Minority Leader of Parliament, Haruna Iddrisu has launched an attack on Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, with accusations that he misled the Speaker, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, to be autocratic in his leadership.
This follows the suspension of Parliament without a definite day to reconvene by the Speaker as he cites desperate times because of the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed five persons with 287 infections.
The Minority has raised issues, citing violation of the Standing Orders of Parliament in arriving at the decision by the Speaker.
In justifying their opposition to the move, the MP for Tamale South Constituency further pointed figures at Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu accusing him of urging on Professor Oquaye to take one-sided decisions.
He told Citi FM on Tuesday, April 7, that: “It is Kyei-Mensah who is misleading the Speaker and he lacks candour on this matter”.
Mr Iddrisu said on Saturday, as early as 7:38 am, he sent Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu a text requesting an adjournment of Parliament, sine dire with notice for recall, instead of an indefinite suspension.
“Adjournment must be to a specific day or time, but with this case, he has given us no indication,” he bemoaned.
In response, Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu indicated that he was “scandalized” by the remarks of Mr Iddrisu. “God forbid. If he searched his soul, he will realize that I have never done that”.
“I’m surprised about the use of language by my colleague the Minority Leader,” he stated, and explained that there had never been a healthier relationship between a Minority Leader and a Majority Leader in the history of the Fourth Republic.
“I’m surprised by the attitude of the Minority Leader lately,” he repeated while condemning Mr Iddrisu’s “harsh language”.
But in response, the Minority Leader said, “I am disappointed. He (Majority Leader) is the one not providing the leadership,” he said, as he rebuffed suggestions of the Minority being uncooperative.
Mr Iddrisu pointed Order 42 as justification for citing the Speaker of violating parliamentary principles.
“There is a provision on how to adjourn the House, so this is not a matter that the Standing Orders or the Constitution have given discretion to the Speaker. So Kyei and the Speaker got it wrong, on the face,” he insisted.
However, My Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu insisted that “there is no provision for adjournment of meetings” under the current Standing Orders, but rather meetings.
Therefore, he said the Speaker was supposed to use discretion to determine such matters.
According to him, the Speaker’s decision did not constitute the dissolution of Parliament as Mr Iddrisu alleged.
He pointed out that dissolution did not lie within the power of the Speaker because after every four years Parliament becomes dissolved automatically.
He further explained that Order 42 related to “adjourning sittings and not adjourning meetings”.
Order 42 States:
“(1) Mr. Speaker may at any time suspend a Sitting of the House.
(2) Mr. Speaker shall be responsible for adjournment after consultation with the House, for fixing the time when a Sitting of the House should be adjourned sine die or to a particular day, or to an hour or part of the same day.
(3) Mr. Speaker may, if he thinks fit, call a Sitting of the House before the date or time to which it has been adjourned or at any time after the house has been adjourned sine die”.
Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said Parliament has sessions which are a series of meetings and Ghana is currently in the Fourth Session of the Seventh Parliament since the 1992 Constitution came into effect.
“Within a session, we have meetings and sittings,” he insisted.
He explained that the first meeting is usually after the New Year, which leads us into Easter, the second meeting is usually after Easter to July or first week of August and then the third meeting being the Budget normally in October and then the last meeting was held till December.
He added that the daily business of Parliament was referred to as the sittings and that is what Standing Order 42 covered.
But in a rebuttal, Mr Iddrisu had said that he was fighting and defending parliamentary democracy to prevent the precedence of a Speaker suspending Parliament’s sitting indefinitely in the future.
He also described the removal of the Mace from Parliament as wrong.
For him, “When you suspend a House, the mace is tilted, it is never taken away. Therefore, when the Speaker was walking out with the Mace, that is why we (Minority) refused to rise because that was a walking illegality”.
The Speaker ought not to walk out with it, he stressed.
Order 46 states:
“(1) During the existence of Parliament, Mace. The Mace shall be the symbol of the powers, privileges and authority of Parliament entrusted by it to Mr. Speaker.
(2) The Mace shall stand upright before the Table during all Sittings of the House except during Committees of the whole House or Consideration Stage of Bills when it shall stand tilted. The Mace shall not be removed from the Table when the Sitting of the House is suspended.
(3) When Parliament is dissolved, the Mace shall be kept in the custody of the Central Bank of Ghana”.
But Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu defended the action of the Parliamentary Marshall to relocate the Mace.
“When the suspension is overnight then pragmatically, and again, this is not expressly presented in the Standing Orders, but pragmatism to suggest to anybody that in that regard, the Mace cannot be left in the House if the suspension is at least24 hours or maybe 48 hours,” the Majority Leader noted.
In his view, “the mace is gold plated” and cannot be left at the Chamber when no one was around.
Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu emphasised that adjournment of the House would require a 14-day notice, but because the country was not in normal times a suspension was prudent, so that the House could be called anytime to attend to urgent matters in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Mr Iddrisu also had other issues with the Speaker. He accused the Speaker of governing Parliament with different sets of rules for the Majority and Minority.
He said, “There is no problem” between him and the Speaker, but “things must be done right”.
He was concerned that the Speaker had cut him off when he wanted to intervene after the Finance Minister appeared before Parliament to seek approval for the release of funds to fight COVID-19.
“A major statement, the government wants to spend GHS 1 billion and changed it to GHS 600m, those are the questions we should be asking,” he lamented.
On March 21 he said he also wanted to make a contribution, but he was asked to come by a motion. However, according to him, after a week, the Majority Leader was allowed to make a similar intervention without being asked to come by a motion which was unfair.
That, the Majority Leader said, was not the true reflection of what transpired and insisted that the Speaker had not been just.