Liberia: Senate Explodes in Confusion

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Liberian flag.
3 September 2019

The chambers of the Liberian Senate on Capitol Hill exploded in anger and frustration here Monday when members of the senate realized that their decision to summon the Minister of Finance and Development Planning Samuel Tweah, was unilaterally overturned by Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor, who is also President of the Senate.

Vice President Taylor on Monday, September 02, admitted that she advised Minister Tweah not to show up at yesterday's special sitting of the Senate. Instead, she had scheduled Minister Tweah to appear today, Tuesday, September 03.

But the abrupt change sent the entire chambers in serious noise, as controversial Nimba County Senator Prince Yormie Johnson attempted leaving session due to what he considers disrespect shown Plenary, which is the highest decision-making body of the Senate.

Ms Taylor took about two minutes of the session to beg Senator Johnson not to step out of the chambers, pleading that such mistake won't be repeated.

Also arguing about the unconstitutional decision of the Vice President, Margibi County Senator Oscar Cooper describes Vice President Taylor's action as counterproductive, adding that it undermines the working of the Senate and exposes that body to public ridicule.

Sen. Cooper further laments that the decision by the Vice President squarely shows the Senate is being controlled by the Executive Branch of government.

But Madam Taylor, who appears to be confused in the presiding chair, publicly apologized for her action and begged for pardon, with full commitment that Minister Tweah will appear today before the Senate to detail rationale behind the harmonization of civil servants' salaries and benefits.

Last Tuesday, members of the Liberian Senate overwhelmingly voted for the appearance of Minister Tweah. The decision came as a result of growing anger amongst civil servants across the country over reported salary cuts by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP).

The Senate Plenary last week instructed Tweah to halt the salary harmonization scheme with immediate effect, pending it enactment into law, and to appear before full plenary or be made to face the wrath of that August Body.

However, appearing before the House of Representatives at the Capitol Thursday, 29 August Tweah informed members of the House that government has resolved to pay salaries in both United States Dollar and Liberian dollar components, but most employees don't have United States Dollar account, so they are being instructed to open United States Dollar accounts with commercial banks.

According to him, what is being disbursed to Civil Servants is 35 percent of their monthly salary, which is in Liberian dollars, while the balance 65 percent is being processed for payment thru United States Dollar accounts.

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