Politics of Wednesday, 24 June 2015
The Majority Leader, Mr Alban S.K. Bagbin, has said Parliament is not averse to criticism but any disapproval expressed by pointing out faults or shortcomings should be done in a way that does not reduce the image or authority of the House or subject it to ridicule.
“Members of the public are at liberty to criticise Parliament as an institution and also individual members but it should be done in a way that the general impression presented to the public does not lower the institution into an undignified situation,” he told the Daily Graphic at Parliament House.
The Daily Graphic had sought to know when and how one could criticise Parliament.
Last week, a lecturer at the School of Medicine and Dentistry of the University of Ghana, Prof. Alex Dodoo, and reggae musician and radio presenter, Blakk Rasta, were summoned to appear before the Parliamentary Select Committee on Privileges for unsavoury comments they made about Parliament.
While Prof. Dodoo referred to MPs as ignorant when he commented on their reaction to the suspended Ebola vaccine trial, Blakk Rasta, in a radio programme, said 80 per cent of MPs smoked marijuana.
In 2011, Mr Steve Mallory, the Editor of Africa Watch, a UK-based magazine, was summoned to appear before the committee for grading MPs for their performance in the House.
The grades ranged from A to F.
Mr Mallory, who resides outside the Ghanaian jurisdiction, did not appear before the committee.
Mr Bagbin said the law on contempt of Parliament was built around the institution of Parliament.
“The reason you cannot denigrate the President is the same reason you cannot denigrate Parliament,” he said.
Mr Bagbin said Parliament represented the authority of all Ghanaians and had been given immense power to protect the interest of the people.
“It is Parliament that is enshrined with the authority of the people. Once you succeed in eroding the authority of Parliament, democracy ceases to exist,” he said.
According to him, the most important and “highest ” certificate in the world is the “elected certificate” and not an academic one.
“That is why when the country comes together to elect a President, he becomes the first gentleman of the land. It is because he has the highest elected certificate. You can disagree with a Member of Parliament or the entire House on a decision that they have taken, but you cannot call them ignorant. You can also not make unfounded allegations against MPs just to drag their name in the mud. People voted for me to become an MP. If you insult me, it is the people who voted for me you have insulted. It is the people of Ghana you have insulted,” he said.
Turning the spotlight on the rating of MPs done four years ago, he said it was difficult to find the basis for such an exercise, adding that that was what drew the ire of MPs.
“What was the basis? Attendance? Contribution on the floor of Parliament or at committee meetings, performance in the constituency or dealings with civil society?” he asked.