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Liberia: Embattled Speaker Reacts

The embattled speaker of Liberia’s House of Representatives says he wants an independent investigation into his own accusations that the executive branch bribed some members of the House with U.S. five thousand dollars each to remove him from office. Speaker Edwin Snowe made his call Monday as some members of the House of Representatives boycotted the opening of the 2007 legislative session.

He spoke about the resolution to remove him and how he came to know that some members took bribe to unseat him.

“As you know, we have been informing the world that indeed this resolution was voted around bribery. And fortunately for us, through some telephone conversations and discussions that we had with some of those that were involved, for example, Doctor Kettehkuhmuehn Murray. We have recordings on him admitting receiving the five thousand dollars. We are saying that the issue of removing the speaker is no problem; it’s a big deal. But if it borders around bribery, then it has problem with our democracy and the security of our state,” he said.

Speaker Snowe said he secretly tape recorded his conversations with some members of the House of Representatives during which time one of them admitted receiving U.S. five thousand dollars to vote in favor of the resolution to unseat him.

“What we did on the seventh of January, there were a couple of lawmakers that called me. Among those calls were Dr. Kettehkuhmuehn Murray, Honorable Samuel Bondo, Honorary Saah Gbollie, Honorable Rufus Weah, Honorable Edward Sundaygar. There were lawmakers that called to find out what was obtaining. And then some of them decided to come and visit with me. One of those that visited me was Dr. Kettehkuhmuehn Murray, and due to the sensitive nature of the matter that was being discussed, we thought for our own protection and security, we should be able to have some facts. So Dr. Murray, on the tape that is being played on all local radio stations now, admitted receiving five thousand dollars, and that there was five thousand dollars available to whoever that goes to sign the resolution,” he said.

Speaker Snowe said he wants an independent investigation to determine the actual source of the five thousand dollars.

“The five thousand dollars were being dished out to lawmakers by three other lawmakers – Honorable Elijah Seah, Honorable Ellis Tyler, and Honorable Edward Fohr. They were the three lawmakers that were giving out the five thousand dollars. So we are asking for an independent probe into this matter. And what we intend to achieve is to know the source of this money,” Snowe said.

The speaker made references to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf giving 500-dollar Christmas gifts to journalists this past Christmas and allegations that money was given to influence the outcome of last year’s election for the leadership of the Press Union of Liberia.

“So we’re very concerned about this. What’s next? Where do we intend to proceed with our democracy that Liberians shared blood and tears for?” Snow asked.

The speaker reiterated his allegations last year that the executive branch was behind the resolution to remove him from power.

“I stand by it now more than ever before. And that’s why we’re calling for an independent probe. We don’t think the executive will be able to give us a free and transparent investigation into this matter. And again like I said, I can get up tomorrow morning and recuse myself as speaker. I don’t have to be. But I’m concerned about protecting the tenets of our democracy because I believe that this is bad practice. If we will begin to give lawmakers money to unseat their leaders, then what else are we going to do?” Speaker Snowe asked.

Some members are pushing to unseat the speaker because they accused him, among others, of unilaterally conducting Liberia’s foreign policy by recognizing Taiwan. But Speaker Snowe said the matter had already been resolved in plenary, and to bring it up again proves that his accusers have no additional evidence against him.