WRITTEN BY TOM B. NYENUR
Monrovia – The House of Representatives has unanimously voted to investigate what they call President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s usual habit of editing legislations when tabled before her to sign into law.
The lawmakers argued it was not the president’s prerogative to add or subtract wordings to laws enacted by them in order to suit her desire. The lawmakers maintained the president is only given authority by the constitution to veto laws that may be deemed inimical to national interest.
As a step to taking the issue up with the president, the body decided they will thoroughly review all journals of laws enacted by the erstwhile 52nd and the current 53rd legislature. Among reasons for the review, the house wants to compare existing laws as printed into handbills with the journals in order to be sure of those the president has unilaterally changed in violation of the constitution.
The house reached the decision during Tuesday’s plenary in accordance with a communication forwarded by Representative James Biney of Maryland County. Representative Biney’s communication was prompted by claims that the president has tampered with an agreement they rectified a few years back concerning the operation of Cavalla Rubber Company.
According to Mr. Biney, the 52nd Legislature in rectifying the Cavalla contract, deleted a portion contained therein, given the Cavalla management a monopoly over the entire land. The bill that was sent them by the president stated under sections 5.7 and 5.6 that no other shall have the right to operate near Cavalla unless such operation was sixty (60) kilometers away from its operational areas.
In specific terms, the bill sated that government shall not, during the term of the concession agreement, without the investor’s written approval, grant any license to any government entity to or third party to construct or operate any oil and rubber processing plant within sixty (60) kilometers away from the borders of Cavalla’s operational areas.
That portion was deleted by the 52nd legislature on grounds that it amounted to giving cavalla monopoly, Biney said. The president allegedly inserted the said portion and printed same into handbills to suggest that the lawmakers approved it. “Instead of the president vetoing the act on the basis that we deleted sections 5.6 and 5.7 as she wanted, she secretly inserted them, which was tantamount to nullifying the contracts” Biney’s communication stated.
Concluding, he called for the revocation of all contracts in which the president made insertions and published into handbills without their consent so that the appropriate corrective actions can be taken.
Meanwhile the communication was widely supported by nearly all lawmakers in Tuesday’s plenary with others pinpointing cases in which the president has committed similar violations. The lawmakers were of the conviction that the president’s action was not in violation of the constitution nut criminal in nature, as such, she must be summoned before the body to provide explanation.
Representative George Mulbah in support of Biney, also called for the revision of all laws that were enacted by both the 52nd and the current 53rd legislature to ensure that they were published into handbills as was written by them.
Representative Acarous Gray said that a comparative analysis should be made between the existing laws and the journals of the legislators, out of which the laws were printed into handbills. According to Gray, this will set a precedent against such corrupt practice as the one done by the president.
Others argued that the president must abide by the separation of power doctrine as well as provisions of the constitution that all powers is inherent in the people, as directly represented by those of the august body.
For his part, Representative Gabriel termed the president action as calculated and deliberate attempt to undermine the legislature and should not go unpunished. “This is not the first of its kind on the part of the president, which should not be seen as mistake, because mistakes are made only for the first time, but not when they made for the second, third and fourth time”, Smith said. He added that the executive has on many occasions violated the constitution of this country and gone with impunity and should not it this time around. “Let her not take this body to be a sleeping dog, because we are not a sleeping dog”, he added. Following the heated debate, the lawmakers finally agreed that a formal communication be forwarded to the president, indicating their resolve to investigate the matter to the letter.