The Senate plenary and dozens gathered in the gallery of the Senate Chambers yesterday erupted into laughter when Health and Social Welfare Minister, Dr. Walter Gwenigale, informed that body by letter that he was unable to appear because of “high blood pressure and mild headache.”
The Minister was requested last Thursday to appear with his lawyer before the Senate plenary during yesterday’s sitting to give reasons why he should not be held in contempt as recommended by the Senate Committee on Gender, Health, Women and Children Affairs, and subsequently approved by the plenary.
In his communication to the Senate plenary dated October 17, Dr. Gwenigale said he was unable to appear “as requested by the honorable house of the Senate due to health reasons which could not permit me to travel along with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf today.
“After my appearance before the Senate last Thursday, my blood pressure went up, and it is still up with mild headache. Appearing before you again tomorrow will further increase my pressure.”
Dr. Gwenigale letter’s continued: “I kindly request that you reschedule my reappearance to a time when my health condition has improved. I thank you for your understanding and cooperation…”
Proffering a motion, Sinoe County Senator Mobutu Vlah Nyenpan asked his colleagues to accept Dr. Gwenigale’s letter of excuse, while those expressing unreadiness to vote on the issue, suggested that a time frame for his reappearance be decided on.
For his part, Bomi County Senator Sando Dazoe Johnson asked that the Minister be given up to next Tuesday to re-appear with a medical report to substantiate his illness.
“After seven days if the Liberian Senate is not serious, the determination will be made on Tuesday and the Liberian people will know by then,” Senator Johnson declared.
Bong County Senator Henry W. Yallah, stating his un-readiness, said; “I am detecting that this Senate is not ready to receive the Minister. My amendment is that if the mover can agree that we dismiss the issue we have with the Minister, taking into consideration his health, and the very important role he is playing, and the critical condition our country is in now, there is no need to [maintain] this path that will yield nothing.”
Yallah’s position was buttressed by Senator Dallas A.V. Gueh, who expressed the belief that Dr. Gwenigale will have his way; “so let us dismiss any charge against him and let him go free, and we can continue with our business as usual,” said Senator Gueh.
Speaking with her usual vigor, Montserrado County Senator Geraldine Doe-Sherif declared that for the sanity of the Senate an amendment be proposed to allow “Oldman Gwenigale to go so we can continue to be disrespected, because to even delay his appearance for next week Tuesday is a waste of our precious time. Let’s find something better to do and do it appropriately that will save our character.”
Maryland County’s outspoken Senator H. Dan Morais warned his colleagues that the Senate was on the brink of redeeming itself or continue to be in the abeyance of history. “This Liberian Senate will take the excuse with evidence of the sickness of Dr. Gwenigale; he being the one sick, will not write his own certificate.”
Senator Morais then suggested further that the excuse of Dr. Gwenigale be accepted, but that since the Senate operates on records, a team of medical doctors should examine the witness to show his readiness or unreadiness to appear.
Commenting on what he described as the facts, Senator Joseph Nagbe reminded his colleagues that the Committee on Health submitted to plenary a report dated October 15, 2014 with one recommendation “that the Senate is acting upon today, that the Minister of Health be held in contempt for accusing the Liberian Senate of being supportive of the strike action by health workers.”
The Sinoe lawmaker said it was upon this recommendation “that we are citing the Minister to appear to show cause why he cannot be held in contempt. The Minister’s letter of excuse to us is contrary to the report of the committee. The letter is based on the politics in the streets, not on what we have before us.”
In his final motion, Senator Nyenpan moved, “that the communication from Dr. Gwenigale be received by the Liberian Senate, and that his request be granted to the effect that he appears before the Senate next Tuesday, and that he brings along a medical certificate indicating his state of health during the period of his illness; and that the Secretary of the Senate communicate with him as to the decision of the Liberian Senate.”