Rep. Edwin M. Snowe’s letter protesting the usage of a quorum from a roll call taken on June 2 to run for one month has been turned over to a Joint Committee – expected to report in seven days – notwithstanding Supreme Court Associate Justice Jamesatta Wolokollie’s mandate for them to address the complaint within 72 hours.
Plenary, the highest decision making body of the House of Representatives, through a motion from Lofa County Representative Mariamu Fofana, sent the letter to the Committees on Judiciary and Rules, Order and Administration on Thursday, June 16, during the 37th Day Sitting of the 5th Session.
This means, the Joint Committee is expected to make a formal report for advice on Thursday, June 23, and Plenary might act on the Committee’s report whether to rescind the June 2 decision or maintain the roll call taken on that day for one month.
Montserrado County District # 6 Lawmaker Snowe argued that the House’s Rules and Procedures (Order of Business) Subsection 14.1 (c) calls for a roll call.
He also said Article 33 of the Constitution states: “A simple majority of each House shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business but a lower number may adjourn from day to day and compel the attendance of absent members…”
“Thank you ever so much and we look forward to the correction of this action, which we consider an oversight,” Rep. Snowe said. “We are herewith attaching Rule 14 of our standing rules as well as Article 33 of the Liberian Constitution as our reliance. Please consider our action of not calling roll to determine a quorum for the transaction of business as a violation of the Liberian Constitution.”
Unconfirmed reports said Rep. Snowe yesterday filed a ‘Bill of Information’ at the Supreme Court to know whether the 72 hours would not affect the House’s decision, as his complaint has been sent to the Committee to report to Plenary next week Thursday for subsequent decision by Plenary.
It may be recalled that Justice Wolokollie ordered the House of Representatives to address, in 72 hours, the concerns raised by Rep. Snowe against Speaker Alex Tyler’s decision to maintain a quorum of lawmakers in a session on June 2 for a month, up to July 2.
Justice Wolokollie took the decision on Monday when Rep. Snowe made a formal complaint to the court requesting for a writ of prohibition through his legal counsel, Cllrs. Arthur Johnson and Swahilo Sesay.
Rep. Snowe’s lawyers indicated in the petition that on June 2, 2016, and or Tuesday’s regular session, a motion was made to the effect that the number and members present at that sitting would constitute a quorum for one month; that is, from June 2, 2016 to July 2.
Citing Article 33 of the Constitution, the lawyers also indicated that a simple majority of each House shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business, but a lower number may adjourn from day to day and compel the attendance of absent members. Whenever the House of Representatives and the Senate shall meet in joint session, the presiding officer of the House of Representatives shall preside.
“Your Honor, there are 73 lawmakers currently in the House of Representatives and less than 37 were in session; therefore if this decision for roll call remains in force, that means that the constituencies of the affected lawmakers’ voices will not be heard,” said Cllr.
Arthur Johnson, who prayed the Associate Justice to issue a Writ of Prohibition against the respondent and restrained him from pursuing any action to the decision.
The House of Representatives’ legal counsel and chairman on Judiciary, Cllr. Gayah Karmo, told the court that it was sad for Rep. Snowe to run to court to seek redress when he has written the Plenary of the House on the matter, adding that, “while Plenary was trying to hear his complaint he opted to run to the Supreme Court.”