The Liberian Senate yesterday evening served Health and Social Welfare Minister Dr. Walter T. Gwenigale and Civil Service Agency (CSA) Director General George Werner with contempt charges as the two government officials appeared before the plenary of that body for separate causes.
The Minister of Health’s appearance was in relation to an unsatisfactory statement he is said to have made against the Senate when he appeared on Wednesday before the Senate Committee on Gender, Health, Women and Children’s Affairs.
Minister Gwenigale was reported to have accused the Senate of being among those responsible for the difficulty in containing the Ebola virus during his appearance Wednesday.
The Minister also repeated his vow during his earlier appearance before the Peter Coleman-chaired committee, that as long as he is Minister of Health, the two leaders of the National Health Workers’ Association of Liberia (NHWAL), President Joseph Tamba and Secretary General George Poe Williams, will never work for the Ministry.
Dr. Gwenigale further informed the Senate Committee that his decision against the health workers’ leaders was supported by his employer, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who he said communicated that in her letter to the Senate in August.
However, during his appearance before the Senate plenary yesterday, Dr. Gwenigale was informed that he was charged with contempt for comments he made against the Senate plenary during his earlier appearance on Wednesday, but was required to face the plenary again on Tuesday with his lawyer to show cause why he should not be held in contemp.
As for the CSA boss who faced a four-hour marathon bombardment of questions from the enraged Senators, his contempt charge was prompted by a comment he made referring to those who will not favor his agency’s new earmarked policy to declare non-essential civil servants redundant, as “irrational.”
Director Werner, however, later clarified that his statement was never intended for the Senate Plenary, but those who would choose to take his proposed policy to the streets with the intention of causing chaos.
Werner who stood for the four-hour period of his questioning, told the Senators that those who will be declared redundant at the end of the CSA policy, will be paid for two years, and receive other benefits including training, with the option that they may be considered for future re-employment.
But the Senators unanimously condemned the policy and called it a wicked plan that may plunge the country into chaos. Some Senators referred to him as unpatriotic and asked him to inform his employer President Sirleaf that the country was already on the battlefront fighting an invisible enemy, and as such she must leave the already fear-stricken citizens alone.
The Senate unanimously voted to impose a fine of L$4,999 on Director Werner, and asked him to make a verbal apology to the plenary, write a letter of apology to the Senate and publish it in seven newspapers. The CSA boss was also directed to inform President Sirleaf that the Senate is not in favor of the CSA’s proposed policy to retrench non-essential civil servants.