crimes court for Liberia.
“The Joint Committee, however, craved the indulgence of Plenary for a Month of Extension after the House resumes the 2nd Session, to enable it make more informed decisions on the Establishment of the War & Economic Crimes Courts, Specialized Courts, and implementation of the TRC recommendations,” the report said.
Meanwhile, members of the House of Representatives are expected to close their 1st Session of the House of Representatives today for Constituency (Agricultural), having completed the extension of the 15-day sitting in consonance with Article 32b of the 1986 Constitution, to concur with the Liberian Senate.
The extension of the 1st Session of the 54th Legislature commenced September 1, 2018, and will end September 15, 2018.
The 54th Legislature will resume work for the 2nd Session on Monday, January 14, 2019, and a day’s sitting will begin Tuesday, January 15, 2019.