Immaturity and Incompetence Engulf Liberian Congress


By Theodore T. Hodge


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
July 13, 2006


“It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

The quotation above is one of those aphorisms that make their way through our collective consciousness and we come to accept as truism; a self-evident truth.

Speaker Edwin Melvin Snowe of the Liberian Legislature spoke recently to the press when he would have served himself and his constituency better by remaining silent. He spoke and removed all doubt; many thought him a fool but one of his colleagues, Representative Elijah Seah of River Gee County announced the verdict; he purportedly referred to him as “immature and incompetent”.

Incidentally, I described the speaker the same way in a recent essay. But this was only a conjecture on my part. This is what his colleague allegedly said: “For the Speaker to infer in a manner that those of us who expressed ourselves independently are influenced by the Executive Branch shows just how immature and incompetent the Speaker really is…”

For the record, I must admit that Representative Seah knows Speaker Snowe better than I do. As a matter of fact, he has been described as one of the speaker’s allies. So for now, I’m content to take his word for it.

Speaker Snowe has come under intense fire recently for attempting to undermine or usurp the powers of the Executive branch by clandestinely arranging to negotiate with a foreign government with the intent to change Liberian foreign policy. It is reported that Speaker Snowe has issued a public challenge to wit: “I challenge anyone to show me the Constitutional violation of the communication I did. I have no regret…. I have expressed my regret.”

But precedent to that angry outburst and bold challenge, the Speaker had written: “Mr. Ambassador, may I hasten to inform you that following series of consultations and consistent with the 1986 Constitution… which empowers the Executive to determine the foreign policy of Liberia, and in keeping with the Resolution of the erstwhile National Transitional Assembly (NTA) recognizing one China, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), it is the collective and unanimous decision of the Government of Liberia to remain and stay constructively engaged with the mainland, The People’s Republic of China…”

Again, the Honorable Speaker contradicts himself. According to the passage above, he clearly recognizes and admits his error in undertaking a matter that falls within the jurisdiction of the executive instead of the legislature. The language is clear and unambiguous, yet he challenges anyone to show him the “constitutional violation” he has committed. Was this an instance where the speaker would have been well advised to let the matter rest instead of proving his supposed idiocy?

The speaker does not have to look too far to find the answer to his challenge. I shall take the liberty to quote the 1986 constitution of the Republic, specifically Article 57, which clearly states:

“The President shall have the power to conduct the foreign affairs of the Republic and in that connection he (she) is empowered to conclude treaties, conventions and similar international agreements with the concurrence of a majority of each House of the Legislature.”

Again the matter is concise and unambiguous. Such matters lie within the purview of the Executive and although the Legislature acts within an advisory capacity, the statute dictates a “concurrence of the majority of each House of the Legislature.” Therefore, the fact that the Speaker admits to handling the matter as a lone horse is itself a violation of immense proportion.

What is the lesson here? The Speaker has broken the law. Did he do it out of ignorance or defiance or simply blinded by self-aggrandizement? Does the gravity of his misdeed warrant a more severe penalty than his colleagues deem necessary? Being in a democratic society where we have the rule of law, we are momentarily forced to accept the ruling of his fellow lawmakers. But caution must be urged. The more the Speaker speaks the more convincing Representative Elijah Seah sounds.

© 2006 by The Perspective

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