The Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Michael Oquaye, has saluted Ghanaians for working together to restore the nation to the path of constitutional democracy.
He said he was proud of the men and women, who helped to rebuild Parliament after every military coup, had led to its dissolution.
“Whenever there is a military take-over, the institution which suffered the most was Parliament and we doff our hats for all those distinguished men and women who after every such difficult moments came back to rebuild the Parliament of Ghana.”
Prof Oquaye was speaking at a symposium on “25 years of parliamentary democracy in Ghana – challenges and prospects” in Accra and said “we want to dedicate this occasion to them”.
Ghana returned to constitutional democracy on January 07, 1993, after the fourth republican constitution had received an overwhelming yes vote by the people in a referendum, held in April 1992.
That was followed by general elections in November for the presidential and December (parliamentary) of that same year.
Prof Oquaye indicated that during the various military coup d’etat, the Executive only changed its form from “those in civics to those in uniform” but was still the Executive.
He added that the judiciary still remained around but given additional responsibility as a result of the “People’s Court”.
He made reference to the 1993 Parliament, where there was only one person who had ever been there before and later became the Leader of Government Business, the late Mr. J. H. Owusu Acheampong.
Prof Oquaye recalled that no parliament from 1966 to 1992 survived for more than 27 months except that of the first Republic, which was lucky enough to have had six years,
“And at the time we feared that the 27 months was a jinx, now we have 25 years for which we should thank God.”
He underlined the need to recognise those, who had done so much to sustain the fourth republic.
He applauded the contributions of his predecessors, past Members of Parliament (MPs) and Leaders and Clerks of the House.
Mr. Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, the Majority Leader and Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, expressed concern about the high attrition rate in House, something he said, was taking a huge toll on the quality of performance.
He noted that any parliament was as strong as its members and that the quality of material in the House “should be the concern of all of us.”
He asked the political parties to be mindful of the deteriorating quality and said “the high attrition rate is not helping to grow our parliament.”
“Today, the 275 members that we have, more than one half are first timers [and] it explains the reason why when we want to talk about quality materials in parliament we are talking about Alban Bagbin, we are talking about a person called Kyei Mensah Bonsu.
These two people are not instant products. They are not products of today.”
Mr. Mensah-Bonsu touched on the inability of parliament to effectively exercise its oversight responsibility and said that was largely due to its lack of financial independence.
“Ghana’s parliament does not have the financial independence we want it to have even though we have made tremendous strides” he added.
He was unhappy with what he termed “the glaring inequality in gender representation, citing the present situation where there were just 31 women in the 275-member House, and said “that cannot be a source of pride for us”.
Mr. Haruna Iddrisu, the Minority Leader, called for an amendment of the constitution to whittle down the powers conferred on the President.
“I think and I feel that the powers vested in the President of the Republic are just too excessive and therefore we will look to water down not just the powers of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo but all other Presidents of our Republic.”
Mr. Iddrisu held that a “stronger parliament reflects an accountable and transparent government; a stronger parliament remains the custodian of the liberties of the people at all time.”