On Tuesday afternoon (June 21), the Supreme Court put a ‘stay order’ on the legislative sessions and other activities of the House of Representatives, including the budget hearings on the revenue component of the fiscal year 2016/2017 Draft National Budget.
The Supreme Court in its March term mandated the House of Representatives to return to the ‘status quo ante’; that is, before the motion of June 2, suspending roll calls and allowing the number and members present at the June 2 session of the House of
Representatives to constitute a quorum for one month, June 2 to July 2.
Tuesday’s session was adjourned after a prayer was recited by the Chairman on the House’s Executive Committee, Grand Kru Representative George Wesseh Blamoh, who served as the presiding officer.
“We received two communications (writs) from the Supreme Court and the Speaker has gone there to get clarity so today there’s no session,” presiding officer Blamoh said and adjourned the session.
This is the second time, in two weeks, for the Supreme Court to put a stay order on the House of Representatives through the Writ of Prohibition from Rep. Edwin M. Snowe, Jr.
On Friday, June 10, a stay order was granted by the Supreme Court; and on Monday, June 13, it was lifted and both parties, the petitioner, Rep. Snowe and the respondent, Speaker J. Alex Tyler, mandated to make amendment, but the petitioner was instructed to seek redress if dissatisfied with the resolution.
Snowe snubs hearing
On Monday, Rep. Snowe failed to turnout for a public hearing on a complaint filed to the House’s plenary regarding his protest on the usage of a quorum on roll call taken on June 2, for one month.
Snowe’s absence was described as ‘ignoring the roll call hearing’ after having acknowledged receipt of the communication, as well as having been informed through a mobile phone call.
A close confidant of Rep. Snowe, who begged for anonymity, said the Montserrado County lawmaker boycotted the ‘sham hearing’ because it was orchestrated by pro-Tyler lawmakers, including the Chairman on the Committees on Judiciary and Rules, Order and Administration.
The staff further said the venue of the hearing, the Speaker’s conference room, also undermined its integrity.
Bomi County lawmaker Cllr. S. Gayah Karmoh said the hearing was in keeping with the House’s Rules and Procedures, and that the petitioner, having failed to appear, will be given a second chance.
The Judiciary Committee Chairman and the Chairman on Rules, Order and Administration, J. Byron Browne, will officially write Rep. Snowe on the date of the next hearing, but would not state what would happen if he again fails to appear.
House Speaker Tyler was at the hearing; and a staffer said he was set to explain that his decision was based on precedent.
The staffer, who also requested anonymity, said during the 52nd Legislature, under the speakership of Rep. Snowe, a similar decision was taken.
June 9 Supreme Court order
The Supreme Court notified Speaker Tyler of the cause of action to appear before the full bench in disposition of the constitutional issue raised in the petition to show cause why the petitioner’s petition as prayed should not be granted.
Snowe’s legal battle was due to a motion from Bong County District # 3 Representative George S. Mulbah, which indicated that Thursday’s quorum should and must persist for the entire month of June, meaning there would be no roll call.
Rep. Snowe and about 18 lawmakers are agitating that there should be a recall, in accordance with Article 33 of the Constitution.
Article 33 of the Liberian 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 attendants of absent members…”
Tyler embattled, or formidable?
The same aggrieved lawmakers are asking the Speaker to recuse himself, for allegedly receiving US$75,000 in the controversial Global Witness report that alleged bribery and secret payouts to the Speaker and other government officials. Global Witness argued that the alleged bribes were paid to alter the Liberian concessions law in favor of Sable Mining Company for the acquisition of an iron ore concession for the Wologizi Mountain in Lofa County.
Reports from Tyler’s office say the Speaker is still formidable and in control of a majority of the lawmakers (about 52 lawmakers).
Amidst the criminal indictment due to Global Witness report, Pro-Tyler lawmakers have twice blocked the campaign to force the Speaker to recuse himself.
However, it has been said that Tyler is considering building his bloc from 52 to 60 members.