The decision whether the so-called ‘majority block’ of the House of Representatives has authority (legal right) to boycott sessions under indicted Speaker Alex J. Tyler, Sr. and compel him to recuse himself through a resolution in a separate session, rests with one person: Justice-in-Chambers, Jamesetta H. Wolokollie.
Probably today or anytime this week, Justice Wolokollie is expected to “rule” either to uphold or dismiss the petition for Writ of Prohibition to prohibit the lawmakers from presiding in separate sessions. The petition was filed on August 12 at about 2:26pm, under the title: “J. Alex Tyler, Speaker of the House of Representatives petitioner versus some members of the House of Representatives, led by Deputy Speaker, Hans Barchue, along with Numene Bartekwa, Chairman, and Munah Pelham-Youngblood as secretary.”
In a Writ of Prohibition, petitioner Speaker Tyler prayed that the Supreme Court order the respondents, as members of the House of Representatives, to return to the Chambers of the House of Representatives, designated for the conduct of all legislative matters with him (Tyler) as petitioner, the duly elected and recognized speaker of the House of Representatives, presiding.
He wants the court to “prohibit, enjoin and restrain respondents from conducting any legislative affairs, matters or meetings in the Joint Chambers of National Legislature.”
Speaker Tyler further requests the court to conduct a hearing and thereafter grant a ‘Pre-emptory Writ of Prohibition, prohibiting, enjoining and restraining the respondents from pursuing illegal, unlawful, unconstitutional and irregular procedure, method and process to remove him from the office of Speaker of the House of Representatives.”
He notes in his petition that an indictment is a formal written accusation of a crime, made by a grand jury and presented to a court for prosecution against the accused, and that under “our law, a defendant in a criminal action is presumed to be innocent until the contrary is proved.”
Speaker Tyler submits to the Supreme Court that respondents have publicly told Liberians and the world at large that they have signed a resolution seeking to have “him recuse himself from presiding over the House of Representatives, which is inconsistent and in keeping with its Standing Rules.”
Speaker Tyler argued in his Petition that there is no provision under the Constitution of Liberia and the Rules of the House of Representatives that provides for recusal of an elected officer of the House of Representatives.
“That there is no provision under the Constitution and Rules of the House of Representatives providing for recusal of an elected officer of the House of Representatives. What the Constitution and the Rules of the House of Representatives provide for is removal of officer or expulsion of members of the House of Representatives,” he said in his petition.
According to the petition, Speaker Tyler said in an effort to remove him, respondents on Thursday, August 11, broke into the Joint Chamber of the Senate and Representatives under the disguise of convening a session of the House of Representatives presided over by Deputy Speaker,
Hans Barchue, during which it was said they passed a resolution removing him as speaker.
“The conduct of the respondents in illegally and unlawfully convening a meeting in the Joint Chambers of the National Legislature for the purpose of ousting and removing petitioner, J. Alex Tyler from the office of Speaker of the House of Representatives is in violation of both the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia and the House Standing Rules,” his petition said.
The Speaker quoted Article 49 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia, which provides that the Speaker shall be the presiding officer of the House of Representatives; and Rule 4.1 of the Standing Rules of the 53rd Legislature also provides that the Speaker shall call the Honorable House of Representatives to order at the commencement of each day’s session, including presiding over each day’s session.
The Brazil experience: ‘Mini-me?’
Tyler’s case is not unique – in fact, his is a microcosm of a nearly identical situation involving the ousted Brazilian Speaker, the country’s female President and corruption allegations.
The Brazilian Supreme Court unanimously voted to remove Speaker Eduardo Cunha for obstructing investigation of corruption accusations against him. Many political and legal pundits are debating whether the Brazilian case would inspire the Liberian Supreme Court’s decision with regard to Speaker Tyler.
Cunha is the only sitting politician so far officially charged by the Brazilian Supreme Court with corruption in the sweeping kickbacks scandal focused on state oil company Petrobras.
Cunha previously launched impeachment proceedings against Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff last December on charges she broke budget laws. She was suspended, though it was not long afterward that Cunha himself was investigated and ousted from his post.
Sirleaf likewise Rousseff
Reports have it that since the 4th Session of the Legislature (2015), Speaker Tyler and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf have been at loggerheads with threat of impeachment against the President from lawmakers of Maryland and Montserrado counties, Dr. Bhofal Chambers and Acarous Gray.
Probably, the President has also learned a “lesson” from her Brazilian counterpart and couldn’t allow “Speaker Tyler – a corrupt politician” to threaten her with impeachment.
But other reports say the Speaker has been accused of “adamantly refusing” the passage of offshore oil blocks and some financial agreements and masterminding the resignations of the exodus of Unity Party stalwarts.
The quarrel between the President and the Speaker escalated to the point, where in a press conference Speaker Tyler accused President Sirleaf of blackmail, financial inducement and other dictatorial and undemocratic schemes to unseat him, claims that the President’s office rejected and condemned.
As the case now goes to the Supreme Court, many observers are watching whether a decision there might sustain or stall the legislative work of vetting and passing the national budget.