Two members of the 54th National Legislature have made a clarion call for the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) to increase the pace at which it is moving with human rights issues in the country.
Representative Robert F. Womba (Unity Party, Bong County, Electoral District #4) and Senator Conmany B. Wesseh (Unity Party, Rivergee County) in separate remarks during a Round Table Meeting with the Legislature on Strengthening Human Rights Protection and Promotion through collaboration and partnership held Friday in Monrovia said the commission should increase its collaboration with the Legislature and seek the body support for vigorous human rights work across the country.
“Too many things happening, we counting on you, we get no report, no complaint from you, you are not speaking, You need to double up, if anything is holding you back, tell us, give us tension. If you do not give us tension, you will not get anything”, said Representative Womba.
The lawmaker said the INCHR is quiet on many issues and should move with speed in its work.
“Human Rights Commission is very quiet in this country. Are you afraid to die?” there are many things, don’t be afraid. There are many things that are troubling us, speak out”, he added.
For his part, Senator Wesseh in retrospect on the start of the commission said the INCHR started out of a political arrangement due to international pressure on Liberia to establish a human rights commission and as such it was not handled properly from the onset.
“First, the commission was meant to meet political requirements because the international community was putting pressure on Liberia to have a human rights commission, so it was mischievously handled, we need to look at INCHR act again”, the Senator advised.
Commenting on some of the issues he thinks should be looked at, Senator Wesseh said, it is not mentioned in the act creating the INCHR about the implementation of the TRC report but instead there is mentioned of INCHR implementing the TRC recommendations in the TRC report.
Another issue, he said is that of the Office of an Ombudsman. Senator Wesseh observed that the work of the Ombudsman is exactly the work of the Human Rights Commission, saying there is no need of stepping up a new office for Ombudsman when the INCHR can do such work.
Senator Wesseh admonished the INCHR to look at what will enhance its work and report to the National Legislature.
“Go out and look for what will enhance your work and we can have real meetings and make amendments and move forward”, the Senator said.
Earlier, Jenkins Kla Yancy representing Maryland County Senator Dan Morias, said the presence of the INCHR is not being felt throughout the country.
“You hardly hear the semblance of the commission around the country. You have been able to get the international recognition of Grade level A but you need to buckle up”, said Yancy.
Yancy said there are bills and concession agreements passed every day where the INCHR has not been able to advise the Legislature on Human rights issues in those bills as part of the mandate of the commission in line with its enabling act.
Yancy continued “Your inability to get to the Legislature is it suggesting that we do not have human rights issues at concessions and other places in this country?”
He warned that the National Legislature will not provide more budgetary support to the commission if it does not see the commission moving fast with its job.
“The Legislature will not add a dime to your budget if they do not see your work in the districts, towns and villages. Show your success and challenges and ask for more funding, but if we can’t see anything, how do we give you more money”
Commissioner Wilfred Gray Johnson of INCHR in his presentation said the Commission has carried out internal structuring by creating new departments in readiness to increase the space at which it is working but the lack of resources is a serious challenge.
He called on the lawmakers to continue to provide support to the commission through budgetary allotments to enable the commission perform its mandate.
Commissioner Gray said the Commission makes annual report to relevant committees at the National Legislature in line with its mandate.
At the end of the one day working session, it was agreed that the Legislature through relevant committees will designate individuals to work as liaison officers between the body and the Commission in the interest of collaboration.