Liberia: Do Lawmakers Have Too Many Holidays?

Rep. Koon: "The 18-week break ... is a complete waste of the Liberian people's resources and a complete waste of time..."

One opposition lawmaker thanks so and wants Legislative annual recess cut by two months

In such a time of tremendous economic hardship in the Liberia, characterized by chronic shortages of local currency and other essential and basic commodities, along with a plethora of pop-up issues of national concern, Liberians are craving for answers, most especially at the feet of the Legislative and Executive branches of government.

With the Legislature's annual recess of which constituency break is the longest - August 31 to the second working Monday in January - approximately of 18 weeks - a member of the opposition political parties in the House of Representatives has termed the constituency break as a complete waste of taxpayers' money. Besides the 18 weeks' constituency break, members of the Senate and House of Representatives annually benefit from two additional breaks, each consisting of two weeks, in observance of Easter and Independence celebrations.

More besides between August 31 to the 2nd working Monday in January, the Legislature is also entitled to a break on six public holidays - Armed Forces Day (February 11), Decoration Day (second Wednesday in March), J.J. Roberts Birthday (March 15), Fast and Prayer Day (two weeks), National Unification Day (May 14) and Flag Day (August 24). This means the Legislature are off from work for 24 weeks - about 167 days- out of the 52-week calendar year - Easter (two weeks); Independence (two weeks); Public Holidays (one week) and constituency break (18 weeks).

In a communication to House Speaker Dr. Bhofal Chambers, the Montserrado County District #11 Representative, Richard Nagbe Koon, indulged the Speaker and his colleagues to reduce their 18-week constituency break to approximately ten weeks, which would then run from October 31 to the second working Monday in January. Rep. Koon's communication is expected to be discussed in session on Tuesday, February 18.

Rep. Koon, who is also a member of the House's Public Account and Expenditure; Budget Committee and the Legislature's Joint Budget Committee, said he considered it "very wasteful, relating to the length of time that we stayed on break struggling with the new budget after its passage. Therefore, the 18 weeks break (August 31 - the 2nd working Monday in January) is a complete waste of the Liberian people's resources and a complete waste of time, whereby legislators are not doing anything tangible as it relates to the Legislative work, but only to present to their constituencies their legislative updates and during which time the legislators also visit their constituencies and confer with their people."

Rep. Koon: "I therefore suggest that our constituency break be reduced to 10 weeks (October 31 to the 2nd working Monday in January) and advertently it will reduce the cost of too many extra or extraordinary sessions and give the Legislature ample time to do the Liberian people's work and a means of justifying our just benefits.

"I want this honorable body to do justice to the Liberian people and the government at large, to quickly look into this issue as it is a matter of Regulation and not a Constitutional issue," Rep. Koon wrote.

in support to Rep. Koon's suggestion, Montserrado County District #13 Representative, Edward Papay Flomo, told the Daily Observer via mobile phone: "I am 100% in agreement in the cut of the constituency break by two months. I believe more works are required of us."

Two other lawmakers, who requested not to be named because of of their close affiliation with the ruling political Coalition, also told the Daily Observer via mobile phone, separately, that the 18 weeks' constituency is very long.

"I would prefer from November 28 to the 2nd Working Monday in January," one of them said. "We need to spend more time at the Legislature."

The other lawmaker also agreed, saying: "I agreed with comrade Koon - I am in support to his recommendation and I must say it is an excellent idea."

The Rules and Procedures of either House can be amended with two-thirds votes. As for the House of Representatives, at least 39 lawmakers can vote to approve an amendment (change), while for the Senate is at least 19 Senators. The Rules and Procedures of either House is in consonance with Article 38 of the 1986 Constitution. "Each House shall adopt its own rules of procedures, enforce order and with the concurrence of two-thirds of the entire memberships... "

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