President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has mandated her cabinet officials to take no disrespect from anyone. She was not specific though but her instruction comes in the wake of ongoing debate and recent events here which have raised questions as to whether members of the Executive Branch of Government should be taking instructions from members of the Legislative Branch.
Speaking during the commissioning of five newly commissioned officials Mrs. Sirleaf said “We’ll ask them to be strong, to be courageous, to be honest, to respect all and take disrespect from none, to ensure that the goals we set, the deliverables we have agreed (upon)will be achieved,” she said.
On Friday, 26 June, the President commissioned five officials at the C. Cecil Dennis Auditorium of Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Those commissioned includes Education Minister George Werner; Health Minister Dr. Bernice Dahn; Public Works Minister William Gyude Moore; Liberia’s Ambassador to Sierra Leone Jaja M. Kamara; and Liberia’s Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Dr. Ibrahiman Kaba.
Two of the newly commissioned officials – Health Minister Dahn and Education Minister Werner, have had some controversial wrangling with stakeholders either in their sectors or lawmakers in opposition to policies they proposed or other issues.
The latest in a rigmarole with lawmakers is Education Minister Werner who was recently mandated by the lower house to rescind a proposal to close school ahead of reverting the academy calendar. He was instructed to inform the public that schools would not be closed at the end of June and WAEC would be administered. But he insisted later in the week that schools would close.
Though President Sirleaf made no reference to such incident at the commissioning of the officials, she expressed confidence that they bring to their tasks a strong commitment and dedication in purpose. The ceremony followed the retirement exercise of former Health Minister Dr. Walter T. Gwenigale at the same venue on Friday.
Mrs. Sirleaf says Gwenigale will be remembered as one of her best-serving cabinet members and one she could “count on for sound judgment and profoundly good advice.” She further described Dr. Gwenigale as a public servant whose commitment, integrity and loyalty reached far beyond the call of duty. She added that the former minister is a manifestation of a humbled and exemplary life that represents nothing short of excellence.
“If there is anyone who epitomizes the philosophy of doing for his country and not asking what his country can do for him – it is he,” President Sirleaf praised Dr. Gwenigale amidst hands of applause.
She recalled that during the nightmare in the heart of the [civil conflict] when various Liberian professionals including doctors, were fleeing for their lives Dr. Gwenigale remained in service for Liberia saving lives at Phebe Hospital in those “very difficult days.”
“Dr. ‘G,’ this from me to you. You have never shy away from the principles that guide your judgment. You have been firm in the principles informed by fairness, hard work, free will, free expression, honesty and bluntness. You have dared to disagree with me and still held firmly to your views …” she said.
Liberia’s Foreign Minister and Dean of the Cabinet, Mr. Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan said from the dawn Dr. Gwengale’s more than 40 years professional career as doctor both in public and private sector, he has exhibited outstanding competence and professionalism.
Dr. Gwenigale is regarded as one of the longest serving cabinet member. He held onto the post of Health Minister until he ran into controversial fallout with health workers during the Ebola crisis when they made demands through their leadership for more incentives.
The dismissed leadership was not recalled under his tenure at the ministry, and his deputy who now succeeds him, Dr. Bernice Dahn also faced opposition upon her nomination surrounding the fate of the dismissed officials whose case had not been settled.
In remarks, Dr. Gwenigale said he accepted the honor bestowed upon him by government; adding that he was accepting it on behalf of all those health workers who worked along with him to make his administration successful, as he would not have succeeded alone. By Winston W. Parley– Edited by Othello B. Garblahs