I do not wish to be dragged into the debate of the merits and demerits of the construction of a new chamber to accommodate the House of Parliament.
This issue has driven the nation into a ball of confusion, where people against the idea have expressed their displeasure openly and bravely, and those for have also attempted to explain the need for a new chamber.
Before I get to my opinion, I wish to draw readers’ attention to one statement that rings soundly through the reasons those against the motion are drawing our attention to. And that is lack of infrastructure development in the way of good roads, hospitals, schools and the plight of the poor, as in lack of poverty alleviation. In spite of all these the members of Parliament (MPs) want a new chamber.
Here is the problem, and this problem has been created by both the electorate and the parliamentarian and has effectively been made the norm. All MPs must bring development to their constituencies and must alleviate poverty among their constituents when these are not the role of members of the House.
Basically, Parliament is about laws and government/state agreements with foreign and local partners, and approving or rejecting of national budgets, not forgetting same with loans. Nothing talks about the MP taking up the role of a development agent in his or her constituency. But, unfortunately, when the parliamentary candidate meets the electorate, nothing is mentioned about how he or she would help make good laws among others. The electorate will point to the bad roads, lack of pipe borne water, health facilities, police post and good schools in the area, and they will assure the candidate that “we will vote for your presidential candidate and vote for you so that when you get there you can bring these developments home!” And the candidate will accept the request and go ahead to make more promises. This is fraud, because this is not the role of the MP. Now, as they sit in Accra to do exactly what MPs are to do, things get worse back home.
In fact, the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE) is not working hard enough to educate the public, as parliamentary candidates, both new ones and those seeking re-elections, capitalise on this fraud to win the hearts of the electorate and get elected into the House.
The job of bringing development to the area is the responsibility of a lesser acknowledged officer, the District/Municipal/Metropolitan chief executive. In the event of public uproar against lack of development, instead of the people marching to the assembly and summoning the chief executive for questioning, they throw salvos at the MP who is far away and out of sight.
There must be, as a matter of urgency, education on that part of our law: the responsibilities of the MP and D/M/MCE, so that we know who to hold responsible and for what.
Talking about D/M/MCEs brings on the reason for this opinion. If all goes well, these chief executives will be elected by the electorates, with the government of the day not having a direct hand in who should occupy that position. Even as I have a few issues to raise on this matter, I will shelve it for another day and look at what will most likely happen when we start electing our chief executives.
Firstly, they will now be treated like the MPs. And secondly, just as the MP, the chief executive will no longer be at the beck and call of the regional minister, and to some extent, the government itself, because they will only be answerable to their electorates in the district/municipal and metropolitan areas.
These chief executives would need to meet together to discuss matters of development and poverty alleviation, as they do from time to time under this current dispensation. Let us remember that one district’s development can be directly linked with happens in other districts.
In the event that they are now autonomous, they may need to have a fixed place to assemble, and we can call this another House of Representatives, another chamber with residential apartments. The sensibility of their agenda will not require them to lodge in a hotel and use its conference facilities to discuss very important matters that directly affect the lives of the people.
One will say that the chief executives should move from one district/municipality/metropolis to another to meet quarterly or half-yearly, or annually. Then this will require putting up chambers that can accommodate all of them in every district, municipality and metropolis; chambers that will be lying fallow for decades, considering the number of assemblies we have and are going to have.
Since the chief executives will have to come down to the capital to meet the executive arm of government, such a chamber complex should be built in Accra. So we will still need a new chamber, after all. The seating capacity should be dependent on focusing into the future and using statistics to find out how many assemblies will be in existence in twenty-five or even fifty years-time.So that when more assemblies are created, we shall not be faced with the task of building new chambers.
If those in the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) had projected into the future and acquired or built a chamber complex that could sit at most five hundred members, we will not be crying foul today.
Let us move on as one nation, and for now onwards let us send developmental issues to the chief executives of the assemblies and businesses of legislations to the MPs. And one more thing, when we go to elect parliamentary candidates and onwards to parliamentarians, let us elect those who have full command of the English language and can research, unaided, into all matters even beyond their scope; people who can easily apply knowledge. Just putting any one at all who cannot understand what he or she reads is not helpful to the nation.
Meanwhile, we need to boost the image of the chief executives and elect sound-minded people into that office as well. Men and women who can apply the knowledge they have for the good of the people, because matters affecting the people must be handled properly. To me the D/M/MCEs will also need a chamber.
Reader, what say you?
Hon. Daniel Dugan