Weighing the first branch of government in terms of performance and responsible conduct, the public at some point has been seeing the Senate in high esteem.
Unlike the House of Representatives where some lawmakers, both current and past, have been accused of compromising their integrity for cash, many people have referred to the Senate as a “house of elders” with most of its members seen as people of independent minds who could assess issues on the basis of merit and make decisions that actually favor the country.
However, this seems not to be the case any longer as this upper House of the National Legislature is now divided against itself with members accusing one another for unethical behaviors least expected of them.
It all started in the recent decision taken by the Legislature to impeach former Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh, during which some Senators were said to have allegedly received bribes to vote in favor of removing the Associate Justice.
Senators Sando Johnson of Bomi County, Conmany Wesseh of River Gee County, Oscar Cooper of Margibi County and others contend that some members of the Senate allegedly received not less than US$50,000 to vote for the removal of Ja’neh.
These Senators have also gone ahead to accuse the Senate Pro-Tempore, Albert Chie of tampering with the ballots cast during the voting on March 28. According to Senators Sando Johnson and Oscar Cooper, the Pro-Tempore, instead of displaying the ballots in an open chamber for all to see, he concealed it and the ballot box was not sealed as required under the conduct of a transparent election but opened.
They also accused Pro-Tempore Chie of taking the ballot box to his residence after the vote cast; something which leaves them doubtful that the process was transparent.
Those discontented Senators have gone further to challenge their Pro-Tempore to display the ballots in the open to identify each person’s vote by his/her signature and county.
The Senators have also described the action to impeach Associate Justice, Kabineh Ja’neh as “unconstitutional,” noting that it was done on the basis of satisfying the Executive.
Also in a recent broadcast on a local radio, Senator Sando Johnson also accused Pro-Tempore Chie of grossly insulting him and ordering him (Senator Johnson) to be investigated for “Gross disrespect.”
Senator Johnson on the radio vowed to demonstrate an equal reaction in case Pro-Temp Chie repeats what he (Johnson) alleges him of.
Since these bitter exchanges erupted in the Senate, the respect it once had has begun to dwindle. Public reactions monitored on the radio and social media have given a tainted picture of the Senators as people without integrity but gluttons who are there to seek their personal interest against the state.
In fact Senator Oscar Cooper, following the impeachment, was on the media saying that the Senate is no more a place of integrity but of compromise, and that he was going to reach out to his constituents in Margibi to inform them that he can no longer fit in that branch of government that should be independent of the Executive.
Our reporter, Hannah Geterminah, in her report on April 10 said the Senate was divided against itself with some accusing others of carrying on an unconstitutional impeachment, in violation of the Liberian Constitution.
The demeaning situation unfolding in the Liberian Senate does not only impact the members, but the entire country as well. We believe that with this unfolding event, investors will have the fear to come to the country since members of the Liberian Senate can attest to bribes that have been reported over a period of time in the Legislature.
While the negative consequences of the Senate’s action may reflect on the country, its members must also remember that they are stabbing themselves in the neck.
The wise saying goes that “Respect is not demanded, but built.” One social issue facing Liberia is respect for the rule of law and for leadership — to the point that, without any courtesy, people go ahead nowadays to approach their leaders in manner unbecoming of a civilized society.
The conduct of the Legislature now backs this social issue, and there is no doubt that they are losing respect from the citizens; something we at the Daily Observer can candidly say that it is a SELF-INFLICTED WOE.