Senators Reject Tenure Bill

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Senator J. Gbleh-bo Brown: "The decision was communicated to the President, when the senate met with him and ... after having a sensitive discussion with him..., we advised the President to withdraw this bill without the least delay." 

-As CoP, Senate meeting fails to convene

In the wake of the brewing political tensions among stakeholders, the Senate on Thursday, May 30, 2019 unanimously voted to throw out a bill submitted by President George Weah, calling for the prohibition of tenured positions for public officials within the executive branch of the government.

If the senators had concurred with members of the Lower House to pass the bill, a political commentator remarked, “Weah would have succeeded in keeping his grip on power to the extent that he would appoint any of his cronies to a prestigious position, and after few years or so, dismiss such a person and also fill the post with another of his associates.”

However, after the Senate received the bill in late November and submitted same to its committee on Judiciary, Human Rights, Claims and Petitions, a report from that committee headed by Grand Cape Mount County Senator, H. Varney Sherman, raised serious debate within the Senate Chambers. In the ensuing argument, majority senators outrightly called for the return of same bill to the President, a decision a political analyst considers a slap in the face of the President.

Some of the most important institutions that fall under the tenure legislation include the National Elections Commission (NEC), the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), General Auditing Commission (GAC) and the Liberia Public Procurement and Concessions Commission (PPCC).

The bill appeared on Thursday’s agenda for plenary discussion, but it was observed that both the chair on Judiciary, Senator Varney Sherman and his co-chair, Senator Morris Saytumah, were absent. However, the senate decided to take action by providing clarifications.

Maryland County Senator J. Gbleh-bo Brown, reminded his colleagues that the senate has already taken a decision on that bill.

“The decision was communicated to the President, when the senate met with him and presented an aide memoir after having a sensitive discussion with him. In that aide memoir, and the discussion that was held with him, we advised the President to withdraw this bill without the least delay.”

Sen. Brown argued that “this Senate can not go back on this decision. I therefore move that further discussions and actions on the tenure bill be suspended by this body in line with the decision we have arrived at to suspend the bill.”

However, Montserrado County Senator Saah Joseph suggested that a debate be allowed to be followed by a vote. He argued that some senators are in still favor, while some are against, “so we have to discuss, and vote on it. But we cannot return the instrument to the president without any action.”

But Sen. Brown rejected the amendment to Sen. Joseph’s motion and instead decided to amend his motion thus: “Colleagues, we took a decision, and it was communicated, not only verbally, but [it was] written. I move therefore that this Senate stands by its decision that has been sufficiently communicated to the President. And so based on that, I move that the bill seeking to restrict the tenure of integrity institutions in this country, and other institutions that currently enjoy tenure be rejected by plenary.”

The issue of tenured positions might have been fresh on the mind of Senator Brown, who had just last week attended a workshop on “Advancing Reconciliation through Legislative Reforms and Civil Engagement; Engagement with Law Reform Commission and Legislators for the Law Reform.” The workshop, held on May 25, 2019,  brought together stakeholders in the legislative and law reform process in Liberia to discuss issues of law reform.

In that workshop, In his presentation on the mandate of the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) and Law Reform Role, INCHR Commissioner Wilfred Gray-Johnson said removal of the tenure of commissioners of the INCHR will greatly undermine the commission’s international status and will go against the set of international standards, which frame and guide the work of National Human Rights Institutions globally.

Senator Brown, described the forum as “very helpful” for different actors in legislative and law reform process to know each other and strategically collaborate to improve the system.

CoP, Senate Meet called off due to conflict of terms

In another development, the scheduled meeting proposed by the senate with the Council of Patriots (CoP), organizers of the planned June 7 “peaceful protest,” failed to take place yesterday, after members of the CoP’s request for an open meeting was rejected by the senate.

The CoP team, headed by Abraham Darius Dillon including political commentator Henry P. Costa, told Legislative reporters that the discussion in open will give the public sufficient reason why the “Save the State” June protest was necessary. They promised to return to Capitol Hill whenever the senate accepts their 22-count (demand).

Meanwhile, in a press briefing, the Acting Senate Pro Tempore, Senator H. Dan Morais, confirmed that the senate is not ruling out another attempt to meet with the CoP.

“The senate will decide on Tuesday, June 4, 2019, whether it will meet with them under the condition as they suggested; that decision will be taken by plenary,” Sen. Morais said.

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