Senator Varney Sherman Must Relinquish Chairmanship on the Judiciary Committee

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Dear Editor,

It’s obvious that a decision regarding the fate of Senator Varney Sherman as chairman on the Judiciary Committee would be split among senators owing to sanctions by the U.S. Treasury Department. Ultimately, the majority, particularly the newly elected senators of the Collaborating Political Party (CPP) and others with principles, must carry the day.

The letter written by Senator Sherman to his colleagues was a clever strategy intended to primarily invoke sympathy and stave off any effort to remove him as chairman on the powerful Judiciary Committee. Senator Varney Sherman said in the letter “… saw it as an obligation to explain to them that the accusations are meritless.” There’s absolutely no obligation on his part to bring this matter to the Liberian Senate, as Article 44 of the Liberian constitution does not entertain such.  The learned Cllr. is undoubtedly knowledgeable about the aforementioned Article.

Senator’s Steve Zargo’s argument is also lame, “Today it is Sherman, tomorrow it could be any of us, if he is accused there should be proof.” What other proof does Senator Zargo need?  Senator Sherman has been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department under the Global Magnitsky Act based on evidence collected and verified. Period. Accordingly, concrete actions have been taken to support the public designation/sanction.  Visit www.lr.usembasssy.gov/harry varney gboto-nambi sherman.

The Senate must have the courage to take the hard decision.  Senator Sherman may challenge the public designation/sanction from the U.S. Treasury Department to proof his incorruptibility. It’s his right, and hope he does.  However, in the meantime, he must be stripped off his chairmanship on the Judiciary Committee because holding on to the chairmanship stigmatizes not just the Judiciary Committee he heads but also the entire Liberian Legislature.

If the CPP is determined to deviate from the business-as-usual mentality for which majority of its members were voted, then it must strongly encourage its lawmakers to remove Senator Varney Sherman as head of the Judiciary Committee temporarily despite an affirmation of confidence by the Senate’s leadership. Stripping the senator off his chairmanship must be carried out because one occupying such position must exhibit high moral standards or integrity.

Therefore, a deliberation on his removal must be brought up on the floor again because the longer he stays in that position, the reputation of members of the Liberian senate, especially the newly elected lawmakers, will be impugned. Any deviation from this objective makes newly certified lawmakers no different from those they’ve met at the Legislature.

“Putting on the light” means not only revealing things that have been kept in the dark but also upholding integrity and accountability. This is a test and an opportunity for the new CPP lawmakers to differentiate themselves. Liberians are hopeful that the newly elected senators will turn the page on malfeasance and stand for principles at the Liberian Senate.  Senator Sherman must be advised to relinquish (not recuse) his position on the Judiciary Committee.  It’s that simple!

Moreover, senators should not shy away from a moral obligation.  Why should the Senate contact the Foreign Ministry, as stated by Senator Dillon, to get involve in some private matter between the U.S. government and Senator Sherman? Did the Liberian government (Executive) get involve when U.S. Treasury Department placed similar sanctions on former Passport Director Andrew Wonplo? Let’s stop kidding because Liberians are not that ignorant. Senator Sherman should be the one contacting the Foreign Ministry or the U.S. Embassy to address this or his issue.

Senator Dillon also stated “we cannot be seen as aiding and abetting.” Where is the aiding and abetting? And how does the Senate get drawn in as an institution in this matter? Or, is Senator Dillon implying that there was no due diligence or thorough investigation done on the part of the United States Government, specifically the Treasury Department, placing sanction on Senator Sherman under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act?

In the first place, the Senate should NOT be involved in this matter EXCEPT a deliberation to select and ensure whoever occupying such position as chairman on the Judiciary Committee has no credibility issues. Such deliberation should only focus on replacing a member who has a blemished or shady character rather than deciding how much bribery one was involved in, etc. After proving his innocence, the senator may retain his chairmanship. Let’s take a look at the last sentence in Article 44 of the Liberian Constitution which states: …Disputes between legislators and non-members which are properly cognizable in the courts shall not be entertained or heard in the Legislature.

I applaud Senator Conmany Wesseh. He’s on track but not fair enough when he says “let sleeping dogs lie.” To protect the integrity of the Judiciary Committee of the Liberian Senate, Senator Sherman must relinquish his chairmanship at once.  And if the people of Cape Mount still desire his representation with such an obvious blemish on his character by the U.S. government, then it’s their volition.

Kudos to newly-elected Senator Jonathan Boye Charles Sogbie of River Gee County.  He must be commended for his courage as well as his unambiguous and patriotic stance. He said, “Senator Sherman should do the honorable thing by recusing himself from the Senate Committee on Judiciary as chair because the issue is about integrity and the sanctity of the Liberian Senate”.  This is exactly what Liberian people expect from lawmakers, especially the new ones – speaking truth to power regardless.

Finally, we need to stop the double standard; it does not help our country in any way when we make decision based on relationship or affinity.  Andrew Wonplo was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department and no longer works for the Executive; Senator Sherman must also in almost similar fashion relinquish his chairmanship on the Judiciary Committee but leave his political fate to the people of Grand Cape Mount County.

The onus is on the newly elected senators, especially of the CPP and other parties.  The Senate must have the fortitude to call a spade a spade. Any inaction by senators will likely trigger protests at the capitol to demand the removal of Senator Sherman as chairman of the Judiciary Committee. The judiciary is the last bastion of hope for our nascent democracy.  Therefore, any person in a judicial-related capacity (any of the three branches of government) must exhibit high moral standards.

Siaka Kamara
Patriotic Liberian

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