Enimil Ashon writes: Appoint judges as Speakers of Parliament

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If Speaker Alban Bagbin asked for a special budget for Parliamentary business, that’s fair; even worthy of praise.To have threatened to shoot down the Government’s 2022 Budget, are not words from a neutral referee. To have gone on to tell the current Finance Minister that he (Speaker) was going to do him, what his (Finance Minister’s) father did to Hilla Limann, that’s personal and out of order.

All of the above are predicated on the assumption that the above words are true, as reported by Majority Leader,

Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu, after his said meeting with the Speaker before the Budget, was presented to Parliament.

Unless the radio and TV play-back of the Speaker’s words (when he met former MPs) were taken out of context, I think that this nation is in danger.

We cannot (and should not) have a Speaker who predicts the downfall of a government on the basis of that government’s request for E-Levy.

As it is, no one is above the Speaker; we cannot turn to anyone to advise him to keep his words in check; the Constitution allows him the freedom to say just anything.

That is why I will plead the forbearance of readers and listeners to repeat my call made last week for a change of the Constitution to a situation where Speakers of Parliament would be, not politicians but Judges. Here’s what I suggested last week:

“Having arrived at this junction in our parliamentary democratic journey where we cannot even pretend to be objective, let Ghanaians appoint Justices of the Superior Courts of Judicature as Speaker of Parliament, with two High Court judges as First and Second Deputies.

“An openly neutral Speaker, not elected by Parliament but by an Electoral College of the Media, Civil Society and the Judiciary, will not be so flagrantly and abusively partisan”.

The above was published before last Monday’s eruption of violence in the House. As the real cause hit me, I wondered, why must the suffering masses keep sacrificing to ensure that Article 71 Office Holders live a life of luxury, both in office and out of office, if at crucial moments like the night of December 20, they would be “unavoidably absent”?

So where was the Speaker that night? NDC’s Kludze Avedzi told the press on Tuesday that the Speaker acted on the “instructions of his doctor”. Of course, every Ghanaian knows the Speaker is not in perfect health. But I have a question for Avedzi.

Who gave him the reason he cited for the Speaker’s absence? Was it the Speaker himself? If so, why was the same message not communicated to the Majority Leader also? Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, in an answer to a radio interviewer’s question why the Speaker was not in the House that night, replied: “I don’t know”

I am not necessarily siding with the Deputy Majority Leader’s suspicion that the Speaker’s absence was part of a grand scheme to frustrate government business, but I believe that many sane persons would read meanings and raise an eyebrow when it is explained to them that in the present Parliament, the absence of

The Speaker automatically reduces the Majority caucus’s numbers by one, bringing them on a par with the NDC. An equal number on both sides automatically defeats a government motion.

Let no Ghanaian be deceived. Those acts of violence in the night of December 21, all the walk-outs to boycott voting on motions were not, and have been carried out with the poor in mind. For example, was there ever a tax proposed by either NPP or NDC (in power) that was not opposed by the other in opposition?

Which of these taxes got scrapped when the tables turned, and the Minority became party in government?
Come to think of it, should the E-Levy, like all taxes, not rather be playing into hands of NDC? Taxes have the effect of multiplying the hardships of the people. The NDC, therefore, should be laughing all the way to victory in 2024.

Mahatma Gandhi once declared, “There are many causes I would die for, but there is not a single cause I would kill for.” I recommend that these words, born of a high nobility of mind, be etched in red lettering on the walls of our Parliament.

They were uttered at the height of India’s independence struggle, a time when the majority of Gandhi’s compatriots were baying for the blood of British citizens in the colony.

Sadly, MPs in Ghana today are too willing to kill to retain or return their party in power. Because of the perks of office.

I ask: in a house of laws, should it take this level of violence to settle a constitutional issue? Whether or not the Constitution allows a First or Second Deputy Speaker to preside, take a motion and step down as an ordinary MP to vote is a question whose answer lies in the bosom of a Judge.

Violently snatching the Speaker’s chair is to declare we don’t need Parliament; that might is right, and that the physically violent wins, rather than superior arguments and majority votes.

That makes a hero of Germany’s unification Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, who famously prescribed that “the great questions of the day will not be settled by means of speeches and majority decisions but by blood and iron.”

On Tuesday, someone justified the violence, saying that “even MPs in Britain, America and India trade punches”.

To this person, I will again quote Otto von Bismarck, who said, “Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others,” he observed.

Violence in Ghana’s Parliament will never cease as long as the easily identifiable culprits walk free. To date, nothing has happened to the MP who removed the Speaker’s chair on December 1.

On this note, I wish Bagbin a Merry Christmas. Good God, what a Speaker!

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