Liberia: Former Lawmaker Accuses Leadership of 54th Legislature Of “Stage Managing” Legislative Deliberations

Former Representative Byron Brown observed that members of the National Legislature have miserably failed over the years to work in the interest of those who elected them at the helm of power.

MONROVIA – In the midst of extreme poverty and hardship being experienced by vast majority of Liberians, former Grand Bassa County Representative Jeh Byron Brown has expressed serious disappointment over the alleged failure of the 54th National Legislature, through their respective leaderships, to work in the interest of the masses, rather than working to satisfy their governing Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) political party.

Lawmaker Brown represented the people of electoral district # 4 for two terms on the ticket of the opposition Liberty Party (LP) during the 52nd and 53rd National Legislatures respectively.

The Leaderships of the House of Representatives and the Liberian Senate are headed by Speaker Bhofal Chamber and Pro-Tempore Albert Chie of Maryland and Grand Kru Counties respectively.

Mr. Brown observed that members of the National Legislature have miserably failed over the years to work in the interest of those who elected them at the helm of power.

He made these comments in an interview with FrontPage Africa via telephone recently.

Mr. Brown emphasized that legislators, especially those from the ruling CDC are more “party mandate” than patriotic in the discharge of the constitutional tasks and responsibilities during legislative deliberations.

He noted that the huge percentage of lawmakers from the ruling party that make up the National Legislature is one of the contributing factors responsible for the “frustrating” manner and form in which they performed their duties.

He said though other lawmakers should have proffered cogent points or suggestions in the interest of the masses, those points are most often defeated or downplayed by CDC lawmakers during legislative proceedings.

 “The Legislature under Bhofal Chambers is not up to the task. I knew Chambers well, but I think the Legislature is quite different and very much disappointing. When you have the entire legislature or about 45% of the House of Representatives as supporters and members of the CDC, you find it very difficult to have a balance scale when it comes to legislative proceedings”.

Stage managing

For years now, Speaker Chambers has been consistently accused by some of his colleagues including Representatives Yekeh Kolubah, Richard Koon, Rustolyn Dennis, Hanson Kiazolu, and Francis Dopoh of Montserrado and River Gee counties respectively for siding and favoring his colleagues from the CDC over legislators hailing from other opposition political parties.

They claimed that Speaker Chambers has allegedly been in the constant habit of preventing their communications from getting on the agenda of the House for legislative deliberations to please officials and executives of his party who are serving in the executive branch.

They made specific references to a document calling for the establishment of a war and economic rimes court in Liberia and other relevant communications calling for heads of various government ministries, agencies and corporations to be summoned by the House Plenary to provide information on issues of national concern.

The Plenary is the highest decision making body of the House of Representatives.

According to the House’s rules and procedures, the agenda for legislative deliberations is prepared by the Chief Clerk in consultation with the Speaker.

Speaker Chambers has not been able to officially respond to the claims raised by the lawmakers, who are all from the opposition.

“Placing communications on the floor at the National Legislature is being stage managed by Speaker Chambers because they are more than the other people”.

Not sophisticated

The former Grand Bassa County lawmaker further observed that most of those serving at the National Legislature are new comers.

As a result of being novices to the stage managing of proceedings, he added that, these new comers are not sophisticated enough to properly grips the concepts of legislative proceedings.

Working in party’s interest

With both leaderships being headed by National Executive Committee (NEC) members of the CDC, Mr. Brown claimed that both the House of Representatives and the Liberian Senate are not working in the interest of the Liberian people.

According to him, the leaderships of both houses remain focused on working in the interest of the governing party, instead of their respective constituents.

He, however, fell short to point out or state an instance or scenario to back his claims.

“Most of the things that are done, especially from what we gathered from some lawmakers that their communications are not placed on the floor, I think it is all about their political party (CDC) sentiments”.

Call for retreat

Speaking further, Mr. Brown underscored the need for both leaderships of the National Legislature to see reason for the conduct of retreats for their respective membership.

According to him, experts on legislative concepts and proceedings should be invited to provide knowledge to legislators, especially the new comers.

 “The Legislators are honorable people, but there is a need for more retreats. They need to get in touch with people or institutions that are knowledgeable to legislative proceedings”.

Four ways to speak

Mr. Brown observed that most often, lawmakers, particularly those from opposition political parties, are denied from expressing their views on critical national issues during legislative deliberations.

He added that as a result of this, many of those who are not recognized by Speaker Chambers feel reluctant to speak on issues of national concerns, making their respective constituents back home to feel that they are not working in their interest.

He urged opposition lawmakers who are regularly denied from speaking by the Presiding Officer not to be complacent in speaking through additional means for their voices to be heard during plenary deliberations.

Mr. Brown, who is a veteran lawmaker, named the stating of unreadiness to vote, observation, the filing of a motion for reconsideration and information, among others as other means a lawmaker can speak without being denied by the Speaker, who is the Presiding Officer.

“I witnessed some of the proceedings where when someone lifts his or her hand to talk and you are not recognize, you put your hands down. I have never been a member of the Legislature and complained that the Speaker did not recognize me. The Legislature is more CDC dominant than the other and so, these lawmakers need to make use of these other means. There are lots of ways to speak at the Legislature”.

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