Joe Osei Owusu
Members of the Minority side of Parliament are grumbling over what they believe to be a deliberate ploy by President Mahama and the Speaker of Parliament, Edward Doe Adjaho, to smuggle certain amended clauses into the country’s Constitution.
At a press conference in Accra yesterday, Member of Parliament (MP) for Bekwai and Ranking Member for Constitutional and Legal Affairs, Joe Osei-Owusu, hinted of Mr. Doe Adjaho’s referral of proposed amendments of certain entrenched provisions in the 1992 Constitution to the Council of State.
According to him, even though details of the proposed amendment had not been made available to Members of Parliament, the Speaker had forwarded them to the Council of State on receiving them from the office of the Attorney-General, backing his decision with Article 290 of the Constitution.
Article 290 relates to the amendment of some provisions in the Constitution which are referred to as “entrenched provisions,” such as the Territories of Ghana, the Laws of Ghana, the Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms, Representation of the People, among others.
The Minority insisted that ‘any proper reading and holistic appreciation of Article 290 would suggest that the Bill first ought to have been published in the Gazette and should not have been introduced into Parliament ‘until the expiry of six months after the publication in the Gazette.”
According to them, ‘Clause (2) of Article 290 which requires the Speaker to refer proposals for amendment to the Council of State cannot therefore be taken as a stand-alone provision which clothes the Speaker with an administrative authority to initiate Constitutional amendment.’
For them, that would be a wrong interpretation of the Constitution.
In view of the fact that Cabinet only approved of the proposal for amendment on April 10, 2014, Mr. Joe Osei-Owusu asked rhetorically, ‘When was the Bill gazetted such that the Speaker, with such indecent haste, relayed it to the Council of State?’
He revealed that ‘the letter from the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Marietta Brew Appiah-Opong to the Speaker of Parliament in respect of the Bill in question in the opening paragraph stated rather erroneously, ‘in compliance with Article 290 of the 1992 Constitution, please find attached for your consideration and subsequent referral to the Council of State the Constitution (amendments) (entrenched provisions) Bill 2014.”
This, the Minority said, exposes the move since according to Mr. Osei-Owusu, ‘Bills are meant for the consideration of Parliament and not the Speaker,’ believing that ‘the Speaker merely took a cue from this rather unfortunate guidance from the Attorney-General and proceeded forthwith to refer the Bill to the Council of State.’
For them, ‘The conduct of the Speaker, strange as it appears, is to follow a pattern that has become apparent ever since the Speaker assumed office – i.e. extreme partisanship in Parliamentary decision-making process which unwinds the clock of national interest approach to Parliamentary business.’
The Minority expressed deep-seated regret that the entire Constitutional amendment was turning out to be what they described as ‘nothing other than an Executive review of the national Constitution’ with a warning that ‘any attempt to hurry the process of Constitutional amendment through without reference to the recently announced Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG)-led proposals to reform the democratic landscape in Ghana, would be a big slap in the face of good democratic governance.’
They have since written to the Speaker of Parliament to withdraw his referral of the amendments to the Council of State since they are of the firm conviction that ‘the action of the Speaker ousts the jurisdiction of Parliament and indeed Ghanaians in the consideration of amendments to entrenched provisions in the Constitution.’
They have equally asked the Attorney-General to withdraw the Bill from Parliament, have the proposals gazetted before introducing it (Bill) in order to create the six-month space for public participation in the deliberations concerning it, indicating their preparedness to take any and every legitimate action to correct the anomaly.
By Charles Takyi-Boadu & Ernest Nutsugah
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