Senator Jewel Howard-Taylor has identified lack of proper capacity of Members of the Legislative Branch as one of the handicaps they face in the discharge of their duties.
According to a Foreign Ministry release, the lawmaker, who is a Senator representing Bong County, indicated that because of this gap and several others, the acceptance of huge patronage is extended to the Legislative Branch by the Executive Branch.
Senator Taylor stressed that from her experience of over 12 years in the Liberian Senate, she has come to realize that “because of the over centralized nature of our system, heavy Executive patronage is still being practiced, and lapses in the functioning of the Legislature, this struggle continues. As a result, there remain many gaps and challenges.”
Senator Taylor was one of five government officials, who Thursday, July 6, lectured the visiting Nigerian delegation from the Institute of Security Studies (ISS), Abuja, here on a one-week study tour in collaboration with the Gabriel L. Dennis Foreign Service Institute, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
She further named the dependence of many legislators on the Executive’s ideals of what should be done for the people and the practice by many Legislators of a “One Party” mentality, despite a multi-party democratic framework, as other factors hampering their duties.
She admitted that there has been, over a long period, a love-hate relationship between the Legislative and Executive Branches.
“This is due in part to the formation of the Liberian State, done under an Americo-Liberian rule which included a one-party centralized state under the Executive Branch. This creation for many years has had a deep impact on the functioning relationship between both branches,” Senator Taylor suggested.
She further stated that it took a human political struggle to birth the concept of multiparty democracy to sow the seeds of the necessity for the coordination and collaboration of the three branches of the Liberian Government.
“Today, this struggle continues unabated between the branches; especially in the current environment of a strong, overarching Executive Branch,” she said, adding, “Whilst the Liberian Constitution has clearly defined roles and responsibilities on all the three branches, one can see the imprint of the Executive’s shadow over the other two Branches.
Other speakers earlier, including Justice Minister and Attorney General of the Republic of Liberia, Cllr. Fredrick Cherue, told the visiting Nigerians that the Liberian Government is divided into three branches, which have separate powers but coordinate branches of government with checks and balances.
The Justice Minister, who is a former lawmaker himself, further stressed that under the existing structure of the State, no one person in another branch of government can execute or exercise the power of those in the other branches, “except as otherwise provided by the law or the constitution.”
He admitted that differences do sometimes appear and may lead to tension between both branches of government; but stated that the differences are in agenda implementation, which is primarily for the good of the country.
“With the differences in agenda and constitutional responsibilities created by law between the two branches, there are gaps along the lines as to how each carries out its constitutional responsibility,” he pointed out.
Cllr. Cherue was, however, quick to point out that at the moment the relationship between the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary Branches of the Liberian Government is “cordial, very collaborative based by mutual respect for each other.”
For his part, the head of the National Traditional Council of Liberia, Chief Zanzan Karwor, spoke mainly of the mediatory role the Council plays when it senses conflict brewing between the branches.
“We put them in power; the people by themselves couldn’t come in power. So, whenever there is a problem, we who are the people’s traditional leaders have to intervene in order to settle the problem,” Chief Karwor stressed.
Also speaking, the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Mrs. Julia Duncan Cassell, stressed that the cordial relationship between both the Executive and Legislative branches can’t be over emphasized as one always needs the other in order to fully implement its agenda.
“Given the mandates and functions of the Ministry, there are issues that always need to be addressed. For example, the issue of child labor and abuse. It will interest you to note that the workings of the Ministry to address these gaps cannot be done through the Executive Branch alone but it also requires the full involvement of the Legislature,” Cassell added.
Also lecturing the study tour participants, the Commissioner of Liberia Immigration Services (LIS), Colonel (Cllr) Lemuel Reeves, among other things, informed the gathering that besides the regular border patrol and control or management services, the LIS also assists the revenue authority at various border entry points, in the nation’s revenue generation.
The lecture ended on Friday when the Chairman of the Governance Commission, Dr. Amos Sawyer; the President of the Press Union of Liberia, Mr. Charles B. Coffey, and the Chairman of the National Elections Commission, Cllr. Jerome G. Korkoya addressed the visiting Nigerian delegation at separate times. LINA