‘Sometimes, I Just Laugh’ -Pro-tempore Chie on “Utopian Aspirants” As Senate Reopens

MONROVIA: Formally and legally, those elected to the National Legislature do have three cardinal responsibilities: to make laws, to represent constituents and to exercise oversight over the Executive Branch. Informally and perhaps naturally, a fourth de facto responsibility for lawmakers has emerged in Liberia, and it has nearly overwhelmed if not drowned the relevance of the first three. That emergent de facto responsibility is direct social service—charity—to the constituents. However, there is a tendency by political neophytes or individuals wanting to be merely pontifical and mischievous to downplay that added de facto responsibility. But for the czars of Liberian politics like President Pro-Tempore Albert Chie, it all sounds comical on the part of some politicians seeking to be lawmakers who think that “legislative charity” does not matter in contemporary Liberian politics. Giving his opening statement during the Second Segment of the Six Session of the 54th Legislature, the Grand County Senator narrates the political complications, stating that it makes him laugh when someone downplays such a key thing that is capable of causing “political homicide or suicide”. The Analyst’s Stanley Seakor reports.

The Liberian Senate is reopened for national business after nearly two months constituting “the first constituency break of the 6th Session”.

Giving his official remarks at the formal opening of the Session, President Pro Tempore Albert Chie said the recess afforded lawmakers time to visit their various constituents and participate in the Biometric Voters Registration (BVR) Process in the fifteen (15) counties.

He expressed gratitude to the National Elections Commission (NEC) for overseeing the process, and thanked the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning for providing the funds appropriated by the Legislature to NEC amid many equally important competing priorities and the Ministry of Justice through its security apparatus, the Liberia National Police and Immigration Service for ensuring a peaceful process.

I Just Laugh

He paid tribute the noble responsibility of the National Legislature in the Liberian body politic, stating that as the nation approaches General and Presidential elections in October, by which fifteen (15) Senate Seats and seventy-three (73) House Seats are up for contestation, it is important to reflect on the role of the Legislature.

He particularly reflected on what he termed the “framework of practicality and under the existing circumstances, especially meeting high expectations of our people”.

“Sometimes I laugh when I hear utopian statements from new aspirants and others who have never had the opportunity to serve in these very hot Senate and House Seats.”

He acknowledged that while the cardinal role of the Legislator in all parts of the world is to make law, clearly, other expectations of our people on the African Lawmaker are quite different from the one in the Western World.

“I believe the latter started where we are now and synergy will be achieved in the future,” Senator Chie added: “The conscientization is ongoing and will end in success one day.”

Recounting his experience, he continued: “I recall in February last year, while sitting in my office on Capitol Hill, I received a visitor, a well-respected Counsellor-At-Law who came to inform me that she had a donor funded project that requires her going to the Southeast. I told her I would be there in March and said she would pay a courtesy call.

“In late March last year, while sitting in a Palava Hut meeting with my people in my hometown in Grand Kru, it was announced that a visitor from Monrovia had come to see me. Behold it was the same Counsellor. She informed me that she had scheduled a town hall meeting with the people of my hometown and she wanted me to grace the occasion. I then asked her what was the agenda of the meeting. She said she was moving from place to place in the Southeast, explaining what the role of a Legislator should be; that it was not the role of the Legislator to build roads, bridges, schools, clinics, etc., etc., etc.

“I told her I was unable to grace the occasion. She then asked why. I replied that I did not want to commit political homicide and suicide, voluntarily taking away my own political life and that of others. Although that project is of importance and we encourage various organizations to sensitize citizens on the role of a Legislator, it will be difficult for Legislators themselves to part- take in said activity due to our people’s perception on how they view the role and what they expect or want the role of the Legislator to be.”

The Grand Kru Senator assured Liberians that lawmakers would continue to play the role designated for them as their employers.

“But all of us should remember that, to play that role, it requires significant number of financial resources, most of which is appropriated in the National Budget and has to be paid from the national treasury, in accordance with the law of the land.”

He continued: “A reminder to you my fellow Liberians: We are in an election year. Be careful to digest well what you hear and read, before you believe.  Political lies, character assassinations, rumors, fabrication with the intent to deceive the masses will be the order of the day.”

Plea on BVR Process

Though he lauded the National Elections Commission for the peaceful and orderly conduct of the last voter registration process, the Senator Pro-tempore voiced some misgivings.

He asserted: “The final results of the BVR may not be what we anticipate in some of the counties due to the challenges of having limited centers far away from towns and villages; hence, the inability of many of our citizens to reach to voting centers which in many instances are miles away, at times three to four hours walk.

“Cognizant of elections being a nationally owned process, we commend the efforts and contributions of our Local and International Partners in ensuring a successful election, however, their assistance should take into consideration the aspiration and the real needs of the voting population.”

According to him, over and over, Liberians in the rural arears had asked lawmakers during the recent break to request NEC to create additional voting centers to enable them register and exercise their rights to vote.

“Unfortunately NEC informed us that it was unable to create additional voting centers due to financial constraints,” he said, adding: “In view of the above circumstances, these challenges may have a negative impact on the outcome of BVR process compared to the recently held census, through which enumerators reached every nook and corner of the counties and counted all persons.”

Senator Chie said despite improvements that have been made in strengthening the electoral systems through reforms, “we engaged our partners (local and international) to consider contributing financially to buttress our efforts of increasing these centers in enabling easy access for our people in rural parts to register without the torment of traveling far to locate centers in order to register.”

Said assistance, he said, will hopefully be considered to improve the democratic process and systems at NEC, especially with the pronouncement of millions being contributed to the electoral process by some of our partners through the UNDP and other international organizations.

Legislative Agenda

In respect of the provisional agenda in this second segment of the 6th Session, the Pro-Tempore said “we will continue from where we left off: finalizing reports on legislation and other legislative instruments in Committee Rooms, working on new instruments and exercising oversight of the Executive and Judicial Branches of Government.”

He welcome his colleagues and legislative staff to the Capitol to continue the work of the Liberian people.

“I wish all of us well as we remain engaged with our various constituents for the renewal of our mandates,” he said.  See Page 2 of The Analyst’s today (May 17, 2023) edition for the full text of Pro-Tempore Albert Chie’s remarks.

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