Speaker of Parliament, Prof Aaron Mike Oquaye has said that the country will shut down if Parliament does not sit.
He has therefore ruled out any possibility of the legislature closing down just like other state and private institutions have, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the pandemic biting hard across all sectors of the country, several private and public institutions have had to alter their scope of normal day-to-day activities.
Some, including the Finance and Education ministries, COCOBOD, BOST among others have closed down their offices, following reported cases of the coronavirus infections among their staff.
Even though Parliament recorded its first case several months ago, it continues to sit, much to the chagrin of a section of the populace and health experts who fear an upsurge in cases in the legislature.
But the Speaker says the option of closing the House cannot be considered due to the rather important role the legislature plays in the scheme of things in the country.
“We all know that Parliament is not like all other places that you can easily and simply say you have suspended or closed down,” he told MPs on Friday, July 10, 2020.
“…as for Parliament please let us know that we are in a very peculiar situation. In fact, the government knows that Parliament can operate in case of emergency; separately and individually.”
“Parliament is Parliament, so let us also be very careful on how to manage protocol and matters concerning us because it looks like we might be the last stop otherwise there is no country. We are in a very critical situation and we must accept it as such and operate as such.”
Explaining further, the Speaker also added that with the government expected to present the mid-year budget review before MPs for consideration and approval, it makes the halt in parliamentary activities impossible.
“Very soon the honourable Minister of Finance is going to read the substantive budget. If parliament doesn’t sit, the country will shut down. There will be no money, it is as simple as that.”
Touching on measures to keep the House safe from COVID-19, Prof Oquaye said another round of fumigation and disinfection will be carried out in the Chamber on Monday, July 13, 2020, to mitigate the fears of members.
“The chamber was fumigated and this will be done again on Monday dawn for the house to sit. That will be going on for our safety and security.”
He also warned MPs against engaging the services of national service personnel and other staff of Parliament who have been asked to stay at home.
“One thing is that our experts continue to tell us that this matter is also about movement. I have been advised that a few people have broken the instruction. Some staff insists on coming to the house and one person said his honourable member told him to come.”
“Honorable members, this is the last warning. If any person engages staff by way of research assistant and all those people who have been asked to stay at home, that person will be disciplined. When that happens nobody should come and plead for anyone. Let us also remember that if any honourable member sees any stranger on his or her floor and accommodates that kind of thing, you are helping the spread of the virus.”