General News of Wednesday, 2 August 2017
Parliament has dismissed claims by the Minority that the Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, is biased against them when conducting business of the House.
Last Thursday, the Minority voiced their frustration and disenchantment that the Speaker exhibited naked bias against them when the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, appeared on the floor of Parliament to answer questions on the Planting for Food and Jobs programme of the government.
But a statement signed by the acting Director of Public Affairs, Parliament House, Ms Kate Addo, said the accusations against the Speaker were untrue.
According to the statement, it was the practice of the Speaker to call on the leadership of the two sides to have one speaker from the leaders to speak on an issue after the ordinary members had contributed to deliberations on the floor of the House.
Giving details of what happened in Parliament on Thursday, July 27, 2017, the statement said, “on that day, when the Speaker invited the Minority leadership to contribute, the Minority Chief Whip, Alhaji Mohammed-Mubarak Muntaka, stood up and spoke on behalf of the Minority leadership”.
It said the Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, later stood up to make an intervention and although the Speaker indicated that the Minority leadership had taken their turn, “out of deference to his position as Minority Leader, he was going to allow Mr Haruna to ask one additional question”.
According to the statement, that infuriated the Minority Leader who refused the Speaker’s offer insisting that he was entitled to more questions.
“The Minority Chief Whip, Alhaji Muntaka then came in with all the unfortunate remonstrations seen live on TV,” it said.
Taking a look back, the statement said some weeks ago, a similar development occurred, when the Majority leadership was asked to have its turn on a matter on the floor.
At that point, it said, the Majority Leader beckoned another person to speak after which the Majority Leader rose to speak further.
“The Speaker said the Majority leadership had taken their turn and that what the Majority Leader was seeking to do was tantamount to having a double bite at the cherry; the Speaker then graciously allowed the Majority Leader two minutes to make his submission,” the statement indicated.
It said the Speaker’s explanation was that it was to show respect to the Majority Leader, to which the Majority Leader complied and spoke to the issue within the time allocated to him and sat down, and added that “this was dignifying”.
Minority was favoured
It said the contributions allowed by the Speaker on that day at question time clearly favoured the Minority.
Referring to official reports, it mentioned that five Members of Parliament from the Majority side and seven from the Minority side were allowed to ask supplementary questions.
Those from the Majority side were Mr Frank Annoh Dompreh (Nsawam Adoagyiri), Mr Samuel Ayeh Paye (Ayensuano), Mr Steven Siaka (Jaman North), Mr Kwabena O. Darko Mensah (Takoradi) and Mr Mohammed Hardi Tuferu (Nanton).
From the Minority side, those who were allowed supplementary questions were Mr Ras Mubarak (Kumbungu), Mr Ebenezer Okletey Terlabi (Manya Korbo), Alhaji Collins Dauda (Asutifi South), Mr Cassiel A.B. Forson
(Ajumako/Enyan/Essiam), Mr Sampson Ahi, ( Bodi) Mr Thomas Nyarko Ampem (Asuogyaman) and Alhaji Mohammed-Mubarak Muntaka (Asawase).
“Let the public know clearly that the Minority rather was favoured. Indeed, by their numbers in the House, the Speaker could even use a ratio of 60:40 in favour of the Majority.
“The Standing Orders (Order 60:2) provide one hour for the entire question time. On this occasion, the Speaker allowed one hour 10 minutes for one minister and one question alone and gave the bigger percentage to the Minority. This is generosity, not bias,” the statement said, adding that, “there was, therefore, no need for the inexplicable outburst in the House”.
Pointing out that the Standing Orders of Parliament provided a process for appealing against a ruling by the Speaker, the statement, therefore, described the conduct of the Minority as unparliamentary and stressed the need for the dignity of the House and its rules and practices to be respected.
Giving further evidence of the fairness of the Speaker, the statement mentioned what happened last Friday when Alhaji Muntaka discussed with the Speaker, the police checks in the homes of some Minority MPs, which the Speaker immediately acted on.
“The Speaker could only have assured Hon. Muntaka that he would take the matter up with the authorities, but he went further to say he would have the matter raised on the floor of the House in full public view. The Speaker indeed allowed the matter to be raised and also has since taken up the matter with the authorities,” the statement said.