By Awa Macalo
The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health, Muhammadou Lamin Jaiteh, has revealed that the suspension of 371 health workers was done by the Personnel management Office and not his ministry.
Mr Jaiteh was speaking before the Assembly Select Committee on health, probing the circumstances leading to the suspension of the striking public health workers over allowances.
“The suspension came from the Personnel Management Office and the only time they could have considered a disciplinary measure is when the law is broken and so it was clear to everybody that the sit-down strike of more than 20 days is a violation of the law. That is why the duty bearers who oversee that law have to apply it, even though the ministry was doing everything possible to engage them,” PS Jaiteh said.
He denied allegations that the suspension happened because the Ministry was displeased with the statements of the aggrieved workers.
Mr Jaiteh added: “The Ministry made several efforts to dialogue with the public health workers even after their moves because they were making unacceptable utterances and media interviews they were not allowed to do without permission and we could have acted on that. However, that never influenced any drastic moves from the ministry. It is because they were openly in violation of the rules that was why they had to take appropriate steps”.
PS Jaiteh further said the issue of allowances was the Minister’s initiative to see improvement in the welfare of the general staff but not to cater for one and leave others.
He also dismissed allegations by the workers that the Ministry requested for an apology before their suspension could be rescinded by the PMO.
Jaiteh said the issue of an apology letter was a recommendation from the Ministry during its meeting with members of the task force. “In that meeting, the task force members asked the Ministry to try and engage the PMO to consider rescinding the suspension, but how do we write to the PMO without anything backing us up? That is why we recommended the apology letter so that we can write to the PMO and plead with them to rescind the suspensions,” he said.
Jaiteh claimed that there was a complete deadlock during negotiations preceding the suspension and accused the striking workers of failing to accept the Ministry’s position for them to allow due process in order to address the allowance problems.