A special block within the Liberian Senate comprising 15 Senators, yesterday voted to request President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to recall her embattled Health and Social Welfare Minister, Dr. Walter Gwenigale, and honorably retire him, citing a health certificate which indicates that he is suffering from high blood pressure.
However, Grand Kru and River Gee Senators Cletus Wortorson and Frederick Doe Cherue voted against the motion, while Grand Gedeh County Senator Isaac Nyenabo announced a motion for reconsideration.
The special block of Senators among them Senators Geraldine Doe-Sherif, Jewel Howard-Taylor, H. Dan Morais. Sando Johnson, Henry Willie Yallah and Thomas Grupee, stated in their three-page communication and during open debate that their action is based on the medical certificate received Tuesday from Dr. Robert Kpoto of the Medlink Clinic.
Dr. Kpoto’s certificate indicates that Dr. Gwenigale’s blood pressure was 197/90, and that he needed rest and medication for 14 days.
The 15 Senators argued that Dr. Gwenigale, who turns 80 next February, and who should be the frontline general to supervise health workers, needs to be in the best frame of mind, void of illnesses such as high blood pressure during the Ebola crisis.
The former Health Minister in the Charles Taylor government, Senator Peter Coleman, during the debate, informed his colleagues that during his tenure as Minister in 2002, he retired Dr. Gwenigale, who was then at age 73.
One of the legal minds in the Senate, Cllr. Frederick Cherue, during the debate, sounded a word of caution, reminding his colleagues of the functions of the three separate but coordinate branches of the government. The best way forward, he said, was to take up the issue with the Executive, which has the appointing power.
It is not clear what the Senators’ next course of action will be; but there are signs indicating that as with the incident of Police Director Chris Massaquoi and others before him, the Executive is expected to have a smooth ride, taking into consideration Article 3 of the Constitution, which gives the President the power to employ and dismiss.
It may be recalled that Dr. Gwenigale recently accused members of the Senate Committee on Health of encouraging health workers to go on strike, but he has cited ill health on two occasions when he was requested to appear before the Senate plenary with his lawyer to show reasons why he should not be held in contempt for his allegation.