General News of Thursday, 20 July 2017
Tempers flared in parliament yesterday when the minority chief whip and National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member for Asawase, Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka, dwelling on Order 75 (i) and Oder 78 (h) of the Standing Orders of Parliament, called for the immediate withdrawal of the Office of the Special Prosecutor Bill, 2017, saying its laying and first reading did not meet the minimum requirements of the rules of the house.
According to him, the minimum requirement was to have ensured that each Member of Parliament (MP) was provided with a copy of the bill immediately after it was laid on Tuesday, but as at yesterday, he claimed, no MP had been given a copy.
“Mr Speaker, as we are speaking now after 24 hours of laying the bill, we don’t have copies. My checks from the Clerk’s office also show that no copy had been given to the office,” Muntaka said, stressing that even members of the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of Parliament who had been tasked to scrutinize the bill before its consideration by the plenary, had not been provided with copies. He stressed that that was in serious breach of Order 75 (1) of the Standing Orders.
The MP for Bolgatanga East, Dr Dominic Ayine – a former deputy Attorney General and deputy ranking member of the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs – corroborated the assertion by the minority chief whip.
“Mr Speaker, as a committee, we met this morning on the issue and none of our members had been given a copy of the bill,” he announced, pointing out that it was important for the bill to be withdrawn and the right thing done before the bill was re-introduced.
The stance of the minority members angered their majority counterparts who said the minority feared the consequences of the bill and that was why they were trying to frustrate parliament in considering and passing the bill.
As the minority members insisted on the withdrawal of the bill, members of the majority became more infuriated and started shouting on them (minority) as they (minority) also returned ‘fire.’
The majority leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, told parliament that the minority were crying wolf when there is none and that arrangements had been made to get copies to the MPs.
He said as he was speaking there were already 30 copies of the bill which were meant to be distributed to at least members of the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee.
The first deputy speaker, Joseph Osei-Owusu, who was presiding at the time, said once the bill had been referred to the appropriate committees, it could not be withdrawn and therefore ruled out the demand of the minority chief whip.
He however, appealed to the majority leader to ensure that copies of the bill were made available to the MPs as soon as possible.