The Parliament of Ghana has assured the citizenry that it is committed to consensus building and would explore every means at its disposal to ensure that it brings both sides of the House (Majority and Minority) together in order to help develop the country.
A statement released by the Public Affairs Directorate of Parliament on Monday, April 6, 2020, signed by its Head, Madam Kate Addo, said the legislature recognises the work of the Majority and Minority Caucuses, therefore, finding a common ground for the two to operate in will always be the priority of the House.
“Parliament would like to assure citizens that it places a very high premium on consensus building. Indeed, most of the work of Parliament is based on the two sides of the House finding common ground on most issues. Occasions where antagonism wins the day are exceptions rather than the rule. Notwithstanding the misunderstanding and seeming acrimonious note on which the House ended, the Leadership of the House is in communication to resolve the issues for the benefit of the country which remains paramount”, the statement in part read.
On Saturday, April 5, 2020, the legislature was greeted with disagreement when the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Prof. Aaron Michael Oquaye announced the suspension of the House indefinitely instead of adjournment when the House had concluded its sitting for the day.
The Speaker had told the House that the unprecedented action was spurred by the legislature’s response to the general state of national emergency that the nation is in.
The announcement by the Speaker did no go down well with the Minority Caucus, with its Leader, Hon. Haruna Iddrisu, describing it as unacceptable and dictatorial rule. He gave an indication that the Minority may head to the Supreme Court over the actions of the Speaker.
Hon. Iddrisu further described the Speaker’s action as an attempt to prorogue the legislature, adding that Hon. Oquaye’s ruling was a subversion of the tenets, values, and principles of rule law, and, in particular, the Standing Orders of the Parliament of Ghana.
However, explaining the actions of the Speaker, Madam Kate Addo said in the statement ordinarily, to end a Meeting, the Speaker would adjourn the House sine die or indefinitely and under such circumstances, a recall of the House would require a fourteen (14) day notice by the Clerk, as authorized by the Speaker.
Such a notice, if it is at the beginning of a new parliamentary year, she added, was to adjourn the House sine die, as per the dictates of Order 32 of the Standing of the House, or to suspend the House indefinitely, in which case, the House can be recalled at an earliest notice without the mandatory Constitutional and Standing Order requirements.
“The Speaker chose to suspend the House indefinitely. The suspension option taken by the Speaker was to avoid the strictures of formalities in Order 42 where the Speaker would have to consult the House through its Leaders before recalling at the shortest notice, should an urgent need arise for Parliament to contribute in any form to the national emergency of the fight against the coronavirus”, she noted.
She added “It is important to note that the provisions in Order 42 are in particular reference to a day’s sitting and not for the adjournment of an entire Meeting. However, Speakers over the years, by convention and practice, have relied on this provision to adjourn Meetings. A recourse to this particular Order, therefore, does not provide the needed remedy in the present matter. What the Speaker did, was in recognition of the fact that the whole nation is in a general state of emergency and so it is important that the House accts in a manner that will bring utmost benefit to the welfare of the nation. This point becomes even more poignant as a result of the fact that, not being in normal times, the House could be recalled at any time. It is therefore necessary, that the House holds itself in readiness for any eventuality”.
She further explained that Standing Order 6 becomes relevant since it provides that “in all cases not provided for in (Standing Orders), the Speaker shall make provisions as he deems fit”.
That notwithstanding, the Director of the Public Affairs Department, Parliament of Ghana, said the indefinite suspension of the House by the Speaker does not amount to proroguing since the Speaker is not vested with the power to prorogue Parliament as per the dictates of Article 113(1) of the Constitution, noting that “if any Speaker did that, it will be null and void”.
“In Parliament, the maxim is that Members agree to disagree and arguments in the House could sometimes be not only vociferous but also forceful. At the end of the day, ideas must be reconciled for consensus building, failing which a determination by way of voting must be made. Fortunately, this is usually not the case”, she noted.