Anti-LGBTQ Bill: President’s letter to Parliament’s Clerk is contemptuous – Speaker

Alban Bagbin

Speaker Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin has described as contemptuous the President’s letter directing Parliament to “cease and desist” from transmitting the Human Sexual Rights and Family Value Bill 2024, to the presidency for assent.

The letter, dated March 29, 2024, was issued by Nana Asante Bediatuo, the Executive Secretary to the President, addressed to the Clerk to Parliament, directing him to “cease and desist” from attempting to transmit the Bill to the President for necessary action in accordance with the Constitution.

The Speaker said this on Wednesday night in a formal communication to the House in response to the said letter, which indicated that the Office of the President was aware of two pending applications for an order of interlocutory injunction seeking to restrain the Clerk and Parliament from transmitting the Bill to the President.

It further indicated that the Attorney General had, on 18th March 2024, informed the President that he had received the two applications and had advised the President not to take any steps in relation to the Bill until matters raised by the suit are determined by the Supreme Court.

“As a result, the Presidency conveyed to the Clerk that it was unable to accept the transmission of the Bill.”

Speaker Bagbin said in the March 18, 2024, letter from the Attorney General, he used the phrase “…I will respectfully advice that a decision to assent to the Bill be made after the determination of the application for interlocutory injunction… and not an advice to the President not to receive the Bill from Parliament.”

It was, therefore, interesting that in view of this clear and unambiguous advice from the Attorney-General to the President, the Presidency had taken this decision, the Speaker said.

“In the face of these developments, it is important for us to reflect upon the manner in which these events have unfolded.”

He said on the 28th of February, 2024, the House passed the Human Sexual Rights and Family Value Bill 2024, a move that was the culmination of rigorous debate, thoughtful deliberation, and the collective will of the representatives of Ghanaians.

The Bill then underwent the customary process of winnowing, which was an important procedure designed to ensure that all amendments and changes proposed during the legislative process were accurately incorporated.

After successfully completing the winnowing process, the Clerk to Parliament, fulfilling his duties as the procedural intermediary between the legislative and executive branches, endeavoured to send the Bill to the Presidency in accordance with section five of the Interpretation Act, 2009 (Act 792).

Speaker Bagbin said the action steeped in established parliamentary practice and procedure, signifying the final step in the legislative process, enabling the President to review and, if in agreement, assent to the Bill, thereby enacting it into law in accordance with Article 106(7) of the Constitution.

He said the refusal to accept the Bill for transmission did not occur in isolation but persisted across multiple attempts, with the third attempt to transmit the Bill forming the basis of the letter he had previously alluded to.

“Notably, the Presidency’s refusal to accept the transmission of the Bill has not been formally communicated to this House through the established channels of official correspondence from the President to this House,” he said, and that it was troubling.

He said the contents of the letter, albeit not formally presented to the House “have come to our attention, compelling us to confront the issues it raises.’’

“It is a matter of great concern that the executive branch has chosen to disregard the established constitutional structures that facilitate constructive dialogue and collaboration between the branches of government,” the Speaker said.

“In light of these circumstances, it is incumbent on this House to stand united in its response to this affront to the legislative authority vested in it by the Constitution and the people we serve,” he said.

“We must articulate a collective voice that unequivocally condemns the disregard for our constitutional structures and reaffirms our commitment to upholding the rule of law.”

He noted that the Parliament of Ghana operated as a crucial part of the nation’s democracy, embodying the will and voice of the people and any efforts to obstruct its work disrespected the fundamental institution and threatens the principles of governance by consent and representation.

He mentioned that thirdly, it was imperative to remain vigilant against setting dangerous precedents that could potentially undermine the foundation of the nation’s democracy.

He said the rejection of a Bill’s transmission without constitutional basis introduces a precarious deviation from established democratic practices and norms; adding that such actions, if left unchallenged, might embolden future attempts to circumvent the legislative process, thereby weakening the integrity and efficacy of the nation’s democratic institutions.

He said the current impasse presents an opportunity for reflection and reaffirmation of the nation’s commitment to the principles of democracy, rule of law, and the unequivocal respect for the legislative process that forms the bedrock of governance.

“The Parliament of Ghana will comply with the existing legal framework and reject the attempts by the Executive Secretary of the President, through his contemptuous letter, to instruct the Clerk to Parliament, an Officer of Parliament whose position is recognizably under the Constitution.  We shall not cease and desist!”

Source: GNA

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