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 Agriculture Minister Jeanine M. Cooper Agriculture Minister Jeanine M. Cooper

Spared by the Liberian Senate - Agriculture Minster Cooper gets minimum penalty Featured

Contrary to huge expectations that Agriculture Minister, Jeanine M. Cooper would have been jailed by the Plenary of the Liberian Senate having been found guilty of contempt by that august, the Minister has received the least of all penalties. 

It can be recalled that the Plenary of the Senate sitting in its 11th sitting of the Special Session found Agriculture Minister Cooper “guilty” on counts of “noncompliance and gross disrespect” to the Senate Standing Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

The Senate decision was an outcome of a motion proffered by Bong County Senator, Prince K. Moye.

And in accordance with due process, Plenary again voted for the Minister to reappear on tomorrow, Thursday, December 2, 2021 at 11:00am to be sentenced in accordance with Article 44 of the Constitution of Liberia.

Article 44 of the Liberian Constitution states that: “Contempt of the Legislature shall consist of actions which obstruct the legislative functions or which obstruct or impede members or officers of the Legislature in the discharge of their legislative duties and may be punished by the House concerned by reasonable sanctions after a hearing consistent with due process of law. No sanctions shall extend beyond the session of the Legislature wherein it is imposed, and any sanction imposed shall conform to the provisions on Fundamental Rights laid down in the Constitution. Disputes between legislators and non-members which are properly cognizable in the courts shall not be entertained or heard in the Legislature.”

Accordingly, the Minister was only slapped with a fine of L$4,999.99 for contempt by the Liberian Senate, on the heel of a motion by Montserrado County Senator, Abraham Darius Dillon.

Sen. Dillon’s motion was then amended by River Gee County Senator, Jonathan Boye Charles Sogbie, who mandated that the Minister in addition, submit herself to the Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to answer to the concerns being raised by the Committee.

With the amended motion accepted by Movant Dillon, 12 Senators voted for, two Senators; River Gee County Senator, Comany B. Wesseh and Maryland County Senator, J. Gble-bo Brown abstained and none against.

The fine imposed on the Minister is the least of many other penalties that could have been imposed on her.

Sources say the Agriculture Minister was pardoned from hotter punishment on grounds of her explanation that she was misinformed by the Deputy Minister for Technical Services, Robert K. Fagans, that he had complied with the Senate Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries legislative oversight duties in the absence of the Minister.

The Deputy Minister, who was conspicuously absent from the Legislature throughout the contempt saga, is reportedly staying away from work.

In her previous response last Tuesday, the Minister accepted blame as she was the head of the Ministry of Agriculture and the agricultural sector.

She has however, vowed to institute new measures and policies to ensure compliance with the Agriculture Committee so as avoid future instances of the being misled.

She proposed the appointment of a dedicated liaison officer to ensure communication flows smoothly between the Ministry and the Legislative oversight committees, including, but not limited to, the establishment of dedicated virtual chat rooms with the Principals and their Aides.

“I ask that the respective Committee members appoint similar focal points in their offices to facilitate this information sharing,” the Minister recommended.

Among other things, Minister Cooper urged that the Senate institute the practice of having standing invitations sent to the Agricultural Committees of the Senate and House of Representatives to public events planned and undertaken by the Ministry of Agriculture, including its projects.

 

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