Finance Minister Escapes Senate’s Wrath

By Alva Mulbah Wolokolie

Finance Minister Amara Konneh yesterday narrowly escaped the wrath of the Senate Plenary after he was invited by that August Body but replied the Senators that he wanted an extension of the time to next week due to other national engagements.

The Senate yesterday reached a decision to conduct an emergency session and invite the leadership of the striking health workers, the Minister of Health and Social Welfare and Finance Minister to address the current nationwide indefinite strike action by health workers.

Health workers in the country have entered day- three dropping their tools and embarked on a go-slow strike action in demand of salary and other incentives. But Instead of negotiating with the workers to stay at work while Government looks at the matter, Health Minister, Walter Gwenigale, has chosen to dismiss any worker who fails to appear at work.

In fact, media report says he has already begun dismissing about 22 workers yesterday who reportedly did not show up at work beginning Monday, February 17, 2014, when the exercise started.

Health Minister Walter Gwenigale was expected to give reason why he has threatened to dismiss health workers who may have decided to strike while the Finance Minister Amara Konneh would explain how monies put in the national budget for health workers for the 2013/2014 fiscal year were expended.

The leadership of the striking workers were invited too to sit on a negotiation table with the Senate so that they would prevail on their colleagues to return to work while the two ministers face the Senate Plenary to solve the situation.

But few minutes after the special session was called to order, the Secretary of the Senate read a communication from Minister Konneh that he would be unable to appear before Plenary due to other important engagements.

Upon hearing that, the Senate immediately opened the letter for discussion and agreed that the Senate’s Secretary should write a communication and instruct the Sergeant-At-Arm to proceed to the Finance Ministry and order Minister Konneh to appear before that Honorable Body.

At that time, Health Minister Walter Gwenigale along with the Chief Medical Officer of Liberia Dr. Bernice Dahn and other deputies were seated in the waiting room of the Capitol Building ready to be accompanied in the chambers of the Senate for inquiry.

And so the motion was adopted to send the Sergeant-At-Arm to bring the Finance boss from his office to appear by 3:00 p.m, but River Gee County Senior Senator, Fredrick Cherue, proffered another motion that the interaction with Dr. Gwenigale should be held in “Executive Session” (behind closed door).

Few minutes after journalists, civil society members and other Liberians walked out of the Senate’s Chambers, our reporter said Minister Konneh was seen in the corridors of the Capitol Building with a police officer assigned to him walking to respond to the Senate’s quest.

Perhaps a friend of Minister Konneh who was in the Chambers of the Senate heard the harsh mandate of the Senate Plenary and decided to call him via mobile phone so as to avoid public ridicule. Up to press time there has been no official report from the Capitol Building concerning the secret session held to address the concern of the striking health workers but unconfirmed report says the Senators are appealing to the workers’ leadership to reconsider their decision  and return to work while Dr. G Gwenigale has been asked to reinstate the 22 health workers immediately without delay and that Minister Konneh should look in the contingency portion of the budget to remedy the situation.