1 February 2019

Liberia's Ambassador to United States Not Recognized By Senate - Says Commissioning Was Illegally Done

Monrovia — Commissioned by President George Weah and his Letters of Credence have been accepted by President Donald Trump to represent Liberia in the United States, but to the Liberian Senate, Mr. George Patten is on an illegal mission in Washington.

Ambassador Patten was commissioned by President Weah on December 29, 2018 when the Legislature was on its annual recess.

His commissioning came under heavy criticism because it by-passed the constitutional procedure as enshrined in Article 54 of the Liberian Constitution.

Senate Votes for Recall

The Liberian Senate Thursday, January 31, voted in favor of a motion to recall Patten. The Senate's plenary took the decision because they believe the Ambassador's commissioning was unlawfully done by the Executive.

The President's decision was based on Rule 55 of the Liberian Senate which gives the him the authority to appoint officials of the Executive during their recess.

But Rule 55 further calls on the President to refer said appointment(s) to the Senate after their break for confirmation and appointment where necessary.

Last week the Senate's Plenary charged its Committees on Foreign Affairs and Judiciary with the responsibility to investigate a concern raised by Senator Nyounblee Karnga-Lawrence expressing concerns about Mr. Pattern's commissioning as ambassador without facing the Senate for confirmation.

The decision on whether or not to recall the Ambassador came based on recommendations from the Committees on Foreign Affairs and Judiciary, which urged the Senate's Plenary, in their report, to take its responsibility.

In a well proffered motion, Senator Gbleh-Bo Brown of Maryland County moved that the Senate immediately recalls the "Ambassador-designate" and be made to appear before the Senate in order to go through the confirmation and be re-assigned.

"I move that the Liberian Senate immediately recalls the Ambassador-designate to the United States and that he be made to face the Senate's confirmation before reassignment," the Maryland County lawmaker motioned.

Senator Varney Sherman of Grand Cape-Mount County, amending Sen. Brown's motion, asked the Maryland Senator change the word or terminology "recall". According to Sherman the use of "recall" will mean the process has been terminated.

Article 54 of the 1986 Liberian Constitution, "The President shall nominate and, with the consent of the Senate, appoint and commission cabinet ministers, deputy and assistant cabinet ministers; ambassadors, ministers, consuls; and the Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court and judges of subordinate courts; superintendents, other county officials and officials of other political sub-divisions; members of the military from the rank of lieutenant of its equivalent and above; and marshals, deputy marshals, and sheriffs.

We'll Not Remain Silent - Bar Association

During his induction as president of the Liberia National Bar Association, Cllr. Tiawon Gongloe lamented the flagrant disregard of the Constitution in the appointment of Patten as Ambassador the United States.

He said, "There is a current debate on whether the President can appoint an ambassador while the Senate is on recess, the clear legal answer to this is 'capital NO'; there is no provision under our Constitution for the appointment of an ambassador without the advice and consent of the Senate under any circumstances," Cllr Gongloe averred.

He added that other countries constitutional provision cannot be the justification for any illegal action of a public official in Liberia.

"Article 54 of the Constitution of Liberia provides for the appointment of public officials by the President. There is no exception to this mandatory constitutional procedure even if there is a state of emergency," Gongloe added.

He further argued, "No provision in the Constitution provide for "recess appointment".

"The constitution of other countries may have provision for the appointment of an official when the Senate is on recess for instance Article 2 section 2.3 of the American constitution quote that the President shall have power to fill vacancy that may happen during the recess of the senate but which shall expire by the end of the next session.

"But a provision from the United States Constitution cannot form the basis for appointing any officials in Liberia; the Constitution of Liberia provides how Liberia should be governed," said the popular human rights lawyer.

He frowned on lawyers for not speaking out when there are national contentious issues, adding that lawyers only confined themselves to issue brought to them by their clients.

"We will not and should not be silent individually and collectively as members of the legal profession and confine ourselves to only issues brought to us by those who are able to pay us for our services," he urged his colleagues.

"While the legal profession is the means we earn money to sustain ourselves like the bar of other countries the Liberian people look up to us to give them counsel when they are confused, whether their government and its functionaries are in the frame work of the law or not, only we can make that clarifications, when we fail to speak on illegal action by public officials, we must take the blame if conflict erupts from our silence," Gongloe said.

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