Parliament on Thursday closed earlier than normal by 1400 hours and would not sit on Friday 19th June, 2020 to allow more time for incumbent MPs on the Majority New Patriotic Party (NPP) to participate in their party’s parliamentary primaries coming off this weekend.
As a result of the one day “holiday” of the House on Friday, the reading of the Business Statement was pushed to the following week.
The House was to pass resolutions on Visa Waiver Agreements and take the Land Bill 2019 through the consideration stage, which had begun, and too have Committee Sittings.
However, Majority Leader Osei Kyei- Mensah-Bonsu informed the House that sponsors of Land Bill 2019 were not available and consequently, the consideration of the proposed legislation did not proceed as scheduled.
The Majority Leader then enquired from the Speaker, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye if he had admitted any statement for the day for which the Speaker responded in the negative.
On the presentation of papers, the Majority Leader in an apparent reference to Mr Frank Annoh-Dompreh, Chairman on Committee on Foreign Affairs and MP for Nsawam-Adoagyiri, said the Chairman was not available in the House and pleaded with the House to reschedule the activity for next week.
Mr Annoh-Dompreh is seeking to be re-elected at the NPP primaries slated for this weekend, and as the Majority Leader put it, the House had to reschedule the activity to allow the Chairman to deal with the “forces controlling him”.
Other papers that were supposed to have come from Foreign Affairs Minister were not presented and the House was rather implored to reschedule them for next week.
“Mr Speaker, in the circumstance and subject to the agreement of colleagues we may have to adjourn,” Majority Leader moved.
It was then that the Speaker recognized Mr Joseph Yieleh Chireh, MP for Wa West, who was on his feet. Mr Chireh complained about the absence a number of Committee Chairmen in the House and said this has made the House unable to do business as expected.
He prayed the House to grant Minority Members of the House an abstention.
Mr Chireh recalled that in the event of the coronavirus pandemic, the Speaker suspended, rather than adjourned the House and prayed the Speaker for similar suspension as members of the Majority side stayed away from business of the House in the run-up to its primaries.
“I think that, you as a Speaker, (must) use your discretion to suspend our sitting like when we were asked to come even when there was crisis. Anybody seeing this Parliament would not take us serious and rather he, (pointing the Majority Leader) should move the motion for us to adjourn.”
Minority Chief Whip Alhaji Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka referred to the absence of a large number of members on the Majority side as “predicament” and prayed the House to read the Business Statement, usual read on Friday on the next Tuesday “so that we just don’t come here tomorrow because of the Business Statement.”
Alhaji Muntaka said the inability of Ministers, Rankings and Chairpersons to be present makes it impossible for the MPs to conduct any meaningful business.
He called for a suspension or an adjournment without the House sitting on Friday for the necessary pieces of documentation to be worked on before the House comes back on Tuesday.
“…I believe we save ourselves the worry of congregating tomorrow… so that we take it first thing on Tuesday morning when we come back.”
Following this, Speaker Oquaye said the House might have to “bite the bullet, face the reality and comeback on Tuesday.”
The Majority Leader then suggested to Speaker Oquaye to study the mood of the House for decision to be taken on whether to sit on Friday or not.
Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu observed that the situation had brought to the fore a lesson, that the holding of party primaries should not be done when the House is sitting or should not come close to immediately after an adjournment of a meeting saying it had rippling effect on the performance of MPs when the House resumes.
Some members heckled the Leader on that statement but he defended himself that video clippings of sittings of the House after primaries would evidence poor attendance of members.
According to Majority Leader the decision or practice of the House not sitting or having poor attendance for business as a result of primaries does not happen in any of the entrenched democracies.
Furthermore, he argued, that primaries would not be the only way to re-energize the House despite the constitution of the various parties enjoining for primaries to elect candidates.
The Majority Leader said some experienced members of the House become casualties at the primaries which contribute to the attrition rate MPs.
He wondered if the holding of primaries, where money plays a big factor in getting candidates elected to represent political parties, was not a breeding ground for corruption in politics and urged the political parties to self-introspect and come out with other means of getting candidates for the elections