Liberia: Making Sense of Senator Albert Tugbeh Chie's Anti-Democratic Rants

"Here, the rules of the Liberian Senate are the Bible of the Senate. This is a political house that you do what it says. You were elected by the people of Montserrado County but, from today's date, you belong to the Liberian Senate and that is why the framers of the Constitution stated that the power to remove you from here is not with the Liberian people, it is with us here; we alone have that power.

"Here Mr. Senator, we act beyond party lines. We act and think independently; no party dictates to us. Within six months, Mr. Senator, you will understand that we do serious business here because legislative politics is practical and different from church book politics. Here, we are masters of our own rules."

Those were the words contained in the response of Grand Kru Senator and President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Albert Tugbeh Chie, to Montserrado County Senator Darius Dillon. Senator Dillon, since his election to the Senate has been a very critical voice on pressing issues of national concern.

More besides, he has often publicly voiced his criticisms of the workings of the Senate under the leadership of Senator Chie. His recent remarks lambasting those senators who had signed Chie's bogus resolution, calling them cowards and spineless, has apparently infuriated Senator Chie to the point where he has threatened to have Senator Dillon expelled from the Senate.

But Senator Chie's declaration that once elected, the power to remove Senator Dillon from office rests no longer with the people who elected him but with a band of 30 other men and women (including the President of the Senate) is a gross misinterpretation of Article 38 of the Constitution:

"Each House shall adopt its own rules of procedure, enforce order and with the concurrence of two-thirds of the entire membership, may expel a member for cause. Each House shall establish its own committees and sub-committees; provided, however, that the committees on revenues and appropriations shall consist of one member from each County. All rules adopted by the Legislature shall conform to the requirements of due process of law laid down in this Constitution".

On the flip side, Article 42 clearly states:

"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. 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".

This means, for example, if a member of the House faces criminal charges, he can be expelled upon conviction. Additionally, if a member of that body is found guilty of a felonious offense, that will constitute grounds for removal. But from all indications, Senator Dillon has not committed nor is he charged with committing a felonious offense.

His only crime appears to be his open criticisms of his colleagues who he believes are not acting in the best interests of the country. And for this he is being threatened with expulsion in attempt to create a vacancy in the Senate which could be filled by a party loyalist or surrogate.

Article 1 of the Constitution clearly provides that the power to change governments or cause public servants to leave office is inherent in the people and not in a little band of 30 plus 1 men and women.

Further to the above, Senator Dillon's "harsh" words may have riled many senators who feel personally insulted, particularly Senator Albert Chie. And he (Chie) has, accordingly, threatened retribution by having his colleague expelled from the Senate.

Such threats to have Dillon expelled because he may have "insulted" some senators has no Constitutional basis and it further exposes Senator Chie's ignorance of the Constitution. Perhaps Senator Chie needs to be reminded that, granted Dillon may have insulted some senators or even all, it is matter which is cognizable before a court of law, of competent jurisdiction.

Again, this is clearly spelt out in Article 44 of the Constitution which says, "Disputes between legislators and non-members which are properly cognizable in the courts shall not be entertained or heard in the Legislature". By extension, this includes disputes between legislators as well, which are cognizable before a court of law.

But more to the point, Senator Chie's remarks are out-rightly anti-democratic. This is because they tend to suggest that Dillon's open critical stance on issues of public concern warrants his expulsion from the Senate as a way of silencing him. Should Senator Chie actualize his threats, it will spell doom and a virtual death knell for democracy and freedom of expression in Liberia.

Senator Chie should be reminded that awarding monopoly concession rights through dubious means over virtually the entire mineral-rich southeast, to a fly by night company (Hummingbird Resources) in which he is shareholder constitutes more than sufficient reasons to have him expelled from the Senate for betraying the interest of the Liberian people, particularly Liberians from that part of the country which is most socially deprived with its people mired in poverty.

And lest he forget, Senator Chie needs to be reminded that he was previously dismissed from the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy by President Sirleaf for corruption. At the end of the day he will have to account. If others before him had to face public execution for corruption, there is no guarantee that he will forever continue to elude the long arms of justice and the law.

"Kaka dey long tay... ... ". It is an old Krio proverb Senator; check it out!

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