One Down and One To Go: The Edwin Snowe Dilemma

By Ezekiel Pajibo*

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
February 14, 2007


In the last few weeks and perhaps months, our nation has been enmeshed in a political tug of war. As a result, the country, or at least callers to radio talk shows believe the country is undergoing a “Constitutional Crisis”. I do not think so. I believe this is the way politics plays itself out when people are not accustomed to the “acts of persuasion” as the preferred methodology to resolve national issues. What is more, this may be an initial test to see whether our nascent democratic order is maturing or not.

First Thing First
Majority members of the House of Representatives passed a resolution to remove Edwin Snowe as Speaker of the House of Representatives. Mr. Snowe went to the Supreme Court and “prayed” prayed the court to rescind the decision of the House of Representatives. The Court did and said that on the basis of “due process”, Mr. Snowe did not get a fair hearing. The majority members said that as men and women, who respect the law, as we all must, they would abide by the ruling and Mr. Snowe was re-instated as Speaker of the House.

Then came the 4th Monday in January when the President of Liberia was to report to the National Legislature on the State of the Nation. The Supreme Court ruling was issued few hours before the President was to address the Nation. President Pro-Tempore of the Senate and a Presiding Officer of the House of Representatives had written the President and instructed her to appear before the National Legislature which convened at the Unity Conference Center in Virginia. We may consider back pedaling a little here. Prior to the President State of the Nation Address the majority members sought to “legalize” the Virginia venue by passing a resolution, which was signed by the President on January 27, 2007 and printed into hand bill by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on January 29, 2007. Meanwhile, Speaker Snowe and a minority group of Representatives and Senators were holding house at the Centennial Pavilion on historic Ashmun Street in the city center.

The Members of the House and Senate who met at the Centennial Pavilion argued that it was unconstitutional to meet in Virginia. According to them the basis for their “constitutional” gathering on Ashmun Street was beholden to the fact that Speaker Snowe had requested the use of the facility from the President and the President had accepted by granting the use of the Centennial Pavilion. They did not cite any other constitutionality about their point of assembly. What the brouhaha around venue tells us is that we are building democracy and in this endeavor, no one can get everything right. One would think that this is the problem. And yet it is not so benign.

Harbinger of Things to Come
Ever since Mr. Snowe got wind of the fact that his colleagues were trying to remove him, he has tried to thwart the process by what he knows best, cunning, that criminal smartness that those said to be street smart usually possess. The first attempt was to say that money changed hands. Two Members of the House said that they were offered bribes to sign onto the resolution. One of them has since said that he was never offered a bribe. Some members of the House of Representatives including Edward Forh of Montserrado County and Elijah Sieah of Rivergee County were accused of being the ones who offered the bribe. However, it is not known as to whether the bribe money in question has been reported to the police or the relevant law enforcement authority in order to seek criminal prosecution since bribery is a criminal offense in Liberia. One could therefore suggest that probably no bribe offer was made since no credible evidence as been adduced and those who said they received the bribe have not yet deposited the bribe money with an entrusted public authority. It takes two to tango. In the case of bribery there is a giver and a receiver. One receiver has claimed that he lied and said that he did not receive any bribe. The other receiver has been conspicuously silent and has up to now failed to come forward and assist the authority in investigating this criminal offense. One would think that an Honorable member of the House will have sufficient spine to come forward and convince the public, if not law enforcement officers, of the perpetration of a crime. Yet, the issue of the bribe took central stage and our media hyped it in an Orwellian fashion that it took on the personality of truthfulness when it was probably a misinformation gimmick, clearly planted in the public mind by those who wanted to confuse the public about the activity within the House of Representatives. Who stands to benefit from such confusion? Your guess is as good as mine.

Once the bribery issue was about to loose steam, another concoction was manufactured. This time it would be the venue. Mr. Snowe proceeded to request a venue, without consulting his colleagues, according to the President Pro-Tempore of the Senate, Isaac Nyenebo. One does not need to muster any intellectual zeal to appreciate that cunning was again at play.

Lest we forget, the press reported, when the Legislature adjourned, for the “Agricultural Break”, that upon their return, they would convene at the Unity Conference Center in Virginia. Perhaps, the Gentlemen and Women of the House, in their haste to travel to their rice and cassava farms, forgot to formalize the issue of the venue by way of a legal instrument, as they have subsequently done. This was a fau pax on their part. Now, as in the case of the bribery charge, the issue of venue took upon a life of its own thereby taking away public attention from the main issue of removing the Speaker. Thankfully, this issue is resolved with Speaker Snowe publicly stating that he would join in colleagues, the majority members, in Virginia.

In addition to these political shenanigans, certain Members of the House of Representatives became targets for smear and threats. In a number of constituencies, so-called concerned citizens threatened “to impeach their representatives,” as if such a thing is possible under our law. It was not difficult to deduce that these were all orchestrations initiated by “you know who” to intimidate Members of the House who were taking the leadership role in ousting Mr. Snowe. The thuggish behavior of supporters of Mr. Snowe is very worrisome. There is a need for civility to animate our political discourse, but we are far from that yet. Oops, I forgot, we just left the bush only a few years ago after fighting for so long.

Yet Mr. Snowe has not arrived at his waterloo yet. There is sufficient indication that the imminent removal of Mr. Snowe as Speaker of the House is only the harbinger of things to come. Already, a forensic investigation into the misuse of public resources at the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC) has been published. The report clearly shows that criminal wrong doings occurred. Now, the culprits have to be named and “due process” will be call upon to take us to where the evidence leads. One down Mr. Snowe - you will not be Speaker of the House - and one more to go…perhaps, all the way to South Beach?

*Ezekiel Pajibo is a policy analyst and activist. He currently works and lives in Monrovia, Liberia

© 2007 by The Perspective

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