Posted on March 19, 2019 at 12:00 AM by Nii
By Ernest Armah
Parliament’s Standing Order 20 provides a safe space for members of Parliament (MPs) to debate and intervene on constitutional, legislative, administrative and general public policy matters in outspoken terms. Standing Orders are the internal rules and procedures that regulate the proceedings of Parliament.
On the back of Order 20, it is very easy for an MP to subject the President and his 123 Ministers to the highest standards of integrity, transparency and responsiveness to electorates’ preferences. But it is extremely difficult for an MP to do same to his political party. Simply put, it is easier for an MP to say that the government is corrupt than to say that his party leadership is corrupt. In most parliamentary systems like Ghana’s, legislative dissent is a very costly venture, such that MPs who refused to be whipped into line must be prepared to pay a price.
The manner Mr. Mahama Ayariga (MP, Bawku Central), now former Chair of the Subsidiary legislation Committee, used to deploy his presence in Parliament – his aura of forthrightness, revolution and ‘bring-it-on’ posture – has drastically changed in the aftermath of corrupt allegations he made against key leaders of Parliament, which affected both sides of the political divide. It seems he has been pummeled into a deserted underdog.
According to Parliament’s Committee of Selection, the recent re-composition of committee leadership and membership (access committee recomposition information here: https://goo.gl/EaXGJ4) became necessary due to, among other considerations:
These are damage-control justifications that reifies the observation that legislative business is party and executive business. Here’s why:
Groupthink and group cohesiveness are enduring, unwritten codes of parliamentary practice and a member of each of the parties who departs from that practice, risks losing his or her recognition within the party. Sensitivity to the whip system in Parliament is very important.
In the 5th Parliament, Hon. Joe Ghartey (NPP) openly disagreed with his then Minority Leader Hon. Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu (NPP) on the issue of configuration and identity of political parties in Ghana. He subsequently had to plead with his leader not to reshuffle him as a Ranking Member of the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee. Although this parallel event happened under humorous circumstances, with the benefit of hindsight, it is evident that most MPs are conscious of the fact that legislative business is party and executive business.
Thus in the case of Mr Ayariga, we have seen the whip system and its excesses came on too strong to an individual who only drew attention to a perceived dishonorable malpractice among honourable members. In the case of Mr Ken Agyapong, we are seeing how the same whip system deals in a laissez-faire approach with members who attack the party and with members who attack colleague members for not pushing party agenda strongly enough.