Today is judgment day in the Liberian House of Representatives as members vote on whether to rescind or uphold the suspension of one of their own. Representative Dusty Wolokollie of the ruling Unity Party was suspended last Friday for six months for what his colleagues called bringing the House in “disrepute.” The problem began when the House Committee on Investment refused to ratify a contract between the Liberian government and two oil companies. Some members requested officials of the oil companies to appear before them. But Wolokollie said this was an attempt by his colleagues to extort money from the companies. Representative Rufus Neuville is chairman of the House Committee on Investment and Concessions. He explains to VOA English to Africa reporter James Butty why the House suspended representative Wolokollie.
“Our concern is that if you are calling a man a murdering or a rogue on the basis of a mere belief with no proof, with no defense, then such statement is reckless; it’s irresponsible; it’s not in line with the rules of the legislature which provides for freedom of speech constitutionally but one should be held responsible for any abuse thereof. And it was on that basis that they slammed on him this six month suspension.”
Representative Neuville say that by summoning the oil company officials, his committee was doing what every legislative body around the world does.
“Congressional committees in America have the right to seek inquiry with agencies of government, with investors. Every body having investment interest in this country will show the Liberian people’s representatives your own vision for this country because over the past, people signed 99-year contract without benefits. We supply rubber to almost the whole world without benefits…Our people still live in abject poverty. This time around if you want to invest in Liberia, you will come and you will tell us how do you intend to help build our economy. What are your fair plans for Liberia? No body will ratify any agreement again in this country because of envelope or under the table or in the swimming top.”
Neuville says Tuesday’s vote to reconsider Representative Wolokollie’s suspension could be favorable only if Mr. Wolokollie repents. Otherwise, Neuville says Wolokollie will remain suspended for six months.
For his part, Representative Wolokollie says he has no intention to apologize to his colleagues. He rejects his colleagues’ claim that he brought disrepute to the Liberian House of Representatives.
“First of all I’m protected by the constitution. Article 42 of our constitution gives me as a parliamentarian the right to express opinion and belief, and I cannot not be prosecuted; I cannot be tried; I cannot be detained or arrested because of that by nobody much less the House of Representatives.”
Wolokollie hopes that his colleagues would be wise enough when they consider his suspension Tuesday, October 03, 2006.
“I hope that they will be sane and sensible and reasonable enough to reverse the decision because I am not going to apologize because I’ve done no wrong, and I will take the matter beyond that. If their decision is confirmed, I will go to the supreme court.”