Debates of 18 Jun 2015

PRAYERS 11:15 a.m.


Mr Speaker 11:15 a.m.
Hon Members, correction of Votes and Proceedings of Wednesday, 17th June, 2015.
  • [No correction was made to Votes and Proceedings of Wednesday, 17th June, 2015.]
  • Mr Speaker 11:15 a.m.
    Hon Members we do not have any Official Report for correction, so we move to item number 3 on the Order Paper. Question time.
    Hon Majority Leader?
    Mr Alban S. K. Bagbin 11:15 a.m.
    Thank you, Mr Speaker. [Interruption.]
    Mr Speaker 11:15 a.m.
    Yes, Hon Deputy Minority Leader?
    Mr Nitiwul 11:15 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, I want to find out from you whether it is appropriate to allow my Hon Colleague, Hon David Hennric Yeboah to raise the matter that was discussed with you this morning.
    Mr Speaker 11:15 a.m.
    He can come after the issue of the Questions.

    Hon Majority Leader, I would take the Hon Member after you.
    Mr Bagbin 11:15 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, as of last night, the Ministry of Youth and Sports had not submitted the Answers to the Questions. We got in touch with the Hon Minister, who had been on official duty out of the country for some time now. He has promised to make available the Answers to the Questions by next week.
    Mr Speaker, I had to accept the explanation because, I am aware that his Directors have been moved away and so the new entrants have picked up the drafts and they are working on the Answers. So, I decided that the Hon Minister should himself come around in honour and reverence to the House, but he is not yet in and that is why I am proffering this explanation on his behalf.
    Mr Speaker, I have sounded him about the seriousness of the matter and I believe with the indulgence of my Hon Colleagues and your kind permission, we could give him an appropriate day next week as decided by the Business Committee for him to come and respond to these Questions.
    Mr Speaker, the Hon Minister is a Member of this House and he knows the import of his conduct with respect to these matters. So, I would just plead with my Hon Colleagues for the Minister to come and respond to the Questions next week.
    Mr Nitiwul 11:15 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, it is a very difficult one. We understand that he is our Hon Colleague and of course, the Hon Majority Leader would like to explain the problems he has found himself in. But the Questions have been with the Ministry for three months or more.When Parliament said we were tabling the Questions last week, communication was sent to him.
    He duly accepted and communicated back to Parliament. And for us to programme these Questions and leave a
    blank space because the Answers are not ready and some fresh people are -- It is not an explanation.
    He is a Member of Parliament, so, sometimes we are very lenient. But it is not a good explanation at all. I do not think it is good for him and his attitude towards his own work. It is not good for him and towards this House.
    I find it difficult, because he is a Member of Parliament and a long standing one of course. He has been an Hon Minister of State all this while as well, and I do not think that this should be accepted at all.
    Maybe, there could be some other explanation. I understand the Hon Majority Leader, but this is not good at all. It is really not good. If he had been here personally, maybe, he could have helped us better, and I sympathise with him as well, just like the Hon Majority Leader. But Mr Speaker, it is not good, it is simply not good, and I think that we should start biting as a Parliament, because this is not the first time.
    I remember in this House we have been saying this over and over. This is not the first time that the attitude of some Hon Ministers towards this House-- It is not something that anybody can really write a good story about.
    I would leave it to other Hon Members to make their comments, but I think it is not a good thing.
    Mr Bagbin 11:25 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, I appreciate the points that have been raised by the Hon Deputy Minority Leader. I empathise with him too, but I think the crux of the
    matter is not because he is a Member of the House. Definitely, we have the teeth to bite, and we would not relax the rules just because he is a Member of Parliament. No! That is not the issue.
    The issue really is the fact that he was not available in the country to give that political leadership to the new directors to get the Answers ready to be submitted to the House.
    So, as at yesterday when he showed up here in the House and we drew his attention, he did his best overnight to do that, but it is important for him to be on top. This is because now we have strengthened particularly our Committee on Assurances, and the Leadership of the Committee on Assurance is up and doing.Therefore, to come before the House to answer Questions and say things that one is not certain about could lead him to the bar of the House, and being brought before the bar is serious business.
    It could lead to some consequences that would be very unpleasant to such Ministers. I had to sympathise and say that I would do this to see whether the House could not, at least, be very indulgent and allow him to come and answer the Questions next week.
    That is a plea coming from me on his behalf, and as I said, as a long standing Hon Member of the House and a long standing Hon Minister of State, he is definitely aware of the consequences of his conduct.
    So, Mr Speaker, I would like to thank you and my Hon Colleagues for your indulgence.
    Mr Nitiwul 11:25 a.m.
    Based on the passionate appeal from the Hon Majority Leader, we will let it go.
    Mr Speaker 11:25 a.m.
    Hon Majority Leader, has the Business Committee met for next week already?
    Mr Bagbin 11:25 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, yes. And we have made provisions for Questions to be put on the Order Paper, and so we would definitely consider them.
    Mr Speaker 11:25 a.m.
    Very well. Hon Members, the Leaders have spoken, so we should -- we defer this matter until such a time that the Business Committee programmes the -- Hon Majority Leader, I thought it would have been better if the Hon Minister were in the House, as you mentioned to me in my Lobby. It would have been better.
    Mr Bagbin 11:25 a.m.
    I totally agree with you Mr Speaker, and my last contact with him he said he was on the way coming. I am sure he would be in the House here for Hon Members to see him.
    Mr David H. Yeboah 11:25 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, yesterday I raised a question about the conduct of a musician who said 80 per cent of Members of Parliament, including the President of the Republic smoke weed.
    Mr Speaker, this issue is against the Criminal Code. It would entice the youth to go into the smoking of weed. Mr Speaker, it impugns the image of Parliament, so I would like to quote our Standing Orders, Order 164 (2). Which I read as follows:
    “It shall be the duty of the Committee, by order of the House, to enquire into any complaint or contempt of Parliament or breach of privilege or any matter of privilege which may be referred to it and to recommend to the House such action as the Committee may consider appropriate”.
    So, Mr Speaker, I would like the Privileges Committee to invite this musician to answer questions about this. Thank you.
    Mr Speaker 11:25 a.m.
    Yes, Hon Member, you referred to the functions of the Committee, but you have not told us the provisions of the Standing Order that you think the publication has breached. It is that which would enable me to decide whether to refer the matter to the Privileges Committee or not.
    Mr Ahmed Ibrahim 11:25 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, thank you very much for the opportunity. Listening to the Hon Member, I think the correct order should have been order 30 (2), and with your kind permission, I beg to quote:
    “Any act or omission which affronts the dignity of Parliament or which tends either directly, or indirectly to bring the name of Parliament into disrepute”
    -- is tantamount to contempt of Parlia- ment.
    Mr Speaker 11:25 a.m.
    Mr Bagbin 11:35 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, it is important that we put this complaint and the earlier ones in their proper perspectives for Ghanaians to appreciate and understand what we are doing in the House.
    Mr Speaker, the country decided that we will practise multi-party democratic constitutional government, and that there is a process of establishing the embodi- ment of that multi-party democracy, which is Parliament. Through that process, people give their power and authority to
    the institution of Parliament through their Hon Members of Parliament. So, the good people decided that to be able to empower and strengthen that institution, we have to protect and grant them some special rights and privileges to be able to perform the functions for and on behalf of all Ghanaians.
    So, in the 1992 Constitution, specifi- cally from article 122, this issue of contempt of Parliament has been clearly stated.
    Mr Speaker, with your kind permission, I beg to quote 11:35 a.m.
    “An act or omission which obstructs or impedes Parliament in the performance of its functions or which obstructs or impedes a member or officer of Parliament in the discharge of his duties, or affronts the dignity of Parliament or which tends either directly or indirectly to produce that result, is contempt of Parliament.”
    Mr Speaker, article 123 emphasises the seriousness of contempt. It says that the fact that we will punish somebody for contempt does not exonerate the person from being taken to the law court if that will amount to a criminal conduct.
    Mr Speaker, with your kind permission I beg to quote that again; article 123 says:
    “Where an act or omission which constitutes contempt of Parliament is an offence under the criminal law, the exercise by Parliament of the power to punish for contempt shall not be a bar to the institution of proceedings under the criminal law.”
    Mr Speaker, I am compelled to go through this because, I have heard some discussions in our media, particularly, radio trying to equate this institution
    Parliament with civil society, media and some individuals. There was even a suggestion on air that civil society should also form a Committee of Privileges.
    Mr Speaker, I think as a country, we have focused on educating ourselves as the option and that is what is leading to these problems. People do not understand the decision they took to go into multi- party democracy; people do not understand the provisions of the Constitution or the laws of the country. So, they can go on to erode the authority that they themselves, willingly, have given to this House.
    And once this House disappears, democracy disappears from Ghana. That is why it is important that we give some time and space to educate ourselves on what we opted for. If at the end of the day we say we do not want it, then we take a different option and then we will be guided by it.
    It is for good reason that the President of the nation is always called the First Gentleman of the country. Why? This is because all of us give to that person our authority and power.
    He is the embodiment of the State, so is Parliament -- to be able to counter that power for and on behalf of the people of Ghana, and so is the Judiciary.
    Mr Speaker, Parliament has been very lenient. This is because the Judiciary will punish for contempt straight away -- [Hear! Hear!] -- And we have seen it happen on a number of occasions. Without fear or favour, irrespective of who you are, they bring you before them and punish you.
    We have been lenient because of the long absence of Parliament, and we believe that it will take time for our people to understand the institution of Parliament, the importance of Parliament and the functions we have been called upon to execute for and on their behalf.
    Mr Speaker, with your kind permission, I beg to quote 11:35 a.m.

    Mr Speaker, after twenty-three (23) years, -- Luckily, I have been in this House for 23 years due to the good -- [Hear! Hear!] Mr Speaker, due to the grace and benevolence of the good people in my constituency, I am always in this House. I know the good Lord is also behind us. Mr Speaker, who is my Colleague, but now Speaker, and also Hon Alhaji Amadu Seidu, the Member of Parliament for Yapei/Kusawgu, is also a Colleague.

    Mr Speaker, it is important that we now start applying the rules. Our reluctance to apply these rules is fueling indiscipline in the society and particularly, these days where we have social media, where freedom now seems to be unlimited and where democracy is interpreted to mean irresponsibility, we need to start looking deeper at the laws or else, we will slip back into anarchy.

    Mr Speaker, some of the information we get on our mobile phones and some video recordings that some Ghanaians have started engaging in because of our leniency and the leniency of Government in not cracking the whip, is showing a sense of complete chaotic country. And please, it is important that we apply the rules.

    Mr Speaker, it is based on the provision of this Constitution that we captured in the Standing Orders, starting from Standing Order 29. We made sure that in Standing Order 28, we just repeated the article 122 and from Standing Order 29, we emphasised the importance and in Standing Order 30, we gave the acts or conducts which constitute what we refer to as breach of privilege or contempt of Parliament.

    Mr Speaker, it is important that we pay heed to this because all what is recorded here have been done as a result of painstaking experiences of seniors; senior democracies and there are good reasons we captured those things. This is because, if we do not have that power, we cannot protect the good people of this country.

    That is why it is enshrined in the House; that is why some of us decided to allow the use of the term “Honourable”, and that is why we also in this House, came out with the Code of Conduct for Hon Members of Parliament.

    Mr Speaker, I believe the complaint that has been lodged, is a complaint that we should take seriously. It is important that we follow the rules, it is important that the person the Hon Member referred to, together with the newspaper that published it, come before the House to say whether what was published and what we heard is truly what he said and if so, for him to produce evidence.

    This is because I know this House and I know that more than ninety per cent of the Hon Members in this House, do not even smoke cigarette. [Hear! Hear!] I have never in my life smoked cigarette.

    This is a decent House, a House of Hon Members and the highest certificate one can earn in his society, is the certificate of the vote of his people. [Hear! Hear!] That is the highest. This is because it has to deal with the trust that the people give you and this is very important. It is the highest certificate in the world, so when one is elected as a President, then one has the highest certificate in the country. It is not easy for one to give his life, destiny and everything to an individual.

    Mr Speaker, I am saying all these because I have come to believe that if we do not take time to spread the gospel according to the 1992 Constitution, then Ghanaians would shrug back and this

    country and its people would be the losers. That is why with your kind permission, I have taken this length of time. But I believe the conduct that has been mentioned is not only contemptuous of this House, but it has criminal implications.

    Somebody being alleged to be smoking “weed”, a hard drug, that has been criminalised, and not only talking about individuals, but a whole high percentage as 80 per cent of Hon Members of Parliament is a serious matter.

    So, I humbly, on behalf of the House, call on the Rt. Hon Speaker, to do the humble and right thing, by referring the matter to the appropriate Committee, which is the Priviledges Committee, for them to do the right thing, by listening to the suspect, and coming out with a report for this House to take a serious view of that report and to take the necessary action consequent upon that report.

    With this, Mr Speaker, I plead that your referral be given.

    Thank you, very much.
    Mr Nitiwul 11:45 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, I have one hundred and forty thousand human beings in my constituency and of this, we have seventy thousand voters who decided that I should be their representa- tive in this august House. If I were a “weed” smoker, they would not have done that, and if they thought that I was a criminal, they would not also have done that.
    Mr Speaker, to say that 80 per cent of Hon Members of Parliament smoke “wee”, is just to translate that two hundred and twenty Hon Members of Parliament smoke weed, and only fifty- five do not smoke weed.
    Mr Speaker, I support the call of the Hon Member, that whoever is alleged - his nickname is “Black Rasta” but we would get the real name, is brought to this House, referred by you, Mr Speaker, to the appropriate Committee, to come and tell us and the nation, the criminals that are in this House.This is because smoking “weed”, is a criminal offence, and one can be jailed for it.
    Mr Speaker, I support the call of the Hon Majority Leader that the Constitution of Ghana, article 110, gave Parliament the authority to have Standing Orders. Articles 122 and 123 talks about contempt, and I believe that in this case, article 123 should be applied. Not only should we deal with the contempt matters, but we should refer to article 123 and look at the criminal aspect of it.
    Mr Speaker, I believe that when the opportunity comes, it is important to educate the people of Ghana, about what causes contempt. Many people do not really know what causes contempt. Standing Order 30, spells out; (a), (b), (c), (d), (e), (f), (g), (h), (i), (j), (k), (l) and (n), and if you add the Standing Order 30 (2), then that would give us fifteen offences that the Standing Order spells out.
    There is no time, otherwise, I would have read each of them, one by one, for the people of Ghana to understand what causes contempt of Parliament and why Parliament hastens slowly to drag people to the Privileges Committee, for contempt of Parliament.
    Mr Speaker, this is because it covers everything. Hon Members of Parliament, by the powers vested in this Constitution, and given by the people of Ghana, are held in high esteem. That is why Hon Members of Parliament take it upon themselves to behave in a way that reflects their status. When there is no

    Parliament, there is no democracy, unless people want us to forget about this House called Parliament and go back to the dark days, when people used to sleep from six to six. Even the freedom of speech that we have, that enables him to go to an FM station - Hitz FM and insult Parliament, is because of Parliament itself.

    Mr Speaker, I would want to apply and support my Hon Colleague, when he refers to Standing Orders 30 and 73 (1) together, that the gentleman be brought to this House - In fact be referred to the Privileges Committee by Mr Speaker, and invited to appear before the Committee, to explain himself out, so that Hon Members of this House, would have the opportunity to comment on it, when the report comes.

    Mr Speaker, we should expedite action. For once, this House should bite. It should bite because people take the powers of Parliament for granted. After all, there are other people who have been referred to the Committee and nothing happened. So people believe that they can just denigrate Parliament, insult Hon Members of Parliament, molest them and impede their work, and go scot-free.

    But that is the path we have chosen as a country; the path to hand over power to Parliament as it is.

    Mr Speaker, by the Constitution, it is only in this House that the President of Ghana can be impeached. This House, if we so decide that there is a cause to impeach the President, we would impeach the President. The people of Ghana have given the authority to this House and so I will support the call by the Hon Member, for you to refer that matter to the Privileges Committee and I believe all Hon Members on the Minority Side of the House support that call.
    Mr Speaker 11:55 a.m.
    Order! Order! Hon Members, I have listened carefully to the issue of complaint raised by the Hon Member for Effigya Sekyere East. Yesterday, it may be recalled that he made the attempt of raising the matter on the floor of the House but I invited him to bring the publication to my Lobby; he did and I have read it. Under our Standing Order 73 (1), I would want to quote:
    “A Member may, at the time appointed for Complaints of Contempt of Parliament under the provisions of Order 53 (Order of Business) bring to the House any complaint of contempt of Parlia- ment, provided he has previously notified Mr Speaker.”
    He has done that, he has notified me. Order 31 states that:
    “ In all cases of proceedings where complaint is made of a breach of privilege or contempt of Parliament, Mr Speaker may direct that the matter be referred to the Committee of Privileges.”
    My attention has been drawn to articles 122 and 123 of the 1992 Constitution. My attention has also be drawn to Standing Order 30 (2) which derives its strength from article 122 of the Constitution.
    Hon Members, I think this is a proper and a fit case to refer to the Privileges Committee.
    I am giving the Committee two weeks to submit their report to the House. In the deliberation of their work, they should take article 123 into account as has been referred to by both the Hon Majority and the Minority Leaders. Therefore, the publication is referred to them and in that
    publication, the person who made the statement has been mentioned, the radio station where he made the statement has been mentioned and of course, the newspaper that published it.
    Referred accordingly.

    If there is any difficulty with the members who have been invited to appear before the Committee, let us know.

    At the Commencement of Public Business, Hon Majority Leader.
    Mr Bagbin 11:55 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, item (5), the Report of the Appointments Committee is ready to be presented to the House before we now go to the Bills.
    PAPERS 11:55 a.m.

    Mr Bagbin 11:55 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, the next item, item (6), is on the Nuclear Regulatory Authority Bill, 2015 which is at the Consideration Stage. [Pause.] Our attention was drawn yesterday, to some pending amendments and so I would pray that Mr Speaker should still give Hon Members some more time to submit the proposed amendments so that we could take them next week because that is a very important Bill.

    I am reliably informed that item (7), Minerals and Mining (Amendment) Bill, 2014 was referred to the Committee for
    Mr Bagbin 11:55 a.m.

    winnowing and the Committee has not yet submitted the Report and so, I would pray that we also defer that one and if the -- [Pause.] We were trying to take items (8) and (9) but the Reports have not yet been circulated.

    So, we would call for some more time for that and that would be done next week. I think next week would be all right. On Tuesday, we would take that one on.

    So, we would just have to give more time to Committees to go and meet and submit Reports.

    Mr Speaker, I would want to give advance notice to Hon Members that, from next week, we would have extended Sittings. So, tomorrow, I would call on all the Committees to make their Reports available.

    We are going to have extended Sittings from Tuesday. There is a lot of work to be done and we would have to do it before we rise at the end of July. So, from next week Tuesday, we would have extended Sittings and all these pending Businesses would have to be taken on board and finalised before we go on recess.

    So, Mr Speaker, I plead that we take a bow and allow Committees to meet to try and finalise the Reports for the House.
    Mr Speaker 12:05 p.m.
    Hon Majority Leader, before you move the formal Motion for adjournment, is it possible for the Committee doing the winnowing to meet after adjournment on the Minerals and Mining Amendment Bill, 2015? Is it possible?
    Who is the Chairman of the Committee? Who is the Vice Chairman?
    Mr Bagbin 12:05 p.m.
    Mr Speaker, the Chairman and the Vice Chairman are both members of a delegation. So, they are not in the House now.
    Mr Speaker 12:05 p.m.
    Very well.
    Mr Alban S. K. Bagbin 12:05 p.m.
    In the absence of any other matter, I beg to move, that this House adjourns to tomorrow at 10.00 a.m. when we shall reconvene to continue with the Business of the House.
    Mr Dominic B. A. Nitiwul 12:05 p.m.
    Mr Speaker, I beg to second the Motion.
    Mr Speaker 12:05 p.m.
    Hon Members, Motion moved and seconded, it is for the consideration of the House.
    Question put and Motion agreed to.
    ADJOURNMENT 12:05 p.m.

  • The House was accordingly adjourned at 12.08 p.m. till Friday, 19th June, 2015 at 10.00 a.m.