17 April 2019

Liberia: Rep. Yekeh Kolubah Threatened With Expulsion From House of Representatives

Montserrado County District #10 Rep. Yekeh Kolubah threatened expulsion from the House of Representatives for his utterances.

-- Rep. Fallah discloses

Tough talking and controversial District# 10 Representative Yekeh Kolubah has been threatened with expulsion from the House of Representatives if he does not , within three months, retract and apologize for remarks he allegedly made about unseating the government of President Weah.

According to Montserrado County District#5 Representative Thomas Fallah if Rep. Kolubah does not desist from consistently and continuously bringing the House of Representatives into 'disrepute' with his 'reckless and insulting comments' he will either be suspended if he is lucky, or expelled based on Rule 40 of the House's Rules and Procedures.

Rep. Fallah said majority members of the House, at least 49 members, in accordance to the House's Rules and Procedures, will either suspend or expel Rep. Kolubah for 'bad conduct and undesirable acts.'

"I want to use this time to urge my colleague and my nephew (that's how we call one another in Lofa), Rep. Kolubah, to desist from raining insults and bringing the Honorable House of Representatives [into disrepute] and, if he does not desist and continues as of this (Tuesday) evening or tonight, if he is lucky he will be suspended and, when bad-lucky, he will be expelled," he said.

Rep. Fallah further urged Rep. Kolubah to limit his advocacy on policy issues, including the economy, health and other basic social issues, but not make unsubstantial issues and rain insults, which will cast a dark cloud on the Legislature and the government.

But legal experts here, commenting on Representative Fallah's remarks, have scoffed the idea of having Yekeh expelled from the body on account of statements he has allegedly made against the President. They maintain that threats to have Yekeh expelled if actualized could provoke a constitutional crises with implications for peace and stability in Liberia.

They further noted that such threats are intended to institutionalize the criminalization of free speech and expression s guaranteed under Article 15 of the Constitution.

Article 15 of the Constitution provides the following: a) Every person shall have the right to freedom of expression, being fully responsible for the abuse thereof. This right shall not be curtailed, restricted or enjoined by government save during an emergency declared in accordance with this Constitution.

b) The right encompasses the right to hold opinions without interference and the right to knowledge. It includes freedom of speech and of the press, academic freedom to receive and impart knowledge and information and the right of libraries to make such knowledge available. It includes non-interference with the use of the mail, telephone and telegraph. It likewise includes the right to remain silent.

c) In pursuance of this right, there shall be no limitation on the public right to be informed about the government and its functionaries.

d) Access to state owned media shall not be denied because of any disagreement with or dislike of the ideas express. Denial of such access may be challenged in a court of competent jurisdiction.

e) This freedom may be limited only by judicial action in proceedings grounded in defamation or invasion of the rights of privacy and publicity or in the commercial aspect of expression in deception, false advertising and copyright infringement.

Moreover, according to a leading legal practitioner(name withheld) , Article 42 of the Constitution of Liberia provides that "No member of the Senate or House of Representatives shall be arrested, detained, prosecuted or tried as a result of opinions expressed or votes cast in the exercise of the functions of his office".

Article 42 further provides that "Members shall be privileged from arrest while attending, going to or returning from sessions of the Legislature, except for treason, felony or breach of the peace. All official acts done or performed and all statement made in the Chambers of the Legislature shall be privileged, and no Legislator shall be held accountable or punished therefor".

The legal practitioner questioned whether or not Yekeh is being threatened with contempt of the Legislature. And in case he is, according to the lawyer, Article 44 of the Constitution of Liberia specifically provides that "Contempt of the Legislature shall consist of actions which obstruct the legislative functions or which obstruct or impede members or officers of the Legislature in the discharge of their legislative duties and may be punished by the House concerned by reasonable sanctions after a hearing consistent with due process of law".

Article 44 further provides that "No sanctions shall extend beyond the session of the Legislature wherein it is imposed, and any sanction imposed shall conform to the provisions on Fundamental Rights laid down in the Constitution".

According to the lawyer the last part of Article 44 has to do with disputes between legislators and non-members which, according to the Constitution, shall not be entertained or heard in the Legislature if such disputes are properly cognizable before the courts. But more to that, according to the lawyer, under Article 20 of the Constitution Yekeh cannot be deprived of his privilege as a legislator "except as the outcome of a hearing judgment consistent with the provisions laid down in the Constitution and in accordance with due process of law".

The lawyer in closing said gone are the days when an elected member of the House could be expelled at the whims of the Executive under the cover of what was at the time referred to as a Joint Resolution (JR). He observed that during TWP rule a former legislator, at the time from Grand Gedeh County, Chea Cheapoo was expelled from the House because he had run afoul of the True Whig Party elites who dominated local politics, according to the lawyer.

Meanwhile it remains to be seen whether Representative Fallah can indeed make good on his threats which may, more likely than not, prove untenable.

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