Liberia: On The Issue of Compulsory Administrative Leave, Affected Cabinet Minister Crisis President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

By: Augustine N. Myers – The former Minister of Labor now on compulsory administrative leave and stripped of all cabinet benefits, has described the decision by the Liberian leader as autocratic and undemocratic.

Legal counselor, Tiawon Gongloe says the decision by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to force them on leave appears like a strategy used to shift blame on her cabinet members by dismissing them in order to gain favor.

Cllr. Gongloe who initially served as Solicitor General at the Justice Ministry upon the election and subsequent inauguration of Africa’s first female President, said President Sirleaf is expected by the people who elected her to fellow international best practices, pointing out that the decision by the President contradicts her professed tenets of governance.

Cllr. Gongloe in a bulky message released late Tuesday night said such an action has the appearance of arbitrariness which can only be associated with autocracy, dictatorship and imperial leaderships.

He said if there are ministers that are corrupt or not performing up to the expectation or in whom the president has lost complete confidence, the President should have dismissed them out rightly, but said sending the entire cabinet on leave slows down Government’s operation.

According to him, the President’s decision to send members of her entire cabinet on compulsory administrative leave is therefore a new addition to the form and manner in which the Presidential discretionary power is used.

Cllr. Gongloe asserted that the assertions by supporters of the President’s decision that other Presidents have done a similar thing, has no justification.

According to the one time Human Rights advocate during the leadership of former President Charles G. Taylor now facing court trail in the Hague, has shown that dictatorship comes gradually and in different forms and that even well meaning leaders can become a dictator without planning to be one.

The former Liberia Solicitor General said history would certainly judge President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s hash decision as the one taken against the cabinet, leads to mass protest votes against her and place Liberia again into the hands of another draconian leader.

Cllr. Gongloe Said following the death of over 300, 000 people caused by the war, Liberians certainly do not expect their President to follow and bad examples of leadership from any source.

He said the decision has also cast a dark cloud on the reputation of the affected cabinet ministers, and also has the potential to slow down activities at the various Ministries as it has the propensity to create what he described as the “wait and see situation”.

Cllr. Gongloe at the sametime described the decision as shocking and believes that most of his colleagues felt the same, noting that it is important for the President to take care not to make it difficult for them to face the Liberian people in their efforts to campaign for her ticket in the 2011 general and presidential elections in which she is seeking reelection.

He declared that he was offended by the fact that the President publicly ordered Ministers on the compulsory administrative leave to park their assigned cabinet vehicles, describing it as humiliating.

He wondered while the President had to tell Ministers to park their vehicles while on vacation when legislators are using Government assigned vehicles while on their Annual Agriculture leave.

He further pointed out that Liberia needs a president who inspires respect, and for him, he has never feared a leader, therefore he has taken the liberty to speak out in order to prevent a recurrence of compulsory administrative leave by the president.

During the administration of former President Charles G. Taylor, Cllr. Gongloe a Human Rights Advocate at the time, was forced into exile after being brutally flogged by President Taylor’s militia at the time. He returned to Liberia following the departure of former President Taylor into exile.

Meanwhile, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has recalled few of her Cabinet Ministers.

The President on Wednesday night recalled the Ministers of agriculture, Public Works, Planning & Economic Affairs, Youth & Sports, Justice and the Director General of the Civil Service Agency.

The President also announced some changes in Deputy Ministerial positions at Public Ministries.

She is however yet to provide explanation to the Liberian people for her actions, as promised.