Dillon Speaks on Controversial Pension Bill, Others -Says Legislature is Bag Boy for Executive

MONROVIA – In what appears to be his usual trademark of speaking on trending national issues that impact on governance and the need for prudent use of the nation’s resources for its citizens, Senator Abraham Darius Dillon of Montserrado County yesterday spoke his mind on a number of issues, including the controversial pension bill passed by the Liberian senate, the lack of oversight function of the national legislature, the choice of former Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai to pick his running mate, the ongoing voter registration exercise, among others. Senator Dillon came up with an indictment of his colleagues, stating that they have abdicated their constitutional function to the executive branch of government.

Speaking on the Morning Ride Show of OK FM 99.5 on Monday Morning, March 20, 2023, Senator first took time to dwell on the controversial pension bill passed by the Liberian Senate which among other things awarded a 50% of gross salaries of the President, Vice President, the Speaker, the Senate President, the Justices and members of the national legislature as retirement package after they might have left the public service, and stated that he and some of his colleagues did not sign on the bill because “it does not make sense”.

He said he and his colleagues were proffering to get a very clear meaning of what constitutes “honorable retirement” before voting on the subject so as to know how to allot money for those who will fall in the category.

The tough talking senator who took a swipe at some media institutions for blackmailing some of the lawmakers without understanding the issues, said he and his colleagues, including Senators Nyonblee Karngar Lawrence, Jonathan Sogbie and others opted against signing the bill for good reasons, noting that other senators signed it without knowing what they did.

“First thing, if you say members of the legislature who served are entitled to retirement benefit, it is vague. Our argument is to define what constitutes honorable retirement. If I go for re-election and get defeated, have I honorably retired? It is my view that I have been dismissed, I should not be called a retired lawmaker”, he said.

He asserted that the right way to go about the retirement benefit of a former lawmaker is for every lawmaker actively serving should be able to pay for pension, adding that the gross 50% for President, Vice President, Speaker, the President Pro Tempore, the Justices and other lawmakers does not make sense.

“So, my point is, we should make laws for the President, Vice President, Speaker, President Pro Tempore, the Justices and for the rest of the lawmakers to pay their pension. Government will be paying more people money which does not make sense. While we are serving, we should be able to save for our retirement through the payment of pension”, Dillon said.

Responding to a question why the legislature has not been able to checkmate the executive especially when it comes to appropriation of the budget and monitoring the amount of money disbursed for every item in the budget that is expended, Senator Dillon did not mince words to blame his colleagues for abandoning their responsibility to do the bidding of the executive.

“We have abdicated our functional constitutional responsibility to the executive. We have either deliberately done this or we don’t know our function. It is a sad way we abdicated our constitutional function to appropriate the budget.

“The same way we receive the budget is the same way we give it back. When we hear about discussion on the budget, it is just for formality.

“The budget issue is troubling. We gave the Ministry of Education USD97m and the Minister wanted USD1.2m to run his office. And I asked him, Mr. Minister, what all do you need in your office, but he has not come back to me to answer my question”, he said.

Asked what could be done to ensure that the members of the national legislature live up to their core constitutional functions as lawmakers, the Montserrado County Senator who is affectionately referred to as “The Light” for flagging up critical issues in the senate, said he will give the deliberation in the Senate a wider media coverage using radio stations and other platforms so as to afford the public to know what their lawmakers and doing and where they stand when it comes to some critical national issues.

“I want for the people to hear their own lawmakers to know what they are saying, even during confirmation. Once you ask one or two questions, the other people will start to yell at you that they are tired and want to go.

“I want the public to hear how many of our colleagues back us when we are demanding for a domestic debt list. To verify whether the USD78m we are using to pay domestic debt matches with who we are paying to. We want people to know how the floor can look when it is time to vote”, Senator Dillon said.

Speaking on the lawsuit filed with the Supreme Court by the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) against the National Election Commission for conducting voter registration without demarcating electoral districts after the 2022 national population and housing census results have been announced, Senator Dillon said the Alexander Cummings-led CPP could have a good intention, but from his own judgment the action is premature and the apex court may as well rule in like manner.

“If you do a census, the outcome has to be validated and NEC will do a new demarcation after the legislature has established the threshold.

“I don’t think Mr. Cummings and others were ably advised. The intention may be good but not proper; and the Supreme Court may say the action may be premature”, he said.

Senator Dillon who is a leading figure in the opposition community also took time to speak on the delay from former VP Joseph Nyuma Boakai to pick his running mate, which to some extent is causing some concerns among members of the opposition. He admitted that it is serious but “the decision to name the running mate is for Ambassador Boakai to make and I know he will make that soon”.

“Yes, time is running out, today, the voter registration started and a ticket announced could serve as a motivation, people will be excited but the decision to make rests with Ambassador Boakai. I can only hope that he can make the decision soon”, he said, adding that the admiration he has for Mr. Boakai is that he knows what to do and will not disappoint in making the right choice for his running mate.

While re-emphasizing that he was leaning towards the presidential ambition of Mr. Boakai, he maintained that if the choice to pick his running mate squarely rested on him, the Unity Party Standard Bearer would definitely opt for a candidate based on his philosophy of Think Liberia, Build Liberia, Love Liberia.

“He is not going to pick anybody, but I am sure he will pick somebody and that decision will be based on his philosophy of Think Liberia, Build Liberia, Love Liberia and I am going to support his decision because I have come to appreciate him and the quality of leadership he will provide”, Dillon said.

He was however evasive when asked whether he would still support Ambassador Boakai if he does not pick Senator Nyonblee Karngar Lawrence, who is a visible person being discussed within the opposition community.

“I just told you that the decision to choose who becomes the running mate is the choice of Ambassador Boakai and I told you he is not going to pick anybody but will pick somebody and I will support him because I am very sure his choice will be based on his philosophy, Think Liberia, Build Liberia, Love Liberia”, he said.

Senator Dillon had earlier spoken on his stewardship, which include the various community engagement and the fact that he has been able to live up with his promise to the people of Montserrado County to go in the Senate to change the impression of how people see a lawmaker.

He said what he has been able to do physically, which was also supported by members of the public who subscribe to the cause he has been pursuing, is the Rehabilitation project in Paynesville for disadvantaged youths, some of whom are drug addicts. Dillon said, very soon the project will pick up. He spoke about the dedicated staff and partners at the center and was upbeat that it will be of great service to the nation.

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