Senate President Pro-tempore, Armah Zolu Jallah
Pro-Tempore Office Debunks Report Of Executive Interference
MONROVIA, October 20 (LINA) - The office of the Senate President Pro-tempore, Armah Zolu Jallah, has described as ‘unfortunate, baffling and incoherent’ statements made by Margibi Senator Oscar Cooper and Bomi County Senator Sando Johnson that the “Executive attempts to Control the Legislature.”
Both Senators were reacting to changes made by the Pro-Tempore in some committees of the Senate.
The reshuffle affected four standing committees and three subcommittees under the Ways, Means, Finance and Budget Committee as well as one autonomous entity, including the Senate Committee on Public Works and Rural Development chaired by Senator Cooper.
Senator Cooper, however, rejected his appointment to other committees.
During his appearance on a local talk show on October 13, Senator Cooper said the Senate is now spineless and that he would never again sit under the gavel of Pro-Tempore Jallah.
Cooper accused Jallah of “selling the independence of the Senate to the Executive by taking instruction from President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.”
He was reacting to his removal as chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Public Works and Rural Development, which he blamed on the interference of the Executive Branch of Government based on his stance against Public Works Minister Gyude Moore, who was scheduled for a hearing before the Senate.
Senator Cooper, among other things, pointed out that salaries and benefits of Senators are still astronomical.
For his part, Senator Sando Johnson on October 17, on the same show, described as 'dangerous' a purported letter from Minister Moore requesting President Sirleaf to interfere with the Legislature and dictate the course of action as to what happens in the upper House.
Senator Johnson said as a member of the Public Works and Rural Development Committee, he was concerned about the manner in which the Ministry of Public Works was awarding contracts and the performances of contractors, and alleged that the replacement of Margibi County Senator Cooper was influenced by the President.
However, in a sharp reaction to the allegation, the office of the Senate Pro- Tempore explained that the replacement of Senator Cooper as Chairman of the Public Works Committee was never influenced by the Executive, as claimed by both Senators Cooper and Johnson.
Also on October 18, Senator Jewel Howard Taylor on another talk show, said that the Senate leadership is elected for a period of six years and that if any changes are to be effected it must be the Senate Plenary to decide otherwise.
In a press statement, the Pro-Tempore’s office clarified that the changes effected by Senator Jallah on September 19 were intended to imperatively ensure that the Liberian Senate maintains prudent independence and buttress performance.
“The replacement of Senator Cooper was never influenced by or related to the planned investigation of Public Works Minister Gyude Moore as stated, because the work of the Liberian Senate is continuity,” said the release.
It explained that Senator Jallah’s leadership remains uncompromisingly committed to the protection of the integrity of the Liberian Senate and that appointments within its structural committees should reflect the collective interest of Liberia.
“The restructuring of committees at the Liberian Senate, of which the Committee on Public Works is of no exception, does not imply that the Pro-Tempore arbitrarily replaces sitting Senators based on perceptions as claimed by these Senators,” the release stated.
The release further stressed that with the collective effort of duly seated Senators, it is cardinal that the body works cooperatively to ensure prosperity and encouraged aggrieved Senators to jointly ensure that the integrity of the Liberian Senate is maintained and that the office of the Senate Pro-Tempore will at all times unequivocally shun undue influence.
The Daily Observer newspaper in its October 18 edition, quoted Senator Johnson as saying the Pro-Tempore reserves all right to reshuffle Senate committees but wrong to change an individual Senator who is in the middle of an investigation because this creates doubts in the minds of the public, leaving them to wonder who may be telling the truth in the event of accusation.
The media also quoted Senator Johnson as telling the Pro-Tempore to “proceed if he wanted to change him because he was not elected by the people of Bomi to chair or become a member of any committee but to rather represent them and speak for them, and this will not stop him from being vocal on issues.”
“The office of the President Pro tempore wishes to also state that it is not the intention of the Pro-Tempore to silence any of the Senators he depends on to help make the Senate a professional, independent and efficient institution.
“We are therefore appealing to all Senators to utilize Galatians Chapter 6:1-2 in all issues and refrain from replacing the Senate Chamber with the media as this creates the impression that the Senate is divided,” the release said.