The 53rd Senate in Review

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Members of the 53rd Senate in Chamber.jpg

The early sitting of the 2nd session of the 53rd Liberian Senate was marred by news of the untimely demise of Grand Bassa County Senator Francis John Whitfield from stroke, after attending only two sittings. He was succeeded by Madam Nyonblee Kangar-Lawrence, a former employee at the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC) and wife of Representative Adolph Lawrence. 

Earlier in January (3rd Monday) during the delivering of the Annual Message to the Joint Session of the Legislature at the Capitol Building by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, rumor circulated of a walk-out by Pro Tempore Gbehzohngar Findley. It was later clarified and confirmed by Senator Dr. Peter Sonpon Coleman that Senator Findley suffered an excruciating stomach pain that needed immediate attention, hence the walk out of the Joint Chamber.

But those early mishaps did not dampen the resolve of members of that august body in making decisions, as controversial as some may have been.

And when they shut the mahogany doors to their Chamber on September 13, 2013, for their annual Constituency Break, Senators of the 53rd Senate during the period of 59 days of sittings had in total acted upon 63 Bills, while 65 Bills remained in committees’ rooms.

Out of that number, the Senate passed 19 Bills as first entry and went to President Sirleaf for signature; 24 of those 63 Bills acted upon are concurrence Bills that came from the House of Representatives and the Senate concurred, while 20 other Bills passed by the Senate are still in committee rooms of the House of Representatives.

Notable among Bills passed are the Code of Conduct, Decent Work Bill and the Petroleum Reform Bill.

The Senate also received names of 243 persons for confirmation proceedings, of which four commissioners-designated from Gbarpolu County were denied, while two names-Madam Mary Broh and Henrietta Peters were withdrawn by President Sirleaf, the former for disagreement among Senators and the latter for conflict with age. 

It took 20 sittings for the Senate plenary to pass its first Bill, amending Part IV, Section 10 of an Act that authorized the Establishment of the Central Bank of Liberia.

The new amended Bill now reads thus: “The management of the Central Bank shall be conducted by an Executive Governor who shall be chairman of the Board of Governors of Central Bank, and two Deputy Governors who shall serve as principal assistants to the Executive Governor.

The Executive Governor and the deputy Governors shall be appointed by the President for a term of five (5) years each from among individuals of standing or experience in financial and economic matters, subject to confirmation by the Liberian Senate, on such terms and conditions as may be specified by the Board of Governors. The Executive Governor Deputy Governors shall be eligible for reappointment.”

The ink that signed the passage of that amendment had hardly dried when Senators Sumo G. Kupee of Lofa County, Peter S. Coleman of Maryland County, and Armah Zulu Jallah of Gbarpolu County, sent a Bill to the Senate plenary calling for the amendment of certain Articles in the Act that created the CBL.

The Senators’ proposed amended version of the CBL Act states that the Executive Governor of CBL and members of the Board of Governors shall be prohibited from contesting political office (s) while serving in their respective offices and shall not be qualified to contest any political office within three years consecutively after the expiration of their tenure with the CBL.

The Senate at its 6th sitting unanimously voted to concur with President Sirleaf on her request to send a platoon size (50) Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) troops to Mali.

Despite stiff protests by members of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) in the House of Representatives, the Senate went ahead and confirmed President Sirleaf’s nominee for the post of Chairman of the National Elections Commission Cllr. Jerome Kokoya, and was subsequently concurred by the House of Representatives.

The Liberian Senate has voted to ratify the 'controversial' Oil Block 13, but with amendments.

The oil agreement was ratified Thursday by the Senate following days of debate over the document.

The Senate on March 21, 2013 ratified the renegotiated ‘controversial’ Oil Block 13 deal with few amendments following days of debates over the documents.

The Senate Committees on Lands, Mines, Energy, Judiciary and Investment, and headed by Liberia’s only geophysicist Senator Cletus Wotorson a day earlier had invited a cross section of government ministers, environmentalist, civil society leaders, students groupings and religious leaders in the Chamber of the Senate for a pre-ratification hearing.

Amidst heated debate, Senators during the year-in-review unanimously called for the deletion and described as unconstitutional a clause within the “Proposed Amendments to the Elections Law” suggesting that political parties sending list of candidates for elected posts to the National Elections Commission (NEC) should include 30% of each gender from among its membership.

The clause found on page 14, Article 5.4 of the proposed elections amendment law is one of several sticky issues that were discussed by the 2nd session of the 53rd Senate.

Meanwhile, President Sirleaf’s endeavor to implement her declared war on corruption suffered a major blow, when the Senators during their 41st day sitting in executive session refused to enact into law a Bill that would have given the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) prosecutorial power on corruption.

During its two-week extended session, the Senate plenary took a unanimous decision to ask for the disrobement of Police Director Col. Christian C. Massaquoi for deploying over 200 armed police on the grounds of the Legislature on September 12, 2013. The Senate’s decision was in response to a complaint filed by Senator Armah Zulu Jallah accusing Director Massaquoi of insulting him.

But few weeks later during a radio talk show, Senate Chairman on the Committee of Banking and Currency, Isaac Nyenabo tried to clarify that contrary to earlier call for disrobement, the Senate instead requested President Sirleaf to take due note of the Director’s behavior and take appropriate action to serve as deterrent for the recurrence of similar action.

Meanwhile, half of the 30 Senate seats currently occupied  are out for grabs during the October 14, 2014 Special Senatorial election, and for some of the Senators, the Constituency Break may have just been their last. Except of course for Grand Kru Senior Senator and former Senate Pro Tempore Cletus Segbe Wotorson who has declared that he was going into retirement, the remaining 14 hopefuls will have sleepless hours trying to patch up where they fell short of expectations.

Senators whose seats are up for the 2014 Special Poll include Joyce Musu Freeman-Sumo (CDC), Montserrado County; Pro Tempore Gbehzohngar Findley (Independent), Grand Bassa County; Mobutu Vlah Nyenpan (APD), Sinoe County; Abel Momlu Massalay (NPP), Grand Cape Mount County; John A. Ballout (UP), Maryland County; Prince Y, Johnson (NUDP), Nimba County; Madam Jewel Howard-Taylor (NPP), Bong County, and Sumo G. Kupee (UP), Lofa County.

Those whose seats are also out for grabs are Senators Isaac W. Nyenabo (NDPL), Grand Gedeh County; Lahai Gbagba Lansanah (UP), Bomi County; Clarice A. Jah (LP), Margibi County; J. Jonathan Banney (UP), River Cess County; Frederick D. Cherue (UP), River Gee, and J.S.B. Theodore Momo, Jr.(UP), Gbarpolu County.

Among those names, Montserrado Senator Joyce Musu-Sumo has vowed to go independent after her party’s standard bearer Ambassador George Manneh Weah’s open pronouncement that he will be a candidate for her seat in 2014. But, Mr. Weah is not alone eying the Montserrado County seat; Benjamin Sanvee and Ali Syllah are hot contestants too.

Apparently anger by her political leader’s decision, Senator Freeman-Sumo described his decision as undemocratic and termed him as an inconsistent politician whom she predicted may end up running for the House of Representatives in the 2017 Elections if he is not careful.

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