Tribute Delivered By H.E. Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan, Minister Of Foreign Affairs And Dean Of The Cabinet

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Madam President,

Members of the Bereaved Family,

Fellow Liberians:

I have been tasked to pay tribute on behalf of the Cabinet. While this task may be appear simple and straight forward to some, it may not be too straightforward to others.  For some may dare ask the question, “Which Cabinet?” Is it the Cabinet that convened in March 2006 on the Fourth Floor of the Executive Mansion in which a brilliant public servant, organizer and visionary called Willis Defrancis Knuckles, Jr. sat as Minister of Public Works and passionately expanded on his vision of a coastal highway that would connect Cape Mount to Cape Palmas? Is it the Cabinet that met in a new Cabinet Room on the Sixth Floor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in August 2006 where in attendance was the master strategist and results-oriented manager, Minister of State for Presidential Affairs/Chief of Staff to the President, Willis Defrancis Knuckles, Jr who would clearly delineate his plans to scale up efficiency in the Office of the President which would have a knock-on effect on the entire government? Or is it the Cabinet of 2014 compromising only four of the original Cabinet members who sat in Cabinet meetings on the Fourth Floor of the Executive Mansion in early 2006 when Willis Defrancis Knuckles was Minister of Public Works?

For me, I have no confusion.  Given the enormous contributions made by our honored dead to the achievement of the goals of the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Government during his days in the Cabinet and his days out of the Cabinet, I am safe to say that I have the “No-Objection” from my present Cabinet Colleagues as I request that all individuals who have served as Members of the Cabinet since 2006 up to 2014 stand up and join me as we pay respect and honor to our fallen colleague.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On June 20, 2014, I along with many of our compatriots met at the Samuel Stryker Funeral Home for ceremonies marking the removal of the mortal remains of the late Marie Leigh Parker, a former boss of mine at the Central Bank in the late ‘90’s and early 2000’s.  After the indoor ceremony, I bumped into Hon. Willis Defrancis Knuckles, Jr right outside of the funeral home. I gently tapped his back and when he looked back, he said in a soft but characteristically gentle tone, “Hey Ngaf, you must be very busy executing your responsibilities as Foreign Minister.  Keep it up. But I have been wishing to meet you lately so that we can catch-up on some serious matters.” I then replied, “I will be traveling to Malabo, Equatorial Guinea for the African Union (AU) meeting in few days. When I return, I expect to be in the country for a good while.”  Then he said, “That’s good, I will definitely find the time to meet you upon your return so that we can do some catching-up.”  

But as he and I spoke about finding time, little did we know that the insidious beast and thief called Death was plotting to steal his time from these terrestrial plains.  As he and I talked about catching up with each other, little did we know that the jealous enemy and interloper called Death was himself sprinting so fast to catch up with him.  And as he and I conversed in front of the funeral home, little did we know that it would be just a matter of weeks before he, Willis Defrancis Knuckles, Jr., would himself lie perpetually silent inside the self-same funeral home. Indeed as he and I conversed a few weeks back, little did we know that the dreadful democrat called Death would soon spread his clammy tentacles around him.

So we the members of the elasticized Cabinet I earlier alluded to have come to say good-bye to a good public servant; someone who had the rare ability to mix and be accepted in the circles of the “elites” as well as in the circle of the “common people”.  Though subject to the normal human foibles, Willis Defrancis Knuckles contributed immensely and positively to the forward march of his dear country, Liberia. He was an outstanding nationalist and passionate nation builder.  He was a visionary and a reconciler.  As a good sportsman, a good journalist, a good businessman, a good Rotarian and philanthropist, a good public servant, a good politician, and a patriotic Liberian, Willis Defrancis Knuckles brightened up the lives of many Liberians and left a giant footprint on the Liberian development landscape.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Death is a truth we wished were a lie; and as writer and management consultant Robert Half says, “Death is the penalty we all pay for the privilege of life.” So as our former Cabinet Colleague, Willis Defrancis Knuckles, Jr. treks further down this lonely road and recedes deeper and deeper into the dark night of the Great Beyond, it is with the heaviest of hearts and the most excruciating of pains that we deposit this wreathe on his mortal remains in the name of the father, the son and the blessed Holy Spirit. May his soul take peaceful repose in the bosom of Abraham.

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