My attention has been drawn to the absence from Plenary sessions of the 53rd Legislature of Honorable Cletus S. Wotorson, Senator of Grand Kru County. My concern is an embodiment of the frustration and disenchantment of thousands of other kinsmen across the traditional communities of Grand Kru County about the whereabouts of Senator Wotorson.
The reason is simple. When the totality of the material consciousness of a people rests upon the intellect of a fellow kinsman, firmly believing that he would articulate their aspirations by adequate representation to generate growth and development especially for them in a county like Grand Kru that has suffered political neglect and marginalization for decades, then it becomes the collective responsibility of those affected to rise and raise questions about the low state of their political representation in the legislature by the prolonged, unexplained and indefinite absence from plenary by Senator Wotorson. The people of Grand Kru are yet to receive an officially clear and unambiguous explanation as to why the Honorable Senator has not sat for a single sitting since the inauguration of the 53rd Legislature.
Three months have gone snowballing into legislative history and the voice of Grand Kru has been shelved by half. The people of Grand Kru elected Senator Wotorson to represent them and ensure that government policies and political actions affect them positively, even though the learned Senator is on record by saying that he bought the votes of the people of Grand Kru and much should not be expected from him. Perhaps this is one reason why his performance and irresponsiveness to the plight of the people, has unarguably not been the best. But this is an extraneous matter that could be appropriately addressed later.
What is troubling is the fact that there are several versions and interpretations about the Senator’s absence which has basked the people in the euphoria of speculations and gossips. One version is that as a septuagenarian, the acclaimed public servant is relaxing in the comfort and bosom of his grand children somewhere in the Americas. You and I know the comfort children bring and in a ripe old age, the joy the Senator enjoys in their midst, reminiscing the past good and bad, turbulent and jolly. The other version which is serious is that the Senator is sick, has undergone surgery and needs recuperation. Whichever version is true or false, the matter remains that the people are nostalgic and the non-representation has the propensity to make Grand Kru relapse into decadence. For a county grappling with glimmers of hope and gradually metamorphosing into a center of growth, such lapses should not be compromised for unexplained reasons.
Dr. Peter W.S. Coleman has succeeded Senator Blamoh Nelson as our new senator, to partner with Senator Wotorson and form a formidable team. Unfortunately, Senator Coleman has less than 100 days to his credit as a senator and understandably needs the requisite legislative orientation cardinal for a team spirit that Senator Wotorson would have perhaps pivoted. As it stands, Senator Coleman has no classmate/teammate and is left navigating through base on perception and intelligence. While it is true that I do not hate Senator Wotorson, the fact remains that I love Grand Kru more and cannot sit idle and in this state of confusion, watch the destiny of the natural heritage of one of Liberia’s intellectually conscious and historically resilient people dwindle at the expense of a single individual.
Senator Wotorson and I have a history together. Whether each of us appreciate that history or pretend to appreciate it, is left with our consciences. Particularly, being an opinion leader of the County, and to ensure the fate of our County, is bigger than any of us. This is one reason why I am raising the issue of his absence from national state responsibilities. I am a king maker and I have made two kings, one queen and score of princes and princesses in my life time while still under 50. Senator Wotorson is certainly one of them, when I provided him the platform, coming from the background as a geophysicist to serve as Installation Officer during my inauguration as President of the University of Liberia Students Union (ULSU) in preparation for his presidential contestation manifested in 1997. My other king is former Foreign Minister Monie Captan, who I brought into the limelight of University of Liberia politics and subsequently national political relevance to serve as Keynote Speaker on the very occasion of my inauguration. Since then, my two kings’ quest to play national leadership roles, has not diminished. Lest we lose sight of the power bestowed on the podium on the grounds of Lux in Tenebris.
These are my two kings, one a natural scientist, the other a business entrepreneur. My queen is Her Excellency Madame President, who amidst the uncertainties and vicissitudes of elections, I took to Grand Kru, having sat in a little canoe navigable on the River Norh into Barclayville. In my loudest voice and the dexterity of my ingenuity presented her to the people of Grand Kru, having compulsorily eaten the kola nuts and drunk the cane juice presented as a symbol of welcome. I proclaimed Her Excellency, President of our first post conflict administration in the midst of skeptics, cynics and doubting Thomases. Imagine the repercussions when a Weah, takes a Sirleaf into Grand Kru when another Weah is in the same contest. The thought was that I had committed suicide and should lie paralyzed in my poor village without any hope to return to Monrovia as though I had taken the Italian oath of Omerta.
But when your conviction is a product of your ideological orientation spanning over twenty years of youth and student advocacy, in an era where tyranny was confronted bare breasted, what matters most is your dauntlessness at your peril to accomplish your mission. As a young university student, I saw Madame Sirleaf and the likes of Albert Porte and Alaric Tokpah championed a cause which invigorated my urge to help accomplish a mission for the state’s presidency. Indeed the mission was accomplished irrespective of what happened next. I have no regrets if I didn’t get appointed and ended up in the office of an opposition senator. Madame President, do not bother to recapitulate this story, the plot and its characters, only sharing a portion of my aide memoire that is history now.
In those elections, I voted for Senator Wotorson with the mindset that after more than forty years of public service to his credit, he would have provided an alternative for the development of Grand Kru, lift the young people from their slumber and provide opportunities for their advancement. I think I was slightly disappointed afterwards. However both of us entered the polling booth together, were handed our ballot papers and voted separately. I surmise that he did not vote for me as a legislative candidate of the Unity Party for the then District II given the obvious bitterness that persisted between the two political institutions at the time. His vote most likely went to either my cousin Honorable Representative G. Wesseh Blamoh, his campaign manager both of whom were candidates for the Coalition for the Transformation of Liberia (COTOL) who eventually won the election, or better still his fellow Grandcess-ian Sasa Jlateh. What I am sure of is that Senator Blamoh Nelson consulted him before I gladly became Chief of Staff of the most distinguished senator, now Minister of Internal Affairs. In that position, I served with an appreciable display of my intelligence for a relatively good half of the Senator’s tenure until leaving to endeavor into more challenging and enterprising pursuits.
The absence of Senator Wotorson raises two fundamental questions. A political question and a legal question. As a political scientist and a student of law, the political inclination the absence raises is that it undermines the political integrity and respectability of the people as far as representation is concerned. It denies them the opportunity to be heard and creates a disconnect between them and the national government. A county cannot afford to continue to be represented indefinitely with a single senator without clearly explained and acceptable reasons. My 84-year oldman Weah Sonpon in Belloken who Senator Wotorson must see along the way to Grandcess, has not been told anything, as are scores of the people in Barforwein, Nifu, Niva, Betu, Behwan, Nemein, Genoyah, Dougbo, Wedabo Beach, Filorken, Bolloh, Klaydepa , Picnicess and even Grandcess. These are the Senator’s constituents and they have a right to know whether he is incapacitated or not.
My last interaction with Senator Wotorson was in October of 2011 when I was with him on the campaign trail in different towns and villages in Grand Kru, from Newaken to Weterken. I too demand to know where the Senator is not because I cherish him more, no. The issue here is about the life of a people wanting to extricate themselves from the shackles of deprivation so long endured and the use of their resources without remorse of being accountable to them. The legal question the absence poses is the basis for an absence of a senator from plenary. This is enshrined in the Standing Rules of the Liberian Senate validated and approved during the second day sitting of the 4th session of the senate of the 52nd Legislature on March 30, 2009. To my knowledge, this is the rule in use or stand to be corrected otherwise.
Rule 10 ATTENDANCES BY MEMBERS
SECTION 1 No senator shall absent himself/herself from the services of the Liberian Senate for more than two consecutive sittings without leave being first obtained from the President Pro-Tempore. A refusal by the President Pro-Tempore to grant leave may be appealed to the Plenary of the Senate.
This law, to the extent of its ambiguity, is vague and does not state what constitutes leave, the conditions under which a leave could be extended and the time duration of a leave. The literal interpretation is that the request for leave is appealable to Plenary and leave is indefinite. What is leave and for how long, a whole sitting or what… Another question this raises is that did Senator Wotorsen grant himself leave while serving as Pro-Tempore of the Liberian Senate of the 52nd legislature or was it granted by plenary since he has neither attended session of the 53rd Legislature nor cast an absentee vote on any matter. In fact the leadership election for the position of President Pro-Tempore took place in his absence.
Article 63 (c) of the Liberian constitution empowers the Legislature to prescribe guidelines and determine the procedures under which the President of the Republic could be rendered incapacitated. This provision by interpretation extends to lawmakers since their rules are silent on incapacitation, although Article 47 of the constitution provides removal of a Senator from office for cause.
Rule 21 under Code of Conduct
A Senator going abroad shall inform the President Pro-Tempore of the Senate, indicating the purpose and the time of his/her stay abroad and his/her contact address. Again this rule does not indicate in which time frame a Senator’s stay abroad can be tolerable.
With all these unanswered questions, we need to know, how long will the Honorable Senator be away for unexplained reasons, and that is why I as the question WHERE IS SENATOR CLETUS WOTORSON.
Patrice Pokar Weah, Contributing Writer