Two Senators Blame Executive Branch -For Senate Staffers’ protest, dissatisfaction

MONROVIA: River-Gee County Senator Conmany Wesseh has said that the Senate has not been paid for the two times President Weah recalled them to session, and noted that the Senate Staffers have embarked on protest out of ignorance that legislators have been paid for recalling them to session.

The River-Gee Senator explained that he as a Senator has been hustling for his own gasoline to fuel his vehicle, adding that his office staff are made to understand this reality and will not be inclined to join the protesting legislators.

Senator Wesseh however clarified that the Executive headed by the President paid them for the two times they were called to session as a matter of law, but added that perhaps because of the acute economic situation the Executive is yet to pay them.

He briefly dived into the intricacies concerning whether or not the provision of monies for an extraordinary session is inclusive of pay for legislative staff, which he said should be even if the law did not cover Legislative staffers considering that staffers would as well have to be in attendance to their offices in as much as the Senate was in session.

The Senator made the clarifications when he appeared on the Spoon Talk last Friday, the 5th of January 2024. He pointed out that he and some of his colleagues have been making efforts to calm the Legislative staffers.

On the question on his position of nominations being made by President Weah, Senator Wesseh reasoned that because the President has the Constitutional right to appoint whomever he wants to appoint as much as he is president, he would vote for the nominee provided that nominee is qualified. He however indicated that if the Unity Party of which he is a staunch member is opposed to the nomination, then at that he has to be party disciplined.

In a related development, Rivercess County Senator was on the show and shared his thoughts on the matter.  Quizzed also on the Spoon Talk on the same day by panelists on the show, Rivercess County Senator Wellington Geevon Smith confirmed that the Senate has not been paid for one of the two sessions they were recalled to by President Weah.

Senator Smith said the mistake came from the President who recalled the Legislators from recess by a proclamation, which by law obligates the Executive to pay for two  months representing the two times they were  called back from recess.

In the past, Senator Smith said the President negotiated with the Legislature to recall themselves with no cost attached, adding that since the president did not do this and recalled the legislature from recess by issuing proclamation, then the Executive that controls the national purse knows that it is strong enough to pay us for two months for the two recalls.

The Rivercess County lawmaker said that the money by question is a lawful money which is not the making of the sitting lawmakers. Questioned whether the legislators/senators were content with being paid their full salaries for each recall that may have lasted for at most 10 days of sitting, he responded in affirmative saying that the framers of the law providing for this know why they make the law.

Senator Smith intoned that this was his first time to benefit from money that is intended for recall of the Senate to session since he was elected in 2020, adding that the last time they were recalled, it was done through negotiation with the Senate leadership which allow the Senate return to session from recess by itself at no cost to the Executive.

The doors of the Capitol Building have been closed since Tuesday, the 2nd of January as a result of sustained protest by Legislative Staffers in demand of two months salaries and benefits for the recall of the Legislators to Session from recess on two occasions.

The doors of Capitol building remained under sieged on Thursday when the Senator was poised to convene for Confirmation hearing of Dr. Samora Wolokolie who was nominated as Commissioner General for the Liberia Revenue Authorities (LRA) and Justice Minister Frank Musu Dean who was also nominated for the post of Associate Justice on the Sie-A-Nyenneh Youh Bench of the Supreme Court of Liberia.

But for the two days of session, legislative businesses were disrupted by defiant angry workers in demand of their two months of sitting pay and other benefits. The workers on Thursday in their angry mood continued their protest in front of the Capitol building against Senators, accusing them of insensitivity towards their wellbeing.

The Senate Staffers said as long as the senators have reneged on addressing the demand for their two month salaries and benefits, they, the staffers, will continue their protest characterized by road blocks against the senators.

They indicated that their siege of the entrance of the building will remain in force until the President of the Liberian Senate, Senate Pro-Tempore Albert Chie and his senators can adequately address their pay issue.

Accordingly, the main gates of the Capitol Building were completely closed thereby preventing the legislators from coming into the building for work.

Already the President of the Capitol Building Legislative Staffers Association, Charles Brown, proclaimed that the gates of the Capitol Building will remain closed until their demands are met, saying that unless their two months of salary arrears and benefits are paid, there will be no work or even the confirmation of Samora Wolokolie as LRA Commissioner General and Associate Justice nominee Frank Musa Dean.

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