Senate Pro-Tempore Threatens Truant Senators

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Flashback: Senators in one of their well attended sessions early this year.

President Pro Tempore of the Senate Albert Chie, in a rather unusual mood on Tuesday, August 28, 2018, issued a stern and threatening comment that he would soon start taking serious and drastic action against senators who only attend sessions through his intervention.

“I will soon start taking serious and drastic action; this is not called for, the people’s work must go on. Sergeant, please go and call the senators to come to session,” Pro-Tempore Chie, who was the only lawmaker in the Senate Chamber at about mid-day Tuesday, was heard ordering the sergeant-at-arm.

He was at some instances inquiring from some of the senators, who have absented themselves from sessions, by phone as to whether they were not coming to do the people’s work.

For many visitors, and even legislative reporters who attend sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the Pro-Tempore’s warning was rather belated but very necessary.

“When seeking for elected posts, some of these senators are energized to attempt campaign meetings as early as five o’clock, but are too tired to attend session twice a week after winning elections,” a disappointed visitor reacted to the Pro Tempore’s comment.

In early January, prior to his election, Senator Chie promised to lead by example as President Pro Tempore of the Senate for the next six years. The Grand Kru County Senator at a well-attended press conference, told his colleagues in attendance that under his leadership committees and their heads would be visited daily, especially during committee hearings, to ensure an effective team.

“The level of seriousness I attach to my committee work will double to help yield meaningful results in areas of legislation and oversight,” he said.

Chie also promised to ensure that perfect coordination exists among the leadership of the Senate, to assure that effective and stringent scrutiny is done on all bills before passage or ratification, especially the huge workload of legislation that are brought forward from the 53rd Legislature.

For several weeks, if not months ago, Pro-Tempore Chie said he has been requesting the summon of senators to attend sessions. That was for the few who visit their respective offices on session day, while a greater number could not appear at the Capitol at all.

It is not clear what specific time is stipulated for senators to commence session, but since the 54th Legislature, the earliest for start of sessions has been 11:00 a.m. and the latest 1:00 p.m.

Due to this development, observers wondered as to how the Pro-temp will administer drastic action, when some senators attend sessions as late as 3:00 p.m., depending on the workload of that day, and when there is no known pronounced time to start session.

Meanwhile, despite frantic efforts by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Internal Affairs and Good Governance Reconciliation Senator J. Gbleh-bo Brown and Pro-Tempore Chie for the passage of the Local Government Act on Tuesday, Senators resolved that more cleaning needed to be done before possible consideration of the Act.

The debatable areas remain elections of paramount, clan, and town chiefs against the continuous appointment of local authorities by the President, while others argue that the number of 10,000 stipulated in the Act to create a city is too much, especially for a county like Grand Kru, which has a population of about 40,000 but with over 40 cities (2008 census).

8 COMMENTS

  1. In the US, television cameras are allowed by law in the chamber of Congress as well as in the “well” of the Senate. By doing so, the American public can switch to C-span to see what their elected lawmakers are doing and saying. Now that makes sense. In fact, the use of television cameras in the parliaments of developed countries is common.

    Should Liberia be different?
    Senator Albert Chie’s problem can be easily solved if television cameras could be allowed in the well of the Liberian senate. The Liberian lawmakers earn a whopping $120,000.00 per year. For sure, it hurts that so much money is paid. So the question is what sense does it make for a lawmaker to earn that much money without doing the job for which she or he was elected?

    Bottom Line:
    Television cameras should be allowed and trained on all lawmakers. Who knows? Maybe some of the lawmakers who show up, doze off, and do not say anything at all. Oh no. Cameras should be allowed. That’s how Chie’s problem will be solved.

  2. I don’t know what drastic step the Pro-temp is contemplating on taking, but it’s unusual though for the Leader of the Senate to publicly chide members of the Senate for not attending sessions. These are people elected by their respective constituents and are accountable to them, and during election, their opponents can use these absences as reasons to rally voters not to return them to the Senate. Certainly, the Senate should have rules mandating what makes a quorum for plenary votes on major bills to ensure the members will be in attendance. But on a regular day to day sessions discussions, a Senator can’t be forced to attend by his leadership under the threat of some drastic measures. If a Senator is missing during the voting on a bill that his constituent is against, and the bill passes based on his absence to vote against it, his constituent is the only one to hold him accountable.

    I do agree with comment above about the culture of laziness in the country that’s being manifest in the Halls of government. An experience I encountered in 2007 when I travelled to Liberia for a week and had the privilege of meeting Mary Broh, then at the Foreign Ministry was a good example. While in her office, she asked one of her assistant to retrieve a folder for her, and he told her he will do it after he finishes his lunch which he was about to take. Mind you, this was now late evening and, as Director of the department, she had not even taken her lunch break and here she’s working on a document that needed to be processed timely and a worker in the office would not even go and retrieve the file she needed. I knew she had lived and worked in the U.S for more than 32 years and her work ethics was ingrained with discipline and what an American corporation would demand of its workers. I worked as a Vice President in the Office of General Counsel for Merrill Lynch at the time, shortly before our merger with Bank of America in 2008, due to the financial crises. She introduced me to the young worker, in his early 20s, reminding him I worked on Wall Street and the relevance of my title and work ethics required to get to such a level, as a way of mentoring him out of that lazy mindset. She asked me in front of the gentleman what I would’ve done if he’d worked for me in the U.S., and I told him plainly I would have fired him. Surprisingly, he still went ahead to take his lunch break, so she had to go searching and retrieving the folder. It was an eye opening for me about the Liberian work ethics, but I returned to the States with a great respect for Ms. Broh and was delighted the current president retained her in a role that’s even important for cleaning up government waste.

    On the story itself, p.erhaps, the Pro-Temp should facilitate the passing of rules in the Senate that mandate members to justify their absences (e.g., they could be on constituent related function outside the Senate halls) and potential sanctions by the body against those in violation, which could be used against them during election). As such, no one would justly accuse the Pro-Temp of ruling with an iron hand based on his personal bias or prejudice.

  3. Phil,
    I do believe that “some Liberians are lazy”, but I also believe that all Liberians” are not lazy. The farmers who farm year in and year out are disciplined hard-working people. Sadly, these poor farmers do not farm on a grand skill, but for sure, they’re very consistent. They deserve some credit.

    Some of the lazy people who’ve got no sense of a work ethic are the high class folk. These high class people are educated, privileged, corrupt and well connected politically. Their world view of responsibility is rather utopian. They are not good role models. They are lazy!

    It is unethical for “some” Liberian lawmakers to be paid thousands of dollars every year without doing the job of representing the people. So, one the ways in which elected Representatives and Senators will do their job effectively will be for television cameras to be allowed in the well of the Senate as well as in the chambers of the Representatives. Television cameras will in no uncertain terms create a sense of accountability and transparency. Assuming that television cameras are allowed, if a wayward Rep or Senator cannot be seen all the time by his or her constituents, a young articulate guy like Larry Emmerson can create waves and run for a senatorial position.

  4. Hi F. Hney. I’ve been out of pocket and now catching up on our discussion trials. Thanks for the compliment and uplifting comment of encouragement above. I actually believe some of the politicians and leaders are reading comments we’ve made on the various challenges in the nation. I’ve seen where an agency have made decisions that were in line with suggested comments.

    I’m encouraged by the commenters who have been commenting on these critical issues. I’m just delighted of the vast number of Liberians with, technical, scientific, financial and legal skills and experience on a global level that can serve as a repository for what the nation needs. I must confess, I had just recently, within the past few months, started acquainting myself with the depth of the issues in the country and the gap or void locally that we in the diaspora can fill, not for our own pecuniary interest, but the overall interest of the nation.

    We can make it. We can still make Liberia the greatest democracy in Africa and with the highest per capital income in Africa. Make Liberia Great!

  5. An African friend of mine from Rwanda, who works as a senior staff at the UN for African affairs, who follows the activities in Liberia, alerted me of YouTube videos, I didn’t Know existed, of deliberations in the House as well as videos of Prince Johnson torturing and interrogating Doe in one instance and a lady in another. I must say, to Phil’s point about cameras in the wells of the Chambers, after watching the House members actions, I wholeheartedly agree. After watching the videos, I thought to myself, they all needed to be voted out of office. The videos I watched were during the Speakership of Tyler. They actually had fights in the Chamber, and there doesn’t seem to be any rule to govern the members’ behaviors. The governance structure of the US Congress is a matter that’s legally enforceable and you have the Capital Police to enforce order in the Chambers.

    In a more recent YouTube posting of the current Impeachment proceedings, the level of naivety and lack of understanding of the Constitution expressed by a Senator should be alarming to his constituents. I feel an obligation to become active in the next election, at least, in bringing an awareness to the voters on what they should be looking at in the candidates.

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