MONROVIA, Montserrado – Grand Bassa’s Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence has promised a formal apology to her colleague, Senator Saah Joseph of Montserrado, for spilling water on him after Thursday’s session.
Karnga-Lawrence slapped her colleague and spilled a cup of hot water she was drinking on him as they walked out from session on Thursday, August 22.
Saah Joseph had presided over the day’s session as chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Executive. He did so in the absence of the Senate’s president pro tempore, Albert Chie.
Karnga-Lawrence’s action was in apparent reaction to Joseph’s handling of the session, when the inspector general of the Liberia National Police, Patrick Sudue, and the acting justice minister appeared to address senators on growing reports of electoral violence in the country.
In his report, Sudue noted that the police investigation report into the recent violent incidents was not yet available because some individuals of interest, including Montserrado’s eighth district representative, Moses Acarus Gray, and the chairman of the Coalition for Democratic Change, had not responded to the police invitation to provide information.
According to him, Gray and Morlu were both present when the deputy inspector general of police, Marvin Sackor, was allegedly assaulted at the CDC headquarters following the July 29 elections.
Joseph had refused to take more questions from senators following presentations made by Sudue and other members of the joint security team. Instead, Joseph immediately accepted a motion from Bong’s Senator Henry Yallah to discharge the witnesses and turn the matter over to the Senate’s Committee on Defense and National Security for further investigation.
Karnga-Lawrence told legislative reporters she had expected senators to be allowed to ask questions and offer suggestions to members of the joint security team. She said her plan was to raise a motion to hold the police inspector general for contempt and have him jailed for “embarrassing the country.”
“We had an incident for months – only for the Police IG to tell us he wrote people who were allegedly involved, and they did not respond. Therefore, the reports are not ready,” she said.
“So, if I kill someone tomorrow and do not respond to the police, will I go free? It was a complete embarrassment to the senate today.”
The appearance of the joint security team was triggered by separate communications by Karnga-Lawrence, Sen. Darius Dillon of Montserrado, and Sen. Conmany Wesseh of River Gee.
According to the Grand Bassa senator, other members of the Senate endorsed their requests due to the threat of crisis and growing fear of rising violence in the country.
“We expected this day to be a day to redeem our people when it comes to security matters, but unfortunately, some of our colleagues had a meeting and planned to disrupt the hearing today,” she said.
“There should be no motion made when senators are still asking questions. We were not given an opportunity to ask questions, which was a complete violation of our rule. Let’s look beyond ourselves; let’s look beyond our various political parties and put our country first.”
She noted that the peace of the country was fragile, and citizens were in danger because the country was being compromised.
“The mother and woman side came to me, as the only female in the Senate, and I felt very sorry for what is happening in the country. That is why I wasted the water on him because I am in the lion’s den. I do not regret my action,” she had initially said in her first interview following the incident. “There are citizens who are suffering more than somebody who water was just wasted on today. I think we all deserve to suffer.”
She said both the legislature and the executive had lost the trust of the people.
Sen. Dillon and other senators representing opposition political parties also accused the presiding officer of poorly governing the session. They said he violated the Senate’s rules, thus compromising the interest of the Liberian people and delaying the hearing, they believe could have led to prompt actions to remedy the constant violence reported in Montserrado and other parts of the country.
Senators who critiqued Joseph’s handling of the session were Sando Johnson of Bomi, Conmany Wesseh of River Gee, Oscar Cooper of Margibi, Armah Jallah of Gbarpolu, and Daniel Naatehn of Gbarpolu.
Some of the lawmakers vowed never to sit under Senator Joseph as presiding officer, while others threatened to remove him as head of the Committee on Executive.
Joseph, however, justified that his decisions were in line with the Senate’s rules.
“Sen. Lawrence was given the floor to deliberate on her communication and argument, including other senators,” Joseph said, adding that the inspector general had already provided details about the violence occurring across Montserrado and that he would return with a report.
“Why can’t we wait for the report? Why are they blaming us? I think as a leader I needed to be patient, there was no reason to respond to her anger,” he told reporters on Capitol Hill.
“When we’re talking about violence, these are the issues. I think Sen. Lawrence was very wrong for going that far, to even slap me, as a member of the Senate followed by wasting tea water on me, as presiding officer. It beats my imagination.”
He also promised to remain calm and file an official complaint to plenary on the action of the Grand Bassa’s lawmaker.
Following public criticisms of the Grand Bassa senator’s action, Karnga-Lawrence publicly apologized to her supporters and members of the public for her reaction. She promised to reach out and apologize to her colleague.
“We needed a wakeup call and I am sure we will make progress knowing that this has claimed the attention of everyone. Senator Saah Joseph is my seatmate in the Senate and he can vouch for my character. A letter of apology is on the way to him and a hug on Tuesday,” she wrote on her Facebook page on Friday.
She said she had lost her temperament because of her frustration with being the lone woman among 28 men in the Senate.
Featured photo by Zeze Ballah