The Speaker of Parliament, Prof Aaron Mike Oquaye, yesterday suspended Parliament indefinitely.
This was against the usual constitutional and parliamentary rules which give Parliament the power to adjourn sitting at the end of every meeting of every session.
However, the Speaker, who was addressing the House at yesterday’s sitting, indicated that the Parliament would be suspended indefinitely and reconvene when the need be. This directive, he said, was due to the Coronavirus pandemic that has thrown the country into a state of emergency.
He said that in such times, the services of Members of Parliament are very critical, hence, members should be able to perform some duties when called upon.
The Speaker said that the country is in a national emergency situation, hence all parliamentarians should rise to the occasion and act swiftly.
He highlighted some of the important and relevant bills the House had to approve to help the fight against the Coronavirus (COVID-19), and pointed out how they would have done the country a disservice should it had put meetings on hold due to the danger posed by the pandemic.
But the Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, said he disagreed with the Speaker’s directives, terming it as unconstitutional and something that was not at par with Parliament’s own Standing Orders.
According to the Minority Leader, such a critical decision should have been taken in consultation with the leadership and members of the house.
“I see no reason why you should suspend this House. You have no powers to suspend us. I respect your age, your leadership, and the fact that today is your birthday, but we will not accept this constitutional dictatorship.
“Suspend sitting indefinitely, Mr Speaker, you have no powers to do that. The Speaker is supposed to call a sitting of Parliament. He should do so with the House. “
Quoting some portions of the Constitution and the Standing Orders of Parliament, Mr Iddrisu explained that the Speaker should have called a meeting of Members of Parliament to discuss and seek their approval before giving such directives.
Haruna called the Speaker’s directive as unconstitutional and unacceptable.
He also complained about the fact that leaders are supposed to make closing remarks before the end of every session of Parliament, but the Speaker didn’t allow them to do so.
He again raved and ranted about some comments made by the Speaker during his address and said it could divide the House.
“I am shocked at how you are dividing us with this statement. You should keep us together and demonstrate some respect. You didn’t even let we, the leaders of the House, make our closing remarks.”
Defending his directives, Speaker Oquaye indicated that he had called for a meeting with the leadership of both sides of the House to discuss it, but Minority leadership refused to show up with the exception of one leader. He said that the decision was taken, and the member from their side was employed to inform the other leaders, hence, he had not faulted in any way.
Majority Leader of the House Mr Osei Kyei Mensah, who also defended the Speaker’s directive, said that he agreed with the fact that the directives were not in accordance with the Standing Orders of Parliament and the Constitution, but the directive was taken because the country was not in normal times.
He said Parliament, as a representative of the people, must standby to respond emergencies, and implored his colleagues to bear with the directives.
He indicated he was sad that the house was suspending sittings on such a note, but advised his colleagues who intend to challenge the Speaker’s directives to use the appropriate means to address their sentiments.
By Agnes Ansah / www.thechronicle.com.gh
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