17 January 2019

Liberia: Senate May Request Recall of 'Ambassador' Patten, Weah's Handpicked Envoy

There are growing signals that the "unconstitutionally" commissioned Liberian Ambassador to the United States, George Patten, may be recalled to help avert bad blood between the Legislature and the Executive branches of the government.

According to diplomatic sources, the pending Patten recall will also save the George Weah Administration from another embarrassment, after a recent incident involving the President's first choice for Ambassador to the United States, now Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Madam Teta Gurley Gibson, who was rejected by the U.S. government because she holds U.S. citizenship.

Political commentators believe the appearance of the ambassador-designate and Foreign Minister Gbehzongar Findley will be used mainly to request the two to offer an apology, allowing the committee on foreign affairs to conduct a confirmation hearing.

This speculation comes on the heels of a recent communication from Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules, Order and Administration, who is seeking the indulgence of plenary to request the appearance of Minister Findley and George S. W. Patten, the country's Ambassador-designate to the United States, for "the blatant violation of Article 54b of the Constitution of Liberia."

"The Constitution, which is the organic law of the state, is very clear and for the sake of understanding and observance, depicts in Article 54b: 'The President shall have nominated and, with the consent of the Senate, appoint and commission ambassadors, ministers, consuls... .,'" Senator Lawrence's letter, dated on Monday, January 14, 2019, and read before plenary on Tuesday, January 15, noted.

Senator Karnga-Lawrence wondered, "How then [could] the President nominate but, without the consent of the Senate, appoint and commission Patten? This action by the Executive is a sheer violation of the Liberian Constitution."

The Senate, convening its first sitting Tuesday in the central-cool but not-spacious conference room of the new Chinese constructed Senate Annex on Capitol Hill, was further requested for its constitutional indulgence to "invite Findley and Patten so as to explain their actions and reasons, which necessitated the constitutional violation."

Grand Kru County Senator Peter Sonpon Coleman, a medical doctor by profession, and chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, proffered a motion for the transfer of the communication to the Committee on Foreign Affairs and to report to plenary in one week's time.

The motion, which was somehow reluctantly approved, did not seem to have gone well with Senator Karnga-Lawrence who, as noted in arguments with her colleagues, anticipated some discussions on her communication, which is usually done with very important documents.

It can be recalled that sometime last year, President Weah nominated and the Senate confirmed Madam Gurley Gibson, Liberian Ambassador to the United States; but she was reportedly rejected by the Donald Trump Administration, after it was discovered that she was an American citizen.

Madam Gibson was then nominated and commissioned as Ambassador to the Court of St. James in the United Kingdom.

The hurried nomination and subsequent commissioning of Patten outside the involvement of the Senate has plunged the country into political and constitutional debates, with many citizens, especially the opposition, describing it as a blatant violation and disregard for the Constitution.

Some government officials have frantically argued that no constitutional provision was violated; with some even citing that United States President Donald Trump had used such power to commission nominees while the Senate was on recess.

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