-But Senator Dillon strongly objects; decries lack of due diligence in the August body
Through a reported vote of yea (and not head count), the Senate yesterday voted to confirm Liberia’s Foreign Minister-designate, Ambassador Dee-Maxwell Kemayah, amid reports of alleged sexual harassment and passport scandal that have rocked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The confirmation of Amb. Kemayah followed recommendation from a report signed by three members of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, following two public hearings at the Capitol.
There is no indication as to who voted for or against Kemayah’s confirmation since the Senate abandoned the voting record system — only that there was a majority of ‘yay’ responses when the vote was raised.
Upon his nomination as Foreign Minister-designate, Kemayah, who had been serving as Liberia’s permanent representative to the United Nations in New York, was suddenly slapped with an allegation of sexual harassment by Ms. Whynee Cummings Wilson, a staffer at the mission he heads. And while Ms. Wilson claims that the incident took place on her birthday in January, she said she was only now speaking out about the alleged incident in support of the recent three days of protests against rape in Monrovia. She also said that if she remained quiet about what she claims Amb. Kemayah did to her, it would be tantamount to rewarding a predator.
Meanwhile, Kemayah has flatly denied the allegation as baseless and an attempt to tarnish his reputation and track record of service. In the absence of evidence that the alleged incident ever took place, Ms. Wilson has challenged Amb. Kemayah to a polygraph (lie-detector) test.
In the findings that followed its recommendation, the Senate committee on Foreign Affairs noted that after an administrative probe, it has realized that there are limitations to the extent to which the probe into the alleged sexual harassment accusation can continue. The committee’s report asserted that there is a thin line between the Legislative and the Executive branches of government. The committee furthered “that, in as much as it takes sexual harassment as a grave matter, it requires a full and detailed investigation. The committee does not have the tools of police and investigative agencies to establish a legal merit and/or demerit of this case; the committee seeks to do what the Constitution provides of the Legislature to do in such a case, that is to do an administrative hearing.”
‘Take the matter to court‘
In that regard, the committee intimated that an administrative hearing has been conducted, “and finds the nominee fit and suitable in all other aspects that require our consent, except for the allegations of sexual harassment which has been assessed, but not conclusive.”
The committee’s findings continued: “The committee, as such, understanding its limitation in adjudicating a judicial matter between two of its citizens, is left with no alternative but to request anyone of the parties to take this matter to court, that will give them the appropriate remedy or justice.”
In briefing Legislative reporters after the committee report was read, Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon, who was not among those who voted for Amb. Kemayah, expressed serious reservation over the manner which, he said, the Senate was conducting confirmation hearings, saying it was slowly killing the Senate.
Senator Dillon agreed that the now-confirmed Foreign Minister has all the academic credentials, with unquestionable service to country, “but when there is a complaint of grave nature filed against anybody including a nominee, it is fair for us to give that complain a listening ear. It is no secret that the Foreign Affairs Committee has acted wrongly from the get-go over this nomination of Kemayah.”
Senator Dillon asserted that the complainant could either be lying on Mr. Kemayah or saying the truth, and the only thing he said that could clear the doubt is to hear from his accuser.
“The Liberian Senate committee did not do due diligence; it deliberately cut all good judgement aside to make a recommendation in which it has indicted itself and the Liberian Senate. The Senate voted to confirm Kemayah, leaving this thing hanging over his head. He could be innocent, but the fact is that we failed to do the proper thing and… we are leaving something on this man’s head. What if, tomorrow, this lady’s claim of sexual harassment turns out to be true? What standing will this Liberian Senate have to call Kemayah a sexual harasser after confirming him?”
Sen. Dillon recalled that it is the same lack of due diligence on the part of the Senate that has got them in the current mess with Counselor Ndubuisi Nwabudike, who was initially confirmed as chairman of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission long before it was discovered that Nwabudike had faked his Liberian citizenship.
“This one, we know it. We could make claim that we did not know that Nwabudike was not a citizen at the time that we confirmed him first; now that we know, the Liberian Senate lacks the spine to take the bold step and let the President know formally to remove Nwabudike. The same thing is happening again.”
Meanwhile, Senator Dillon lamented that the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Albert Tugbe Chie, cleverly refused to acknowledge his attempt to file a motion for reconsideration, but accepting the one filed by Senator Peter Sonpon Coleman, who the Pro Tempore knew would eventually withdraw the motion. “But he knows that I would follow through if I filed that motion for reconsideration,” Dillon said.