The deputy speaker of Liberia’s House of Representatives said President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf should take serious steps to begin implementing the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) final report.
This comes after the President sent the House of Representatives a two-page report on what she described as her compliance with the law creating the TRC.
According to the act establishing the Truth Commission, the president is mandated to report to the national legislature within 90 days of the report on its implementation.
Deputy Speaker Tokpa Mulbah said the report submitted by President Sirleaf does not come close to addressing the main recommendations contained in the Truth Commission’s final report.
“Some of us we have a serious concern about what’s in the letter (President's report). If you read and understand the letter, it’s not actually addressing the full implementation of the TRC report. In our discussion with the head of state, we are saying clearly that we represent the people of Liberia…and what we are saying is that if the president is giving a report, it should be clear and address the qualms of the Liberian people,” he said.
But Information Minister Cletus Sieh said President Sirleaf’s report to parliament was in compliance with the act establishing the Truth Commission.
“The TRC Act says the president should make a report. The president has abided by that particular clause in the TRC Act. The president has made a report. She will make the next report in 90 days time,” Sieh said.
Sieh said Deputy Speaker Mulbah should concentrate on playing his role as a lawmaker while President Sirleaf executes and the judiciary interprets the laws.
“With due respect to the deputy speaker, he is the one responsible for making the laws. There are those charged with the responsibility of interpreting the law, and that right is reserved for the Judiciary Branch of government. He should concentrate on making the law. The president execute, the judiciary interpret. That’s how our country works,” Sieh said.
In her report to the House of Representatives, President Sirleaf said she has “requested the Law Reform Commission to work with the Ministry of Justice to consider all legal implications, including the Constitution and relevant Statues regarding the implementation of the TRC recommendations”.
But the Deputy Speaker said he knows of no stipulation in the act establishing the TRC that addresses the role of a Law Reform Commission.
“There’s nothing in the TRC Act that talks about Law Reform Commission. There’s no provision unless you can quote that to me. So what I am saying is that we should look at the TRC report and treat it with respect and to be able to start implementing the report. Where we cannot, we can go back to the Palava Hut and have a discussion there,” Deputy Speaker Mulbah said.
Another criticism made by some against the Law Reform Commission is that it is headed by former Justice Minister Philip A.Z. Banks.
According to TRC sources, Banks as justice minister once advised President Sirleaf not to testify before the TRC.
In her report to the House of Representatives, President Sirleaf also said the act establishing the TRC provided for an Independent National Human Rights Commission that has a responsibility to ensure that all the recommendations in the TRC final report are implemented.
But she complained that all the six members nominated to serve on the Rights Commission were rejected by the Liberian Senate.
The president said she has asked Supreme Court Chief Justice Johnnie Lewis to begin the vetting process for new members of the Human Rights Commission.
Chief Justice Lewis has appointed Pearl Browne Bull, a former member of the TRC and a supporter of President Sirleaf to head an expert committee to vet new members of the Independent Human Rights Commission.
Bull has expressed her opposition to the recommendations contained in the TRC final report.
Information Minister Sieh said opponents of the Human Rights Commission should address their criticisms with the Chief Justice.
“That committee was not set up by the Executive Branch of government; it was not set up by the president. This committee was set up by the Chief Justice. And so if there is an argument about the composition of this committee, then that argument should be advanced to the Chief Justice. And someone cannot hold the president responsible for that,” Sieh said.
In its final report, the TRC recommended that President Sirleaf and about 50 others be barred from holding public offices for the next 30 years because they supported factions in Liberia’s 14-year civil war.