The health of Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Nicole Bonadie-Baker, who, according to reports, has not been on the job this year, is not the business of any member of the public, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said at a press conference on Tuesday.
“I don’t know the individual personnel issue of every public servant. I know Nicole Bonadie-Baker; she’s my friend. She has been an excellent public servant and public servants take leave — regular leave, sick leave, they go. I don’t know the significance of the question, frankly. I am at a loss,” he said in response to a question from a journalist.
The journalist said that he understands that Bonadie-Baker has been battling ill health and was scheduled to return to work on Monday, but instead left for Cuba this week.
Gonsalves seemed surprised by the reporter’s line of questioning.
“There is an acting Permanent Secretary who will be there, and the last time I saw her (Bonadie-Baker) was sometime last week, and she was in good spirits and she is the lovely, strong, witty human being that I have always known her to be,” he said.
“So, are you saying that you do not know if she has had any health challenged,” the journalist responded.
“I’m not her doctor. I don’t comment on anybody’s illness. I don’t see of what business it is of you or the country as to whether a person is sick or not sick,” Gonsalves said.
But the journalist noted that Bonadie-Baker is the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education.
“Of course she’s a public servant, but doesn’t she have a private life? … Report that I refuse to answer you. I mean, come on man! If a minister is not well and you ask me, I will say a minister is not well and he’s on leave. If you ask me what is wrong with him, I will tell you it is not your business as to what is wrong with him,” Gonsalves said.
“I, in myself, I give information about my health situation but I have never heard it that a prime minister in this world is ever asked about the health of a public servant. Never in a million years I have heard it happened. You think anybody going ask [Prime Minister of the United Kingdom] David Cameron about the health of a permanent secretary? Why you try to ask me? because I am more accessible? But I try to lead you not to proceed with the question, you still continuing. Anyway, it’s a free and democratic country. You ask it,” Gonsalves said.
I-Witness News understands that Yvette Pompey has been appointed to act as Permanent Secretary in Bonadie-Baker’s absence.