Liberia: As Senate Adjourns - Pro-Tempore Recounts Achievements

The Liberian Senate, like the House of Representatives, has adjourned its regular sitting for the 3rd session of the sitting of the 54th Legislature.

In keeping with its constitutional responsibilities to pass bills, confirm presidential nominees, and perform other key national tasks in lawmaking, the Senate, during 56 days of sitting for the 3rd session of the 54th Legislature, passed 27 Bills, confirmed 59 nominees, and declined four, with one withdrawn by the President, according to the President Pro-Tempore, Albert Tugbe Chie.

Delivering the closing statement and adjournment of the regular sitting on behalf of the Vice President and President of the Senate, Jewel Howard-Taylor, Pro-Tempore named the passage the CBL Act, and the just-passed 2020/2021 National Budget as some instruments passed. Pro-Temp Chie recalled that the 3rd Session was made very difficult by the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, which has so far left over 80 Liberians dead, strained the economy, and caused job losses.

Pro-Tempore Chie acknowledged the efforts of national health workers for their resilience and sacrifices which he said has led to a sign of stability, causing the situation not to go out of bounds, "In spite of somehow the denial and behavior of some of our compatriots." He added: "In spite of the closure schools due to the COVID-19, the government honored its commitment to public schools, including the payment of salaries on time."

"However, the private schools have difficulties meeting with the payment of their teachers, but the government is the government and has decided to come to the aid of the schools with the Legislative approval of the request of the Executive branch, and has placed in the just passed budget the amount of one million United States dollars (US$1,000.000) to help with salaries of private teachers."

Pro-temp Chie who is a geologist explained that the price of the country's mineral exports, gold and iron ore, have started to improve on the world market together with the combination of all these financial factors, "Which continue to give us hope that Liberia's economic growth figures will improve in the coming years."

While the Legislature passed a consolidated national budget, Pro-temp Chie intimated that "It is our belief that revenue strings could be above expectations in the first two quarters, which could spark a justification to do a supplementary budget at the beginning of 2021, and fund important programs in health, education, security, rape, domestic violence, human trafficking and other essential programs which could not be adequately addressed in the just-approved national budget."

With respect to road construction, new connectivity, and maintenance, Pro-Temp Chie asserted that such remains high on the agenda of the government. "In the 2020/2021 fiscal budget, the road fund soft envelope has been unbundled; an amount US$10 million has been appropriated to commence immediate pavements of the special roads in Nimba County from Ganta to Tappita, where a major health facility, the Jackson Fiah Doe Memorial Hospital is located; additionally, an amount of US$8 million has been set aside in the budget as funds for the Ganta-Fishtown in River Gee project which will be funded by the Government of Liberia and international partners, of which the government is starting ahead."

He urged and cautioned all political institutions, citizens, and aspirants in the forthcoming special Senatorial Elections, to refrain from the use of inflammatory statements which would spark electoral violence. On the issue of sexual and gender-based violence, Senator Chie reaffirmed the Senate's concurrence with the President in declaring it a national emergency after it reached a crisis proportion, and said the Senate categorically condemns sexual and gender-based violence, including rape in all its forms, shapes and manner, and reiterated full cooperation with other stakeholders within the confines of the law and the Legislature's oversight responsibility, "to ensure that this life-threatening indecent holds no place in our communities and country as a whole."

Pro-Temp Chie recalled that at a recent national conference on gender-based violence, he presented a four-count commitment of the Senate, including highlighting in the national budget appropriations for the fight of rape and SGBV for the concerned agencies and institutions; commitment of the Senate to speedily consider provisions of existing laws and the enactment of new legislation towards national efforts to combat SGVB and rape; commitment of the Senate through its relevant statutory and standing committees to strengthen its oversight roles in the area of SGBV, rape and related issues, and the commitment of the Senate to give due consideration to other provisions of the roadmap that pertains directly to the Legislature.

"I am pleased to report that in consideration of this commitment, the Legislature has placed in the2020/2021 national budget the amount of US$1,000,000.00 of the US$2 million pledged by the President as an initial amount to fight SGBV; the balance $1 million will be placed in the supplementary budget in the next four months," Pro-Temp said.

Senator Chie then called on the citizenry to refrain from speculations as the government investigates the current wave of unexplained deaths in recent weeks in the country.

Meanwhile, he said the Senate is keeping eyes on the investigation process through its committee on Defense, Security, Intelligence and Veterans Affairs. Thanking the country's international partners, the Judiciary and Executive Branches of government, staffers at the Capitol Building, and investors, Pro-Temp Chie on behalf of the President of the Senate, Madam Jewel Howard-Taylor, announced the third session of the Senate closed.


J. Burgess Carter

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