“Constitutional Crisis Looming” -Rep Younquoi warns Colleagues

By Sallu Swaray

MONROVIA – Nimba County District #8 Representative Larry P. Younquoi says the National Legislature will plunge Liberia into what he referred to as ‘constitutional crisis’ which could breed chaotic situations due to the manner in which leadership of the lower House of Legislature is proceeding with matters concerning the 2023 presidential and legislative elections.

The Nimba County lawmaker maintains that the manner in which Speaker Bhofal, along with his deputy, conducts the affairs of that august body is out of order. “They are plunging us into a constitutional crisis by not heeding to the constitutional provisions,” Representative told a news conference immediately after last Thursday’s plenary session of the House of Representative.

He convened the press conference after a letter he addressed to the House leadership requesting for additional time for sessions before the pending Agricultural break of the Legislature which is supposed to take place before the end of this month.

In his letter of March 16, 2023, addressed to Speaker Chambers, a copy of which is in possession of The Analyst, Representative Younquoi requested the honorable body to kindly postpone the commencement of its first constituency break, which should have commenced on Friday, March 17, 2023.

The Nimba County Representative said his request is “necessitated by the fact that there are many unresolved national issues which require the direct involvement of the Legislature. For instance, the Legislature has not yet decided on the specific premise on which the October 10, 2023 General and Presidential Elections will be carried out in this country.”

Secondly, Representative Yonquoi said the President of Liberia just vetoed several issues in the amended Election Law of Liberia sent to him for approval in February 2022. “Considering the criticality of some of these vetoed provisions on the ongoing electoral process, it is only prudent for the Legislature to address the veto with much deserved urgency,” Yonquoi stated.

Accordingly, he wrote, “If this meets the approval of plenary, I would suggest that it informs the Senate through an appropriate joint resolution signed by a relevant number of members of the House of Representatives before tomorrow, March 17, 2023.”  

In the face of his communication being shelved without action, the Nimba County called together legislative reporters and restated his position, indicating the flaws of the House’s leadership on the matter.

Speaking to Legislative reporters, Representative Yonquoi said it is the responsibility of the National Legislature to determine the constituencies in keeping with Article 80(d) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia, and noted that out of ineptitude, the leadership is playing with this constitutional issue as provided for in the Constitutional Article.   

Article 80(d) of the Constitution states, “Each constituency shall have an approximately equal population of 20,000, or such number of citizens as the legislature shall prescribe in keeping with population growth and movements as revealed by a national census; provided that the total number of electoral constituencies in the Republic shall not exceed one hundred.

In the face of this constitutional issue, the National Census that should have established the delineation of electoral constituencies was questioned by the opposition camp to be faulty and therefore not be used as a determinant factor to the holding of the ensuing elections.

The communication of Mr. Younquoi is apparently built on the premise of the discrepancies pointed to by the Opposition political parties which if not addressed could be a recipe for a chaotic 2023 electoral process, the lawmaker indicated, noting that this would pose a constitutional issue for which he is raising contentions about.

He blamed the ineptitude of the leadership of the House of Representatives, saying, “…but I am lacking words until I don’t know what to say to describe the presiding officer and his deputy with people who are making this motion to table my communication to the house leadership….”

Rep Younquoi furthered that although he maintained that the leadership of the House has no prerogative to determine whether the 73 seats will be maintained at the House of Representatives or new constituencies will be created. These critical issues, he noted, are supposed to be addressed before the break, he told legislative Reporters Thursday at his capitol Building Office.

He recalled that it was in this same form and manner they are treating his communication that the Legislature dragged its feet on the issue of conducting the Census until the Census became a failure, noting that things stand today, the National Election Commission will conduct voter registration seven months to the election without the legislature establishing a threshold. He said even in the absence of the census result, it is only the Legislature that can determine the premise upon which representation can be determined.

“So I wrote this communication, and according to the amended rule that was passed into law restating how the Legislature can confirm a break in other to conform with the physical calendar of Liberia, we are supposed to have taken our first legislative break the third working Friday of March and open on the second working Friday of May; meaning that in less than 24 hours, we will be out of the reach of the Capitol.

“The leadership does not decide for the plenary; the leadership is there to do administrative things. But when a decision is about to be made it is the plenary that takes that decision, knowing fully that we do not have that latitude.  I wrote this communication after I consulted with the speaker – that this is the same way we dragged our feet on the Census until we have a mess as a result,” the lawmaker said in apparent outrage.

“We cannot wait and leave the Election Commission with the prerogative of determining the fashion in which the election is going to be conducted, especially the representative elections,” the Nimba County lawmaker asserted.

He further observed that the President of Liberia just vetoed several issues in the amended Election Law of Liberia sent to him by the National Legislature for approval in February 2022. Representative Younquoi who did not provide specificity of the vetoed legislation by the President noted that the National Legislature sits supinely without acting to override the Presidential veto which is their right and prerogative to redeem the situation.  

He noted that his communication was to move the legislature to take the moral hard ground to extend without any burden to the state whereby the Legislature would be called back from break to work for extra compensation from the national coffers.

He noted that the Constitution does not call for representation of districts as people may think, the constitution instead called for the representation of constituencies; and the extension of the legislative break would allow lawmakers to discuss the threshold that may be required for the ensuing election.

The Representative also criticized Executive Order #117 which called for the resignation of executive officials by April 7 in the absence of the appointment of an ombudsman, saying that all of these including the 2022 laws vetoed by the President could be overridden by the Legislature, noting the Liberian people only have the Senate which in essence he said is somehow independent that the Liberian people could depend on.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives adjourned to resume work on May 16, 2023, a break that will afford the lawmakers the opportunity to return to their various Districts and constituencies to participate in the voter’s registration awareness in their respective areas in rural Liberia

Speaking last Friday during the closing session at the Capitol Building, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Bhofal Chambers said as honorable and dedicated servants of the people the lawmakers should continue to put the people first. He indicated that the House of Representative is composed of decent people and decent women who are a true representation of the people.       

Mr. Chambers told his colleagues to continue to impress on the minds of the people by unambiguously denouncing every act which will affect the citizens, adding “we must collectively stand against historical prejudice and combat all crimes regardless of who commits them”.  

He made reference to the archives of the HOR during the just concluded reports of the first quarter of the sixth session of the 54th Legislature of the House of Representatives, from the 16th of January 2023-17th of March 2023 where, according to him recorded high marks in terms of sitting and making decisions.    

Giving breakdown of legislative duties, the speaker said there were a total of 26 plenary sessions, 13 bills introduced in sessions and 6 are in committee rooms.  He further said the number of bills from the executive in the committee room is 2, while the number for Senate bills in committee room is 1 and the number of petitions in the committee room is 3 and total bills passed is 7 and the number of executive bills passed is 7 respectively.

Mr. Chambers who is representing the people of Pleebo-Sodoken District of Maryland County thanked his colleagues for a job well done and urged them to always remain constructive as they have been.

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