Lawmakers Fail to Convene to Discuss State of Emergency on Thursday, Friday

MONROVIA, Montserrado – The legislature failed to convene a joint session on Thursday as suggested by Pres. George Weah when he delivered his address to the country on Wednesday announcing a state of emergency to contain the Coronavirus pandemic in Liberia. As Friday is a national holiday, Fast and Prayer Day, lawmakers also did not convene.

In his address, the president called on the legislature to convene a joint special session to deliberate on his proclamation. Weah said he had declared the state of emergency after consultation with the president pro tempore of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives.

However, no session was convened in the chambers belonging to either house. There was also not a joint session held. By at least 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, a few lawmakers admitted that they had not yet received any documents from the president.

A few representatives were seen at the Capitol Building in their separate chambers and offices, although most senators failed to show up.

Meanwhile, Montserrado’s Sen. Darius Dillon, who was one of the few senators at the Capitol Building on Thursday, said the president had no power to convene the legislature.

In a Facebook post he later made, Dillon clarified the constitutional rights of the legislature and the president with regards to a state of emergency: “The President can, on his own, declare a state of emergency for no later than seven days. However, without [the] approval of the legislature beyond seven days, said state of emergency ceases to continue. When the president lays before the legislature on or before [the] expiration of the seven-day period, the legislature has no later than three days to concur with or modify the measures, or even revoke the state of emergency.”

Dillon further added, “When the legislature concurs by a joint resolution voted upon by [a] two-thirds majority of both houses, with or without modification of the measures submitted by the president, the state of emergency holds and continues. When the Legislature fails to meet the required concurrence votes, the state of emergency is automatically revoked and ceases to continue.”

The Montserrado senator said the legislature did not convene to discuss the state of emergency because members are still on an official Easter break and the legislature was not formally informed in line with protocols.

The state of emergency is still expected to begin tonight at 11:59 p.m., with no modifications yet announced.

Featured photo by Zeze Ballah

Ida Reeves

Ida Reeves holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Liberia in Mass Communications and Sociology. She graduated from the Young Political Leadership School and has worked in the past for Farbric Radio, Freedom Radio, and Frontier newspaper.

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