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Senate to Mediate Quagmire in Liberia’s House of Representatives

FILE - A Liberian refugee holds a Liberian flag.
FILE - A Liberian refugee holds a Liberian flag.

The President Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate said his legislative body has set up a peace committee to try to resolve the stalemate in the House of Representatives.

The House has been paralyzed for more than two months due to disagreement between two groups of lawmakers.

One group wants the Speaker of the House, Alex Tyler, to recuse himself from presiding over the official business of the House until he is cleared of alleged corruption charges.

The Speaker and those who support him say he’s innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Legislation is stalled

Senate President Pro Tempore Armah Jallah said the Senate is concerned that the quagmire in the House has stalled the business of the legislature.

“Constitutionally, the two houses are independent of each other, but as a sister whose house is on fire, we have taken the initiative upon ourselves to help the House of Representatives to get reorganized.”

‘Peace proposal’ being worked on

Jallah said the peace committee will soon present a proposal to the opposing sides on how best to resolve the standoff.

“We have a peace proposal that we are refining right now. That process should be concluded within the next few days, and our proposal will be presented to both sides and subsequently we should be able to meet with them to be able to reason out on how we can bring an end to this stalemate,” Jallah said.

Senate will be neutral

He said while there are some senators who support Speaker Tyler and others who don't, the Senate as a mediating body will remain neutral.

“The Speaker is the legitimate Speaker, but the numbers are not on the Speaker's side to be able to take decisions. The other group they do have the numbers, but they don’t have a constitutional presiding officer to be able to preside over the body. So, considering the three factors, we intend to remain neutral and play a mediating role to find an end to this conflict,” he said.

He said the senate is very aware of the seriousness of the House impasse.

A number of budgetary issues are pending in the House. In addition, Liberia is preparing for a presidential election next year.

Liberians are also looking to the legislature to decide on whether a constitutional referendum to determine presidential and legislative term limits will be held before the 2017 election.

Jallah declined to say whether the Senate peace proposal includes asking the speaker to step down. Jallah would only say that the proposal is “comprehensive”.

A report by the London-based Global Witness, issued last May, alleged that more than $950,000 in bribes and other suspicious payments were made to top Liberian officials by the UK-based Sable Mining Company and its Liberian lawyer, Varney Sherman, to secure a mining concession.

It alleges that Speaker Tyler received $75,000 in consulting fees.

Speaker Tyler has accused President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of being behind the effort to unseat him.

Last week, the Speaker asked the Liberian Supreme Court to issue a writ of prohibition against those trying to conduct House business without his authority.

But the Supreme Court refused to act on the Speaker’s request.

An attempt by the Traditional Council of Liberia, an association of chiefs and elders, to mediate the crisis also failed as the Speaker refused to heed a call to resign.