SPECIAL STATEMENT BY THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES ON THE ON-GOING LEADERSHIP CRISIS IN THE LEGISLATURE AND THE DANGER IT POSES TO THE GOVERNANCE OF THE STATE.
Speaker Alex Tyler
People of Liberia;
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Fourth Estate:
Once again, I am constrained to address the people of Liberia through the press on the Global Witness Saga that have drifted to leadership and constitutional crisis in Liberia. As you are all aware, Global Witness wrote a report in which the Republic of Liberia and the Republic of Guinea were accused of corrupt practices naming several government officials of both countries as being involved.
The governments of both countries received the reports with different approaches to deal with it. It is our understanding that the Government of Guinea conferred with officials accused in the report to obtain their views after which, the Global Witness was requested by said government to present pieces of evidence in order to prosecute those officials named.
The Global Witness up to present has failed to present to the Government of Guinea the evidence requested because there were none. Consequently, the Guinean Government threatened to sue Global Witness for defamation.
The Government of Liberia approach was different. As compared to the Guinea Government that considered the report as an indictment against the state, the Liberian Government did not confer with those mentioned in the report nor did the Government request the Global Witness for evidence to back up its report; but instead set up a National Task Force to immediately prosecute those named in the report.
The Government further issued warrants to obtain evidence from those accused and further hastened to issue indictments against a select few.
As you are aware, I thought the method adopted by the President of Liberia was wrong and emphasized the need for the justice system to take siege of the matter instead of a presidential task force.
This preference of mine which is constitutional and in accordance with the due process of law has created what is being described as confrontation with the President. Three months after the indictment, the Government is yet to adduce evidence to prosecute the case.
As a result of the procedural errors in dealing with the Global Witness Report, some colleagues of the House began requesting my recusal on grounds of morality. This action by them has polarized the House of Representatives.
As the situation degenerated, I held a subsequent press conference in which I pointed out to the public that there was information about alleged financial inducements by the President of Liberia to some colleagues for my recusal.
Shortly thereafter, recordings were aired on radio stations which alluded to financial inducements and pressure on the recipients to remove me from office in disregard for the constitution and due process of law, thus putting our country at a critical cross-road.
The situation has now taken on a new dimension in which we were informed by the Bomi Legislative Caucus following their visit to the President, and later on some colleagues of mine who met with her as well as some prominent members of the society who also interacted with her that the Chief Executive has accused me of undermining the country’s development agenda by refusing to pass certain legislations such as financing agreements.
At those meetings she stated that she wants me removed as Speaker on grounds that she cannot work with me any longer and asked them to convey same to me and this was directly communicated.
Let it be known that the Legislature is the branch of government that is entrusted with the responsibility of independently scrutinizing all bills, financial agreements (loans, protocols, conventions, agreements, etc) that are presented to it for consideration and passage where necessary.
For over ten years, when we ratified several agreements and passed key legislations, we did so in the best interest of the country. Equally so, when we deem certain legislations not suitable for the country, the necessary interventions were made and in some cases, we painstakingly rejected. It is unfortunate and at best regrettable that the President would now see our latter action as being uncooperative and undermining her agenda.
We believe to do otherwise will brand us as compromising our constitutional mandate. Let it be emphasized that the Legislature should always maintain its independence and uphold its constitutionally assigned duties and responsibilities now and in the future.
STRUCTURE OF THE STATE:
People of Liberia, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press: the crisis in the Legislature is polarizing the State in almost every sphere of our national existence. The House is divided. The crisis in the House has now spilled over to the Senate thus affecting its unity, and dividing that body also. If this impasse is not resolved, the First Branch of Government may be unable to perform its constitutional duties. This would mean the partial collapse of the structure of the State.
There are currently conversations in the streets about the Judicial Branch being divided over this matter to the extent that it has declined to render an opinion on this crucial constitutional impasse.
We also understand that there are divisions within the National Traditional Council of Chiefs and Elders; students and youth groups; religious bodies; political parties and other social structures of the state including the media; It is believe that LIB-24 and Voice FM were shut down because of their critical views against the Executive in the ongoing crisis at the House of Representatives.
We are reminded of the same mechanism used by past governments to silence their oppositions and critical voices. We call on the Executive to ensure that these media outlets are reopened. We think this is not good for the unity and reconciliation of our country. When we were elected immediately after the civil conflict which engulfed our country for over fourteen (14) years, we were charged with the responsibility of reconciling our people.
[E]ven the present situation that is unfolding amongst us as leaders, and if we continue along this path, we could end our tenure leaving the country more divided than we assumed the mantle of leadership in 2006.
The crisis in the Legislature has affected the economy negatively. The National Budget hearings for passage have been called off by the Executive. Ministers and heads of Government Agencies have been instructed by the Executive not to appear for hearings.
Civil servants salaries are delayed causing domestic upheavals; medical institutions and health delivery are experiencing difficulties; social structures are functioning at minimum capacities; infrastructural programs are on hold; major contracts cannot be implemented as they all depend on the passage of the budget.
Legislative projects which were being implemented around the country have been stalled due to this saga, to the extent that those representatives who have refused to sign the resolution for recusal and have selected to stand by the law and abide constitution are being threatened by the Executive with non-implementation of their constituency’s projects.
Three years ago when I saw the need and proposed that our constituencies be considered in the budget by allocating specific funding for development programs, many persons including the Executive opposed the idea. Today, those projects are developing our Districts in a way that we have never seen in this country.
It is inhumane and inconceivable for anyone to use the ongoing crisis to deprive our people of this much needed development.
Economists are attributing the bleak economic condition to the looming crisis in the Legislature. Partners are predicting threats to our pending election in 2017, which could lead to problems for our first post conflict democratic transition in more than seven (7) decades.
Given the incendiary role the President played in fueling the conflict in the House, we all ought to be mindful of what could happen in the up-coming Elections.
RESPONSIBILITY OF THE ELECTED:
Leaders have a responsibility to resolve leadership crisis by use of the instrument endorsed by all of us which is the Constitution. This we swore to uphold, defend and protect. In a democracy, when citizens converge to the ballot box to exercise their political franchise by casting their ballots to elect a leader, they are expressly upholding the tenets of democracy which is a free choice.
Democracy does not end there; it starts from there. The leader must then abide by the Constitution and laws of the land they swore to defend protect and uphold. Any attempt to do otherwise, would be detrimental to the state and people. Why should we violate such sacred instrument?
We believe the Executive bears the greatest responsibility to ensure adherence to the Constitution and laws of our land. In the current crisis, the Executive has shown disregard for the laws by refusing to adhere to the principle of the separation of powers.
People of Liberia, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press: our current position is in no way a desire to hold on to our position at the detriment of the state.
It is solely geared towards ensuring that Liberia does not conform to actions that are unconstitutional, illegal, and undemocratic. This is why when I was indicted, I sought to submit myself to due process; and when our colleagues elected to violate the constitution by holding parallel session in the joint chamber, we subsequently proceeded to approach the Supreme Court. But to our utmost surprise, the Supreme Court was not inclined to take a definitive stand on this matter, thus leaving the situation as a free for all political warfare.
When citizens can no longer turn to the courts for redress, particularly the Supreme Court as the final arbiter of justice in the land, then lawlessness and unilateralism take center stage.
As we pursue the prime objective of our mission of service to our nation and people, we will do nothing to undermine this fundamental tenet of our democracy. Let history judge that Speaker Tyler was not the impediment to the progress of our nation and that those who sought to subvert our constitution, were the real state enemies who undermined the cohesion and stability of our nation and its organic laws.
The decision we seek to make here today, should not be mistaken as a sign of weakness, as it will be a matter of foolish pride, to sit idly and see our nation and the institutions of governance disintegrate and descend into chaos and/or anarchy. There are no winners when the nation’s pride is at stake.
As a God fearing man, I am constantly reminded of the Biblical teaching of King Solomon relating to the status of the baby in determining the true biological mother, with one preferring the splitting of the baby in half, while the other holds that the baby be spared. There, King Solomon came to the conclusion of knowing who the true mother of the baby was.
Liberia is faced with a similar scenario wherein the nation is bigger than any of us. For me it is not about Alex Jenekai Tyler. The people of Liberia whom we serve, are looking to us for leadership and their interest and welfare should reign supreme above any individual or personal consideration. I hope all national leaders must be cognizant of this fact.
Therefore, if my recusal is the ultimate sacrifice that will move our country forward and end this current quagmire, I am herewith recusing myself from presiding over the plenary of the House of Representatives so that the business of the Liberian people can be fully addressed.
It must be noted that indictment is not a guilty verdict and it is indeed unfortunate that some of our Colleagues have chosen to effectively and glaringly exploit and politicize what is purely a legal matter.
However, it is my ardent hope that the ongoing trial can be speedily adjudicated. Let it be made clear that none of us from the presidency to the ordinary man in the street can subvert our constitution with impunity or subject the country to our personal whims and caprices.
Let me seize this opportunity to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to my colleagues of the House of Representatives who stood by me and on the side of the laws, as well as those Senators who boldly defended the organic law of our country and we remained extremely grateful to all those who have shown solidarity and support for our cause in defends of the Laws of our Land, and wish to assure them that we will do nothing to betray our collective commitment to Justice and the Rule of Law.
History will judge you kindly. And drawing from our national anthem, “with hearts and hand, our country’s cause defending, we’ll meet the foe with valor unpretending. I thank you and best wishes.
J. Alex Tyler, Sr.