Liberia: The Senate Must Seriously Examine House Members' Request

Article 54 (a) of the Liberian Constitution gives power to the President to appoint and commission, with the advice and consent of the Liberian Senate, Cabinet Ministers, Deputy and Assistant Ministers and Heads of Autonomous Entities. In consonance with this constitutional provision, President George Weah last week appointed Tarplah Davis (alias Zoely Zoe) as Deputy Defense Minister for Operations and he is shortly to face the Liberian Senate for confirmation. The confirmation process gives to the Senate ground either to accept or reject the President's nomination.

As the Senate prepares for this all important national duty on today, December 5, some members of the House of Representatives have sent a warning to that august body not to confirm this appointed official. The Representatives recall that this man, Tarplah Davis, if confirmed, would be a key figure in the national army. They, the Representatives, quickly recalled that Tarplah Davis had made some threatening remarks against the citizens of the country. He even pledged to kill some Liberian citizens if they protest against or criticize President George Manneh Weah.

A communication to Senate Pro-Tempore Albert Chie, submitted by some Representatives, including Hanson Kiazolu of Montserrado District #17, Rustonlyn Suacoco Dennis of Montserrado District #4, and Francis Dopoh of River Gee District #3, called on the Senate not to confirm Tarplah Davis.

Our Legislative reporter, Leroy Sonpon, III, quoted the letter as saying, "David Tarplah sometime in May and June 2019, promised to kill any of his fellow Liberians should any of them, in a peaceful protest, damage or cause to damage his property during such peaceful protest."

The Representatives, in their statement to the Senate President Pro Temp, added, "We believe with if Mr. Davis could make such a statement when he was not in an official position, he would, if confirmed, believe that he has full authority to execute his plan against peaceful citizens.

"Mr. Pro-Tempore and members of the Senate, we, the independent Legislative Caucus within the Unity Party, pray your indulgence not to confirm Mr. Davis. Such confirmation," they warned, "would be to the detriment of the Liberian people."

Since the resumption of democratic governance in Liberia following the civil war, this is the first time Representatives have come out openly to caution the Senate about confirming a public official appointed by the President of the Republic. The Senate has usually conducted its business publicly without such a warning from members of the House of Representatives, and Senators have confirmed or rejected people on the basis of what the Senate deemed necessary to facilitate its decision.

This caution by Members of the House compels the Daily Observer also to call on the Senate to consider seriously the peace and security of Liberia and Liberians as they, the Senators, commence their confirmation process. We urge the Senate to be meticulous in examining the nomination before confirming or rejecting.

The first thing the Senate must do in engaging in this particular confirmation process is to investigate scrupulously (carefully, meticulously) those threats allegedly made by Tarplah Davis to "kill peaceful protesters" against President Weah's government. The Senate needs to take into consideration that this is a man who will, by virtue of his appointment, weigh very heavily on the operations of the national army, the AFL, which is mandated to protect Liberia and its citizens from external and internal aggression, observing human rights in totality without prejudice.

Should such a person be confirmed to be involved in any way with this critical national security body that many reckon to be the most trusted security apparatus now in the country, we are afraid that such confirmation would be dragging Liberia and its people back to the days when the army was under direct control of a tribal group and taking instructions from a tribal head. That, we can never afford to forget, led to the 14 years of anarchy and massive bloodshed and destruction of the country.

We have also heard in recent days how a notorious former rebel general, Augustine Nagbe (alias General Power), threatened to form a "Kru Defense Force" to protect President Weah, who is also Kru. Nagbe posits (speculates) that the state security cannot protect the President. Even though the public is yet to know what becomes of General Power, his threatening statements, being is very similar to those attributed to Davis', brings to mind how Samuel Doe's regime reduced the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) almost exclusively to members of the Krahn ethnic group, who went about indiscriminately killing innocent people of other tribes, Gio and Mano people in particular in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Besides the statement attributed to Davis, the Senate, which represents the entire country, needs also to consider other factors that are counterproductive to reconciliation, equity and the Liberian Constitution.

In the George Weah Administration, the majority of key government officials, including ministers, deputy ministers and most directors of autonomous agencies are from the southeast, basically composed of members of the Kru and Krahn tribes.

Some ministries, agencies and public institutions with heads and deputies from the Kru and Krahn tribes are Ministry of Finance and Development Planning; Ministry of Commerce and Industry; Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs & Tourism; Ministry of Public Works; the Central Bank of Liberia; the University of Liberia; the National Housing Authority; the Liberia National Police; the General Services Agency; the Liberia Revenue Authority; the Liberia Airport Authority; and the National Port Authority, amongst others.

Furthermore, the Senate itself and the House are headed by lawmakers from the southeast and of the same political party.

This concentration of public officials from a set of closely related tribes contradicts Article 5(c) of the Liberian Constitution, which states that the Republic shall take steps by appropriate legislation and executive orders to eliminate sectionalism and tribalism.

Article 18 of the same Constitution states that every Liberian is given equal opportunity for work and employment in government or the private sector regardless of sex, creed, religion, ethnic background, place of origin or political affiliation. We strongly hold the view that this aristocratic setup, prioritizing certain tribes, undermines reconciliation, equity and violates the Constitution.

It is, therefore, our plea that the Senate considers all factors that undermine our Constitution and national existence and act appropriately so that the peace of this country may be sustained and protected and every Liberian feels equally protected a part of the process.

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