Great ruling, Mr Speaker

135
Rt. Hon. Speaker Alban Bagbin

At last Wednesday’s sitting of Parliament, Okudzeto Ablakwa demanded – all but prayed that it be part of the law or Standing Orders – that Parliamentarians who boycott sittings to solidarise with their colleagues facing the courts over their personal and private battle with the law, must not be deemed to have absented themselves.

 

His reason: boycotts are part of the package of rights for MPs.

 

Watching the proceedings on the telly, I was livid, so enraged I could hardly breathe.

 

Then the Speaker spoke.

 

His ruling was that an MP who wants to absent themselves must first obtain permission from Mr Speaker and that the request and permission must be in writing.

 

Why are the National Democratic Congress (NDC) MPs boycotting Parliamentary sittings, in the first place? They are using the period of the boycotts to “picket” the courts trying their embattled colleagues.

 

Picketing is my own word, but dear reader, that is what their action is tantamount to.

 

Why should we allow them to? Is it the first time an MP is on trial?

 

In 2012, an Accra Fast Track Court sentenced the New Patriotic Party (NPP) MP for Bawku Central, Adamu Sakande, to two years’ imprisonment for offences related to dual citizenship.

 

He was found guilty of making false declaration, deceit of public officer and perjury – a case brought by a cattle dealer.

 

The trial began in 2009 and it travelled unimpeded for three years in court.

 

So why did the NPP MPs not boycott Parliamentary sitting then? I am not NPP.

 

I can only suspect the party concluded that no action of theirs, no amount of noise or threats could influence the decision of the court.

 

So why is society allowing NDC MPs to pursue this course of action without let or hindrance?

 

NLC

When ordinary workers embark on an industrial action, the National Labour Commission is called in.

 

In seven out of 10 cases, the commission succeeds in convincing them to call off the action.

 

The reason they succeed is that the workers operate under law and are law-abiding.

 

In these disputes, nobody considers themselves above the law.

 

Are Parliamentarians above the law? Why should they expect full remuneration for no work done?

 

To get the full import of this question – from all that we have observed about this class of Ghanaians since 1992 – ask yourself, how many times have MPs been heard agitating for salary increase? It just gets done.

 

Was any Ghanaian consulted when MPs imported chairs from China?

 

Their will is done – always.

 

The most bizarre of the current goings on is the boycott in support of Ato Forson.

 

It is bizarre that all 30 million-plus of us in Ghana should sit by, paralysed, as the leader of a Parliamentary caucus mobilises his crowd to boycott sittings and accompany him to court.

 

Just because he is an MP!

 

By this the House is crippled

 

Bills cannot be debated, let alone pass them.

 

But is that why God, by His sovereign will, permitted the present arrangement of a hung Parliament? It is being abused.

 

This is the only time in Parliamentary history when fisticuffs ended in the slashing of the face of an MP with what is suspected to be razor blade.

 

What would enter the mind of an individual facing trial, to decide to mass up 100 or more family or friends in court and delay Parliamentary business with intent to pressurise the country into terminating the trial?

 

Cassiel Ato Forson and Gyakye Quayson are not criminals, not yet; that verdict will be determined by the trial judge or judges.

 

By the action of the MPs, the NDC has pre-determined that the accused persons are not guilty.

 

If they are so sure of their innocence, why don’t they allow the courts to determine that?

 

Rule

The rule of law that allowed Quayson and Forson to be declared MPs is the same rule that forbids stampeding the courts into decisions.

 

After all, did the High Court in Accra need a stampede or boycott to rule in favour of Tsatsu Tsikata’s arguments that Quayson be given time to campaign in the June 27 bye election?

 

What is the boycott and the massing up in court intended to achieve? Will the judge bow to pressure to declare the two not guilty?

 

I am no sadist, I am not anti-NDC and I don’t hate Gyakye Quayson but I rejoiced and gave a thumbs-up to the law when the Court of Appeal dismissed his plea for stay of proceedings.

 

For me, the ruling of the court meant that the law does not bow to pressure by any group, no matter how fearsome or important they may be.

 

The NDC action is not fair to Ghanaians.

 

We didn’t end military dictatorship only to tolerate parliamentary dictatorship.

 

PS: Can we imagine the noise if Okudzeto Ablakwa had lost in the National Cathedral case?

 

The writer is the Executive Director, Centre for Communication

and Culture.

E-mail: ashonenimil@gmail.com

 

Source- Graphic online

 

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