The 53rd National Legislature is becoming three months old in its performance as a body clothed with the constitutional responsibility to legislate, enact, amend and ratify laws in the interest of the state and its people. The major question in several quarters is how extra will the current Legislature be compared to the 52nd National Legislature during the first six years of President Ellen Johnson administration? Representative Bhofal Chambers of Maryland County believed to be one of the critical and vocal lawmakers at the Lower House this week provided comments and suggestions on how he sees the 53rd Legislature which he is a part, as well as other issues of national significance.
" well, there are some turbulences in the operations of the 53rd but for the most part, the 53rd is doing its best because we have seen the robust nature in which this 53rd is trying to checkmate the Executive Branch of government," Representative Chambers noted in a chat this week at his Capitol Building office. He said the Legislature is exhibiting some semblance of uniqueness in its quest to ensure check and balance in government. He sees a spirit of coordination among members of the Legislature thus indicating that rudimentarily, the body is doing what it ought to do. Yet, Representative Chambers did not negate the fact that there will be challenges along the way, but that all challenges with concerted efforts can be overcome.
In the view of the public, there remains the assumption of a rubber stamp Legislature, based on perception about the configuration of leaderships at both the House of Representatives and the House of Senate, whereby there seems to be Executive influence. In his view, Representative Chambers said historically there has been, and if you take a look at the anthology of the government of the past six years, some attempts but he said they leave that with the outsiders to evaluate. " But there have been constant efforts by the Executive in my view to dominate the Legislature; and you know the Legislature is the engine of this government," Representative Chambers noted. He said universally, the legislators are the engine of every country and government; Liberia is no exception. And so yes, there have been attempts but again you know there will be resistance in the best interest of our people; so we will, some of us, resist the temptation of being dominated by the Executive to the detriment of our people," he maintained.
Representative Chambers claimed that within their midst there are new comers who became part of the system absolutely with no information as to the inner workings of the Legislature thereby harboring suspicions about incumbent lawmakers, but noted that " knowing now what they know," cooperation is taking steady route among both old and new lawmakers. This assertion indicates that coordinated efforts harnessed by mutual respect are gluing the lawmakers together even though they will have to disagree to agree on issues of national interest at times.
Regarding the House’s leadership, the Maryland lawmaker was blunt to say that the leadership needs to do more. He feels that those in leadership positions are trying and the curve is there, hoping that they climb faster so that they would be able to have a better focus. " But they are trying, I must admit they are trying and we hope and pray that the Liberian people will be the beneficiaries of what we are seeking to achieve," he indicated. According to him, there is a need for revolutionary equality rather than vestiges or cosmetic statements or remarks being made often time.
Being once Caucus Chairman of the ruling Unity Party’s lawmakers at certain time during the first six year before taking exit to the Congress for Democratic Change of late, Representative Chambers said he felt at the time that enough credit was not given to the Legislature. He said it was discovered that the Executive was full of equivocators who gave elusive statements to deceive citizens, and that he and others who could not fall prey to such practices did not appreciate them, something he said prompted his disengagement from the ruling party and from the position as Caucus Chair. Representative Chambers said they have come to the job with public trust and they owe it to serve the people at all costs and at all times regardless of the conditions. He noted that because Liberia is not a Dynasty, Monarchy, Aristocracy or plutocracy but rather people-oriented, democratic norms must be practiced. He said as a state fashioned out of a republican form of government, Liberia needs to practice the full representation of the people, but claimed that has not been the case.
Representative Chambers sees widespread nepotism and cronyism now permeated in the current regime thereby reflecting the days of the past denounced. He also sees deliberate oversights geared towards running the country at the mercy of a select few at the disgust of the majority.
Asked whether he regrets accepting the position as Caucus Chairman of the ruling party’s lawmakers at the time, Representative Chambers said not really so because it was a matter of experience in the theater of humanity. "We all come on stage, sometimes you have plus; sometimes you have tragedy and things will happen. Sometimes we have joy and things will happen and we learn from those things," he noted. Representative Chambers however did not hide his feeling that he resigned from the party of the regime because of "political corruption.
The difference the 53rd Legislature is expected to make in the current six years’ period has become a paramount concern to many and the view of Representative Chambers on this is that the House of Representatives, as he sees it, has become distinct, hoping that the trend taken at present by the body, if continues would make a difference in the interest of the constituents being represented from across the country. " If the House of Representatives continues on this trajectory; this path, I believe Liberia will enjoy those things it ought to enjoy," he said. For him, it is the people’s interest that the lawmakers must all seek to protect. Quoting Article 5 (c) of the Liberian Constitution, he said it calls for the avoidance of nepotism. In his argument, nepotism is not because of someone being qualified or not qualified rather, nepotism is favoritism to relatives.
And you see that in common place. When the President sees that does not fall in her per-grade, appointing her son to that lucrative job when lots of other qualified Liberians are denied, it speaks of volumes and it seems to me that the President wants to make Liberia a family based entity and it should not be," he denounced. He claimed that eighty five percent of Liberians are out of jobs while over hundred percent of the family of the President work in the government. Representative Chambers named areas where family members of the President are currently employed as NOCAL, JFK, NSA, CBL, among others, claiming that a responsible government cannot be seen as performing in that form or manner that resembles the regime of Hussein Mubarak of Egypt.
He also took exception that President Sirleaf did not condemn the situation in Senegal when former President Wade attempted to flaw that county’s constitution to run for a third term. Representative Chambers also lashed at ECOWAS for remaining mute and not joining the United Nations and other bodies to criticize President Wade for what led to the deaths of Senegalese as a result of political standoff during the election period. He also expressed disappointment over the Liberian Government’s silence on the situation in Mali where military has taken over the country through a coup.
Regarding Liberia’s infrastructure, he said nothing durable can be boasted of making references to light poles planted under the current regime and other structures taxpayers’ money has been expended on over the last six years. He regrets that President Sirleaf has not been able to go back to the Executive Mansion since the fire incident in 2006 up to now.
According to him, it is the Executive Mansion and not the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that can give access to Liberians in general about the presidency. He revealed that he has prepared a communication to be discussed by his colleagues, that since the President has evaded the Executive Mansion, her Fish Market Residence be declared as her official office where Liberians will go and meet her on issue of national significance, while she renovates the Mansion in six months thereby providing a breathing space to the Ministry of Foreign.
On the issue of corruption, the Maryland lawmaker said while he would embrace the President’s pronouncement of name calling to expose corrupt officials of government during her second regime, he thinks she needs to give account of one million barrows of oil from Nigeria during the first regime, as well as a missing money at LPRC which Cllr. Negbalee Warner spoke about following his resignation from the LPRC Board in recent months.
Representative Chambers considers a major challenge at hand now to be how President Sirleaf directs meaningful investments to Liberia in the general interest of the Liberian people. He said he feels troubled that most of the investments coming to Liberia are not in the interest of the citizens, as according to him, lands have been taken away from people and those people, some, have been brutalized and subjugated and turned into slaves on the watch of the President. He made specific reference to the SIFCA investment in Maryland County where he noted that some employees were since being dismissed without their just compensations up to now.