MONROVIA: With the National Elections Commission having finally declared Anthony F. Williams winner of the just-ended legislative elections for Pleebo Sodoken District #2, following months of legal wrangling that resulted to incumbent lawmaker and House Speaker Bhofal Chambers now seeking final recourse at the Supreme House, the House Speaker has openly accused his deputy Fonati Koffa of undermining his office because he (Koffa’s) is afraid that he will be scrutinized for conducting himself unethically during his tenure as Deputy Speaker of the 54th Legislature. Koffa, on the other hand, is not taking things lightly, as he has fired back in a press conference held Tuesday, debunking the allegations from his former boss as unfounded.
Appearing over the weekend on a syndicated online talk show, Speaker Chambers placed the blame for his political woes at the feet of his colleague CDC lawmaker Fonati Koffa, accusing him of fearing his return to the 55th Legislature because of how he had scrutinized Koffa for his “unethical” dealings during the tenure of the 54th Legislature.
“In the first place, we have somebody who has been compromised. The current deputy speaker who wants to be speaker, at the point where it is believed he has been rushing in Pleebo Sodoken District to undermine and deconstruct what has been built laboriously by the people of Pleebo Sodoken District.
“It is common knowledge that he is the lawyer for the Central Bank of Liberia. He cannot be a lawmaker and be a lawyer for the Central Bank of Liberia. He cannot be a lawmaker and become the lawyer for Maritime. He is the lawyer for Maritime. He cannot be Deputy Speaker or a lawmaker and become a lawyer for the Liberia Telecommunications Authority.
“There are so many things that are happening. He being a lawyer and a lawmaker at the same time for Bea Mountain, a lawyer for Solway, these are things that are conflict of interest. Because, at the end of the day, you will have to have that oversight, and you will have to represent your people where you will have to bring these people to book. But with your involvement with them, it will defeat the purpose of overseeing what should be done right,” Speaker Chambers stated openly.
The outspoken lawmaker who met his waterloo during the just-ended legislative elections, said he had personally advised deputy speaker Koffa about his unethical dealing, but to no avail.
“I have personally advised the deputy speaker, and I cannot be the one to go and bring complain on the floor against him. I advised hm, and he has not taken my advice; so, in my mind, except he changes, he will not be right for the office at the moment until perhaps he can soberly reflect and do the needful, meaning that he has to give out all of the interests that he has in those private institutions, and also the institution of government.
“The last time, the deputy speaker led a delegation of the Maritime Authority, which people feel that he is a lawyer, and he led that delegation. You cannot be a legislator and you lead a delegation in the executive. That is unacceptable.
“I think in one of the newspapers, he said was the legal counsel for the former CEO of LISCR, one Koehen. These are things in my mind that have compromised everything. These are the interests he is trying to protect because we have been advising them and they feel that with our presence, there will be greater scrutiny. So, he doesn’t want us to have the scrutinization being carried out in our institution. But it is good for the democracy; it is good for all of us.
“I am encouraging him to do the right thing because he has potentials. But it’s sad because, for the time we have been in the legislature, for the entire six years, he has been undermining the office of the Speaker, to the extent that I have even had to speak to the President on some occasion where the President had to call him.
“Again, sometimes ago he had exchange with some people in Pleebo, where he encouraged the person to vie for some position that he would help; but then he said the person wrote him and he said he was protecting me, and believed in my leadership and would support me. But that in my mind does not correspond or match the reality that we have been seeing him doing.
“He has done all kinds of things that have brought discord and division there, but thank God the lawmakers have been very wise, and have acted with sobriety to the extent that they have a stable and safe legislative interaction during the time of the entire six years.
Regarding the final ruling made by the NEC in favor of his rival, Speaker Chambers said he still has trust in the country’s legal system.
“We have trust in the Liberian jurisprudence, in the Liberia legal system, and I know we will succeed. The issue is clear: they are afraid, and the number one danger we find around is envy. They are envious of us, and they are afraid of Pleebo Sodoken District. But many times, people throw stones and hide their hands.
“People have even brought reports to us that the whole of this week, Honorable Koffa has been visiting the National Elections Commission headquarters.
“Our lawyers have already given an exception because they felt that it was so elementary not to have considered a common figure of 203 because it was the creation of anybody, but it was based on the vote of the people. If they cannot heed to our appeal, what else can they respect. So, my lawyer said that it was so elementary, that perhaps it was deliberate, or it might have been inadvertent that they did not hear my testimony that there was cheating. But I believe that all will be well. Our democracy will be safe, and we will keep it safe.
Cllr. Fonati refutes allegations
Responding Tuesday to the accusations from Speaker Chambers, Representative Koffa said he has always operated with the confines of the law and has done nothing to jeopardize his standing a lawmaker.
“I never said my team of lawyers had been called. There has been no lawyer that has been called from ILG before the legislature. But as a matter of principle, I know that Bea Mountain, one of their lawyers, is a lawyer from my firm. So automatically, that’s my own self-policing. The rules don’t require that. I left session. Same as UCI; my daughter is general manager over there. When their matter came, I left session. I do that as a matter of principle. I don’t have to talk to anybody. I don’t have to participate. Their lawyers were not called. But the fact that there was a Bea Mountain matter that came on the floor, I walked out of the session because I did not want to participate. So, I am shocked that somebody would say I have come and had represented.
“The other thing is when I tell people I needed to respond, people say don’t mind that, it’s politics; but these things get ingrained into people. Go to these public corporations and find out from them. Other than the CBL and LPRC, if you find out we’ve done any work during my deputy speakership for any public corporation, then you can take issue with me.
“The Maritime boss is good friend of mine. He doesn’t need to retain me for me to give him one of two legal advice when it comes Maritime because I was retained for them from 2009 to 2011. So, my association with them is not only from institutional memory, but also from my friendship with Eugene Nagbe. So when you see me with him doesn’t mean I represent him. The late Uri Koehn was my friend. I never represented him. Pierre and Tweh represents LISCR. When you see me with these people you automatically assume, I am their lawyer, but I am not,” Cllr. Koffa stated emphatically.
Speaking further, Deputy Speaker Koffa said his ascendancy to the House Speaker position will see needed reforms instituted at that body.
“It is important that we digitalize the House of Representatives by having electronic voting, by having voting that can be put on the record. We also want to do infrastructure. The building that we are in has not been renovated so many years. We want to make sure that the 55th is a functioning body,” Koffa stated, adding that his coming to the speakership as a CDCian should not be construed as completely partisan because even within the bloc that has endorsed him are lie-minded lawmakers from other political persuasions.