HARBEL, Margibi – With over 23 of the 34 chairpersons of committees at the House of Representatives named so far, no lawmaker from Margibi has been appointed to chair a committee, while one has been named as co-chair.
Margibi’s fifth district representative, Clarence Gahr, was appointed as co-chair of the House’s Committee on Public Accounts and Expenditure.
The Margibi snub is likely because most of the county’s lawmakers supported the unsuccessful bid of former deputy speaker Hans Barchue of Grand Bassa to become speaker.
Ivar Kokulo Jones of Margibi’s second district, Ben Fofana of the fourth district, and Tibelrosa Tarponweh of the first district all publicly supported Barchue’s bid. Rep. Gahr was the only Margibi lawmaker who publicly supported Bhofal Chambers, who emerged winner; it was not clear who Rep. Ellen Attoh of the third district supported.
Speaking to The Bush Chicken on Wednesday, January 24, 2017, the independent Rep. Jones said he supported Barchue for the speaker position “because I wanted a real balance in the preferment of committee heads that are just giving preference to lawmakers because they come from either the Coalition for Democratic Change and Unity Party.”
Jones said he hopes lawmakers from Margibi will be announced by the speaker for the remaining committees.
Responding recently to a social media post debating the snub of Margibi lawmakers, the director of press at the House of Representatives, Isaac G. Redd said committee chairs are appointed based on expertise and experience.
Jones was quick to disagree with Redd, saying that some committee chairs named did not have the expertise in the specific area, compared to others in the House.
“In Montserrado and other counties, there are lawmakers who are seasoned accountants; but none of them was preferred but Representative Thomas Fallah [for the Committee on Ways, Means and Finance and Development Planning],” he said.
He named the likes of Richard Koon, Hanson Kiazulo, Ben Fofana, Tibelrosa Tarponweh, Dixon Sieboe, and others with strong backgrounds in accounting who were not appointed.
Boakai Mabey, a Margibian based in Weala, said he is confused about why none of the five lawmakers from his county had been named as chair of a committee.
“Is Speaker Chambers telling us that our lawmakers are not qualified? I think his appointments should be based on competence,” added Mabey.
Benjamin Owah, another Margibian, said he was not surprised because politics was at play. He said Margibians failed to push one of their own lawmakers forward.
“Is it something to alarmed about? Speaker Chambers will appoint those who supported him,” he added.
In the past, lawmakers from the county were placed on statutory committees of the house of representative. Former Representative Saah Richard Gbollie chaired the Committee on National Security due to his experience in the security sector. He was once former assistant minister of justice for correction and rehabilitation and former deputy for operations at the Liberia National Police.
Former representative James Emmanuel Nuquay rose from several committee positions within the House before becoming chair of the Committee on Ways, Means and Finance, and eventually becoming speaker.
With the exception of Representative Ben Fofana, none of the other four Margibi lawmakers have served in a senior government post before.
Featured photo courtesy of David Stanley