As members of the Liberian Senate overwhelmingly voted last Thursday for the ‘honorable retirement’ of Health and Social Welfare Minister, Dr. Walter Gwenigale, Grand Gedeh County Senior Senator Isaac Nyenabo, has termed the action of his colleagues as a clear violation of both the Constitution of Liberia and the rule of the senate.
Dr. Gwenigale is under fire for refusal to re-instate two health workers dismissed early this year for spearheading a protest by health workers across the country for improved benefits and condition of work. He has vowed that the dismissed staff will never return to the Health Ministry under this administration.
Sen. Nyenabo, former Pro-tempore of the Liberian Senate and resource lawmaker, told The NewDawn in an interview that the communication sent to the full plenary of the senate was formatted as petition on grounds that it was signed by 15 senators and as such should have been sent into a committee room for discussion and findings submitted.
In line with the rules of the senate, to effect a suspension, it’s binding that the sitting raises two/third votes, which is 20 votes to suspend the rules; failure to act accordingly, renders such decision illegal and non-binding. During the debate last week, Presiding officer and senate president, Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai, conducted head account, but only obtained 15 votes with four against among the 30 senators.
Therefore, the Grand Gedeh County lawmaker argues that the decision of his colleagues to request the President to retire, suspend or dismiss an appointee in the Executive is not within the powers of the Legislature because Liberia does not have parliamentary rules; instead legislative rules which do not grant such powers.
According to him, there is no constitutional reliance, and that it is unfortunate for his colleagues to choose a depth of violation only to take a decision that the President may not endorse because it lacks a legal basis.
Senator Nyenabo, who was recently appointed as Ambassador, stressed that the senate grossly chose to violate the rules by discussing the letter, arriving at a conclusion and calling for retirement of Minister Gwenigale.
He had accordingly filed a motion for reconsideration, which is expected to be heard within three days sitting under the rules. He wonders if the President does not endorse the request of the senate, what will be the next course of action, noting that this could render the senate less relevant in the eyes of the public if President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf does not act accordingly.
It can be recalled that the senate last year recommended the dismissal of the Director of the Liberia National Police, Col. Clarence Christian Massaquoi for act of disrespect to members of the Liberian Senate and later taken armed Police officers on the grounds of the Capitol Building when he was invited to state why he should not be held in contempt.
The rather enraged senators at the time recommended that Col. Massaquoi be sacked from the Police, but President Johnson Sirleaf only recommended that Col. Massaquoi be suspended for two days, with appropriate deduction of benefits and salary for the period.
The senate is expected to take an annual break by November 6, 2014 which will enable the incumbent senators to prepare for the special senatorial election in December.