Staffers May Disrupt Legislative Leadership election -If Demand Not met

MONROVIA:  The ongoing protest embarked upon by staffers of the Liberian Senate took a different dimension Tuesday, January 10, 2024 when their counterparts from the House of Representatives joined in the fray to threaten the ensuing legislative leadership election slated for Monday, January 15, 2024 if their demand for benefits is not settled before then.

The staffers made the statement Tuesday when they met with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Bhofal Chambers on the grounds of the Capitol building when they met him to express their dissatisfaction over the delay in effecting the payment of their benefits occasioned by failed promises in the past.

“Mr. Speaker, are you telling us to believe you and the leadership of the national legislature once again after failing us on so many occasions? We have a few days until the expiration of your tenure and when these benefits are not paid or given to us, that means we will have to wait for the 55th national legislature.

“But Mr. Speaker, with due respect, we will continue with the protest up to the day of the election for the leadership of the national legislature on Monday, January 15, 2024 and if we are not given these benefits which are overdue, there will be no election on this ground”, one of the leaders of the protesters said.

Earlier in the day, there was some respite from the senate wing when a delegation of the senate leadership met with the staffers with a commitment that their extra recalled allowances and other benefits will be paid to them on Friday, January 12, 2024. The protesters agreed to the offer in principle but insisted that the protest will continue until all the full benefits are given to them.

The staffers from the House of Representatives who had hitherto not joined the protest but were negotiating with leadership of the HOR after hearing that their counterparts from the senate had being promised a settlement for this Friday, started mobilizing their members to vacate the negotiation table for a full blown protest as a way out to compel the leadership to give them their full benefits.

The staffers then blocked the way towards building housing the offices of the Speaker and the rest of the representatives.  On siting the convoy of Speaker Chambers, the protesters barricaded the pavement and demanded that he should disembark from his official vehicle to speak to them, which he did.

Representative Johnson Gwaikolo of Nimba County and Chairman of the House Committee on Rule and Order who spoke to the protesters, lamented the situation but alluded to the delay due to non-approval of their bonus package on time from the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning.

He also told the protesters that for those on the payroll of the central administration, some of their benefits were paid to them while those who are personal staff of the lawmakers should ask their bosses because their allowances were paid to them (lawmakers) directly. He however pleaded with the protesters to allow the leadership to sort out the situation with the view of getting their benefits to them while they suspend the protest, a response that got a huge, “no way, no bonus, no stopping the protest”.

Speaker Chambers, speaking later, apologized to the staffers for the delay in payment of their benefits, which he attributed also to the “delay in processing these benefits meant for you”. He appealed to the staffers to suspend the protest while the leadership goes about to “sort out things with the relevant authority”.

Though the protesters later on agreed to allow his convoy and those of other representatives to gain access to their offices, they still maintained their stand to “disrupt any legislative work, importantly, the pending elections for the Pro Temp, Speaker and Deputy Speaker on Monday”.

With the extra session of the national legislature ending without any formal ceremony it is not certain if truly they will deliver their promises to the protesting staffers before the legislative election is held on Monday next week.

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