Drive by the Capitol Building any given night and one thing strikes instantly, and that is the darkness which envelops the entire building, the newly constructed annexes built by the Peoples Republic of China and the entire courtyard.
Enter the building on any given day and check out the rest rooms: they are all filthy, according to staffers at the Capitol. Also visit the Legislative library to do some research, and you will be greeted by doors slammed shut in your face.
The question that comes readily to mind is just why legislators or lawmakers, as they prefer to call themselves, who approve the budget, will not provide sufficient funding to maintain the Capitol Building? That the Capitol remains swallowed in darkness nightly speaks volumes about the character of our legislature, especially its leadership.
But even more disappointing is the fact that the Legislative library and resource center has had its doors shut to the public and even to members and staffers of the Legislature.
The late President Charles D. B. King once said, “a fish begins to rot from the head”. In all of this, the public is left wondering whether the apparent neglect of the home of the Legislature is symbolic or symptomatic of this rot eating away the innards of government beginning with the first branch.
Why, for example, would the Legislature fail to appropriate funds for the maintenance and upkeep of the Capitol but in the same vein would transfer money outside the budget to private interests?
This brings us to the current sour relations between the Speaker of the House and some representatives who have accused him of corruption, citing the illegal tampering of the national budget after it had been passed into law.
The ongoing debacle could, if left unchecked, likely lead to paralysis of the House of Representatives. Some representatives are reported to be openly calling for the expulsion, from that body, of legislators involved in the feud with Speaker Chambers.
The question which arises is whether a group of legislators can legally or constitutionally dismiss another legislator on account of views expressed on issues of national concern. Article 42 of the Constitution is instructive on this note:
“No member of the Senate or House of Representatives shall be arrested, detained, prosecuted or tried as a result of opinions expressed or votes cast in the exercise of the functions of his office. Members shall be privileged from arrest while attending, going to or returning from sessions of the Legislature, except for treason, felony or breach of the peace. All official acts done or performed and all statement made in the Chambers of the Legislature shall be privileged, and no Legislator shall be held accountable or punished therefor.”
Further to the above, Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution also provide protection against the prohibition of free speech.
“All persons shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment thereof except as may be required by law to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others. All persons who, in the practice of their religion, conduct themselves peaceably, not obstructing others and conforming to the standards set out herein, shall be entitled to the protection of the law. No religious denomination or sect shall have any exclusive privilege or preference over any other, but all shall be treated alike; and no religious tests shall be required for any civil or military office or for the exercise of any civil right. Consistent with the principle of separation of religion and state, the Republic shall establish no state religion.”
Article 15 (a)
“Every person shall have the right to freedom of expression, being fully responsible for the abuse thereof. This right shall not be curtailed, restricted or enjoined by government save during an emergency declared in accordance with this Constitution.
(b) “The right encompasses the right to hold opinions without interference and the right to knowledge. It includes freedom of speech and of the press, academic freedom to receive and impart knowledge and information and the right of libraries to make such knowledge available. It includes non-interference with the use of the mail, telephone and telegraph. It likewise includes the right to remain silent.
(c) “In pursuance of this right, there shall be no limitation on the public right to be informed about the government and its functionaries.
(d) “Access to state-owned media shall not be denied because of any disagreement with or dislike of the ideas expressed. Denial of such access may be challenged in a court of competent jurisdiction.
(e) “This freedom may be limited only by judicial action in proceedings grounded in defamation or invasion of the rights of privacy and publicity or in the commercial aspect of expression in deception, false advertising and copyright infringement.
Given the foregoing, the public is left to question whether colleagues of Representatives Yekeh Kolubah, Adolph Lawrence, Larry Youquoi, et al, do actually have the power to expel any of these individuals from the National Legislature. More importantly these individuals have called into question the integrity of the Speaker, accusing him of impropriety. He must address these concerns rather than seeking subterfuges to shield himself from probity and accountability.
And this newspaper cannot help but remind Speaker Chambers of the fury and fire he unleashed against former President Sirleaf during her tenure. He shunned her when she extended a hand of friendship to him. Strange therefore that Speaker Chambers appears to have made a U-turn on the things he once railed against and the values of integrity he once openly purported to have espoused. We ask thus, has the salt lost its savor?