The Minority in Parliament has accused the Speaker, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, of acting in a way that breaches the principles of rule of law and the standing orders of Parliament by suspending sitting when he was expected to adjourn it.
The Speaker, on Saturday, April 5 announced that the House which was to adjourn sitting for some two months was indefinitely suspended. He said the House would be recalled at a later date when it is safe to do so due to the coronavirus outbreak, a move he describes as ‘unprecedented’ due to the ‘unprecedented’ time the country finds itself it.
“We are suspending sitting on this day and this honourable house will stand suspended until the speaker, in consultation with the leadership of the house deem it fit to ask the house to resume sitting. This action is unprecedented but indeed, we are living in unprecedented times and the whole Ghana state is in a state of unprecedented national emergency. I am praying all members of Parliament and supporting staff to rise to the occasion and status of the economy,” he said.
But the move by the Speaker of Parliament has the Minority furious, with its leader, Haruna Iddrisu describing it as unacceptable and a mark of dictatorial rule.
According to Haruna Iddrisu, the Minority may be heading to the Supreme Court over the actions of the Speaker of Parliament.
“I am shell-shocked and saddened by the way you are attempting to prorogue the parliament of the Republic of Ghana. You swore an oath and that oath was to uphold the constitution of Ghana, the tenets, the values and the principles of the rule of law and in particular, the standing orders of the Parliament of Ghana. What you have done, I cannot find any space per the standing orders of the Parliament. I respect you, Mr Speaker, It’s your birthday but we will not accept this constitutional and parliamentary dictatorship in Ghana today, tomorrow and forever,” Haruna Iddrisu said in Parliament.
“We will consider measuring his [Prof. Oquaye’s] conduct and questioning his conduct by the standing orders [of parliament] and in the superior courts of Ghana,” he added subsequently in an encounter with the media after parliamentary proceedings.
Responding to the claims by the Minority, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and Majority leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said the Speaker applied himself to Order 6 of the Standing Orders of the House which states, “in all cases not provided for in these orders, Mr speaker shall make provisions as he deems fit” in suspending the House.
Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu further disclosed that the suspension was not done on the hindsight of the Minority leader.
Explaining this, the Suame MP said Mr Haruna Iddrisu declined on numerous occasions, a pre-sitting invitation by the Speaker to deliberate on the matter.
The Majority leader claimed that he briefed his colleague the Minority leader on the decision to suspend sitting temporarily but his reply was “no we will not agree to an indefinite suspension.”
“Ordinarily, he would consult with the leaders, but over the last few weeks, my colleague, rather, unfortunately, has determined not to see the speaker so the speaker calls pre-sitting meetings, and he and his leadership don’t attend those meetings. In that regard, how was he to consult him? How is the speaker to consult the Minority leader who has decided not to avail himself to the speaker?
“The day we discussed this and indeed it was just yesterday, it was the honourable Comfort who is a deputy whip who was with us so the speaker, myself and comfort when we discussed this. And when we finished I called my colleague the minority leader, because regardless we still relate very well to each other so I called him and his intuitive response was ‘no we will not agree to an indefinite suspension,” he told the Parliamentary Press Corps.
He added, “I would suggest to you that two occasions when I called him and he was resistant, I called some of the people in their leadership and we wanted to rationalize the situation to them, the two of them that I spoke to all agreed with me that we are not in normal times so why this? I wouldn’t want to give away their names because we discussed this confidentially so they realized that what he was doing was not right but as it turned out, he was not in the mood to agree to an indefinite suspension which then would mean that rising today if next week we will have to meet, there will not have to be any mechanical arrangements so that’s the import of it.”
On the occasion of disagreeing with the Speaker, Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu indicated that the Minority leader could have filed a motion expressing his disagreement and not throw ‘tantrums’.
“The third thing is that, even though he did not avail himself for the opportunity to dialogue with the speaker on this, even if he disagrees, it was not for him to fly into tantrums as he did because as I said, even if you disagree with the speaker on a matter, you must bring a motion expressing our disagreement and the speaker cannot say that he will not,” the Suame MP added.
Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu further explained that the Speaker did not prorogue parliament as the Minority leader sought to make-believe.
“He said to us that the speaker had prorogued parliament, that’s why I brought it back to him, what is his own understanding of proroguing parliament? It means terminating parliament in any session. The session lasts one year, this is just the first meeting. If the speaker said that we’re not going to have a second or third meeting in the year, that is proroguing of the house but what the speaker did had nothing to do with that,” he added.