Chaos and Confusion in the House: ‘Representatives’ Violation of the People’s Trust

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Whoever heard of an open split in the House of Representatives, with the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker so aggressively at loggerheads that there are two separate sessions taking place?

One session is being presided over by the Speaker, with 34 members, and the other by the Deputy Speaker, Hans Barchue, a house member who himself has been accused, along with some of his rebellious cohorts, of missing sessions for an extended period.

Worse yet, the splinter group led by the Deputy Speaker, resorted to violence by ordering the breaking down of the door to the Joint Chambers in order to find a space to hold their separate sessions.

That in itself showed the utter disregard and disrespect for the Upper House, the Liberian Senate, which jointly with the lower chamber, the House, owns that Joint Chamber.

What right had Representative Edwin Snowe to order hackers to break down any door in the Capitol Building, most especially that which protects the chamber reserved for both Houses when there is need for a joint session?

Here is a classic case of lawlessness on the part of those who we call the nation’s “lawmakers” or the people’s representatives!

Their behavior is symptomatic (indicative) of the entire government being in disarray and behaving out of the ordinary. On the one hand, here is the national Legislature violating the people’s trust by behaving like children throwing tantrums in the so-called legislative chambers.

Here, on the other hand, are the two factions of one House, men and women in whom the people have put their trust, fighting in a disgraceful controversy, instead of sitting together like reasonable and responsible people to reconcile their differences. What message are they sending to us—that we, the ordinary Liberian people, should start throwing stones and bullets at one another and breaking up one another’s houses at the slightest provocation, in an uncontrollable return to war?

What respect do these so-called lawmakers expect from the electorate or from the media, when they—the lawmakers—behave in such a contemptuous and reckless manner, violating not only the rights of the Senate, co-owner of the Joint Chamber, but the sanctity of the Chamber itself.

Here, on the other hand, is the Executive Branch of government using the third branch of government—the Judiciary—through its Civil Law Court—to get at its perceived enemies in the press. Yes, it was the Civil Law Court that the Executive used last Saturday, August 13, 2016, to shut down Benoni Urey’s radio station and stop the Costa Show. In so doing, the Executive attempted to turn back the clock of constitutional tolerance—freedom of speech and of the press—for which the President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, is well known, respected and even honored around the world.

Does anyone wonder why it was necessary for the Deputy Minister of Information, Isaac Jackson, to explain the alleged court action? Could not the court, part of a separate branch of government, explain itself? Has anyone asked what implications does this have for public—even foreign— interpretation of Liberia’s judicial system?

Just like children who test their parents’ patience, sometimes leading the very parents to extreme violence against the children and landing themselves (the parents) into trouble with the law for it, so some media houses test the tolerance of the government, more specifically the presidency, with outrageous accusations.

Such was the case last weekend when the Costa Show used Mr. Urey’s station to interpret unwittingly and without measured analysis, a letter President Sirleaf wrote to House Speaker Tyler—a letter which Costa deemed tantamount to Global Witness’ “Big Boy 1.”

The Chief Executive could have easily explained to the public the purpose and intent of her letter to the House Speaker. After all, it was a standard letter she has always written to accompany a bill sent to the Legislature for enactment.

But rather, in a fit of anger, she moved forcefully against the station, LIB 24, with heavily armed paramilitary personnel, to enforce its immediate shut down.

That immediately opened the door for presidential aspirant Benoni Urey of the All Liberian Party to lash out at the President for having become an “oppressor,” when she was herself once “oppressed.”

Who in the country can do something to diffuse this eruption of mounting chaos, confusion and tension in the nation?

Who in Civil Society, the National Bar Association and the Media, the Religious Community, the Traditional Leaders, can come forward and resolve this political crisis that has erupted within the Legislature and the Executive, with some involvement of the Judiciary, too?

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