The Majority Leader in Parliament, Mr. Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, has indicated that Speaker Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin has not erred in the referral of the three absentee Members of Parliament (MPs) to the Privileges Committee.
According to the Majority Leader, Speakers have the right to receive petition from the public and act on it. He said this to justify Speaker Bagbin’s referral, which has been vehemently challenged by the Minority Chief Whip, Mr. Mohammed Muntaka Mubarak.
It would be recalled that before Parliament brought the First Meeting of the Second Session of the Eighth Parliament to a close, Speaker Bagbin referred three MPs who were found to have absented themselves for more than fifteen days to the Privileges Committee for the necessary action to be taken on them.
The Speaker, who made the referral while addressing the House through a Formal Communication, said his attention was drawn to the issue through a petition by some members of the public about the possible breach of Article 97(1)(c) and order 15(1) of the Standing Orders of Parliament of these three MPs.
He also indicated that evidence by the Table Office from the “Votes and Proceedings” of the House indicated that these three members had absented themselves for more than fifteen sitting days, and had hence fallen foul to the law. But this referral was opposed by Mr. Mubarak.
According to the Minority Chief Whip, going by Parliamentary laws and practices, the petition should have come from a Member of the House, through a motion, and not from the public.
He said taking action based on petitions from the public was very dangerous to Ghana’s democratic practices, because it would open the flood gate for all sorts of petitions to be brought to the House in future. He, therefore, challenged the Speaker’s referral through a motion.
But, addressing the media at a press conference in Parliament last Friday, the Majority Leader said that a Speaker had the right to receive petitions from the public and act on them, adding that such a practice was common.
“I think it is important to express my disagreement with the Chief Whip of the Minority. A Speaker can receive petitions. As you are all aware, demonstrators come to Parliament to present petitions. Who do they submit the petitions to? The intent is to submit the petition to the Speaker, and the Speaker would often times send the Majority Leader and the Minority Leader to go and receive the petitions on his behalf.”
According to him, the Speaker, after receiving the petition, would peruse it, and then refers it to the appropriate committee for further investigations. He questioned where Mr. Mubarak conceived the idea that a Speaker could not receive petitions from the public, and expressed his disagreement.
Mr. Kyei Mensah Bonsu said the only part he disagreed with the Speakers was the part where he directed that the Committee should present its report to the House for a vote. He believed that whatever decisions the committee took should be final, and not be subjected to a vote in the plenary.
Another issue that the Majority Leader touched on was the passage of the Electronic Transaction Levy (E-levy) bill into law. He noted that the purported injunction filed by the Minority in Parliament to stop the implementation of the E-levy on May 1 was incomprehensible.
He said the process had started already and wondered how the Minority could stop something that had already begun.