31 January 2013

Liberia: Senators Rain Insults!

It was a dramatic scene on Wednesday in the Chambers of the Liberian Senate when confusion erupted between Nimba County Senior Senator Prince Y. Johnson, and Grand Kru County Senator Cletus Wotorson.

Senator Prince Y. Johnson

The characterized by the use of profanity during debate on whether or not, Liberia should deploy troops in Mali for peacekeeping mission.

The two Senators were locked in bitter exchanges in the presence of Finance Minister Amara Konneh, and Defense Minister Brownie Samukai, who both had gone to the upper House to explain the operational functions and financial implications of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) participating in peace mission in Mali.

It all started when Senator Wotorson was explaining to Minister Samukai that he (Wotorson) had previously requested an inquiry on President Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf's letter to the Senate, seeking their approval for the government's plan to deploy a platoon of the army in the West African state.

In his explanation, Sen. Wotorson accused Senator Johnson, who is current Chair of the Senate's Standing Committee on National Security and Defense, of not consulting with the rest of his committee members on security matters.

With these comments from Sen. Wotorson, also a former Pro-tempore, Senator Johnson wasted no time in responding harshly; referring to his colleague as a "sick lawmaker", and that he was not responsible for him not being in office during some of those consultations with his (Johnson's) committee members.

Sen. Wotorson then branded Sen. Johnson as a killer, who is mentally bereaved. "You are insane [from] dedicating [your] time to killing innocent people, all in the name of war. In fact, you were elected because of fear from the people of Nimba", the ageing Senator replied his colleague.

But reacting to the accusation, Sen. Johnson said he is more popular than Sen. Wotorson in terms of electioneering, saying, "You contested in 1997 elections and you were among the least candidates; for me, my party took third place, placing me in the position to be the king maker."

Senator Wotorson in apparent anger told Sen. Johnson that he ( Sen. Wotorson) personally bribed Johnson and his "so-called NUDP" during the 2011 election on behalf of the governing Unity Party for votes.

Senator Cletus Wotorson

The acrimonious exchanges nearly disrupted regular session when the Presiding Officer and President of the Senate, Vice President Joseph N. Boakai, called both senators to order.

With the intervention of the VP Boakia and other lawmakers, the session resumed, but there were side comments made repeatedly across the floor from the two Lawmakers to the extent that Sen. Johnson threatened to strike back if his colleague Wotorson did not apologize.

"Mr. Vice President, I'm a statesman in this country, who contested the presidential elections and took third place.

"He must respect me and apologize for insulting me in the midst of the spectators. I take serious exception to his behavior towards me. I need an open apology or else" an enraged Sen. Johnson demanded.

In response, Sen. Watorson said he does not owe any apology to Sen. Johnson because he (Johnson) was the first to throw insults at him, vowing "If I apologize, let me resign as Senator of my county."

Meanwhile, VP Boakai has promised to take the matter to the Senate's leadership to find an amicable settlement.

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