Hon Members, Commun- ication from the President. SPACE FOR COMMUNICATION - PAGE 1 - 11.10 A.M.
VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS AND THE OFFICIAL REPORT
Hon Members, Correction of Votes and Proceedings of Tuesday, 23rd January, 2018. Pages 1…7. Hon Member?
Thank you Mr Speaker. I was present yesterday in the House but my name has been marked as absent.
Very well. Page 7…8 Hon Member?
Mr Speaker, I was not present, but this is the situation. I was called on Monday evening to take part in a government business meeting. On Tuesday morning I came around 8.30 a.m. to register. The Table Office was not around, so I attended the meeting at 9.00 a.m. When the meeting ended Parliament had adjourned, and I have been marked absent. Should that be the situation? This is because I came to either ask permission or register, and it was early in the morning, before 9.00 a.m. but I attended the meeting at 9.00 a.m. and closed at 2.00 p.m., and I have been marked as absent. Mr Speaker, could we make a determination on that?
Hon Majority Leader, would a Member in this circumstance be termed to be present or absent with permission or what?
Mr Speaker, respectfully, I did not hear a word from the Hon Member.
Hon Member, if you could please state your difficulty, so that we shall be ad idem at the end of the day.
Mr Speaker, what I am saying is that, I was called on Monday evening to attend a meeting yesterday, so I came in the morning around 8.30 a.m. in order to get my name registered before going for the meeting at 9.00 a.m. The Table Office was not ready, so I attended the meeting at 9.00 a.m. and we closed at 2.00 p.m., by which time Parliament had adjourned, and my name had been marked as absent. Should that be the situation? - - [Interruption.]
Mr Speaker, if I heard my Hon Colleague well, he says he came to the House at 8:30 a.m. Unfortunately, the Table Office had not reported yet, so he could not submit the request for absence with permission, so he left, came back at 2.00 p.m., by which time Parliament had adjourned, and he is pleading that he be recognised as having -- I do not know whether the plea is to be recognised as having entered the precincts of Parliament or having entered the Chamber.
“The House shall Sit on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Sittings shall, subject to the direction of Mr Speaker, ordinarily commence
at ten o'clock in the forenoon and shall ordinarily conclude at two o'clock in the afternoon”. Mr Speaker, a Sitting of the House is constituted when it is presided over by Mr Speaker or any other Member competent to preside over a Sitting of the House under these Orders. Mr Speaker, so when he comes and there are no people in the Chamber, and there is no person presiding in his recognised capacity as the presiding officer, the Hon Member must acknowledge that when he came, there was no Sitting of the House. Mr Speaker, in any event, when a person submits a leave of absence, it is submitted before Sitting really begins. The Speaker is required to approve of it before Sitting begins. He knows what is required of him. If he did not do that he cannot put in any plea for clemency or for mercy. Mr Speaker, he must recognise his status as having been absent, as simple as that. Thank you Mr Speaker.
Hon Members, Order 40(1) is sufficient to guide us, and we must act within the prescribed hours as per our rules. The Hon Member was unfortunately absent. Pages 8…12. The Votes and Proceedings of Tuesday, 23rd January, 2018 as corrected is hereby admitted as true record of the proceedings. Hon Members, Statements. The Hon Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration would make a Statement.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, at the outset, I would like to recall with appreciation, the decision of this august House on 1st August 2017 to ratify the Agreement reached between the previous government and the United States of America, which led to the admission into this country of the two ex- detainees of Guantanamo Bay, Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salid Al-Dhuby, both of Yemeni origin. This was as a result of the court action instituted in the Supreme Court by two Ghanaian nationals, Mrs Margaret Banful and Henry Nana Boakye. The action sought a declaration to the effect that the Agreement to transfer the subjects to the Republic of Ghana, required ratification by an Act of Parliament, supported by the votes of more than one-half of all the members. The court ruled on 22nd June 2017 in favour of the plaintiffs and gave three months within which the Agreement was to be ratified. Mr Speaker, from January 2016, the two ex -detainees now with their families, have been living here, and so far are reported to be of good behaviour. Mr Speaker, on 6th January, 2018, the bi-lateral cooperation concerning the resettlement of the two had come to an end. This was confirmed in a meeting with the USA Ambassador, His Excellency, Ambassador Jackson, on 10th January, 2018. He confirmed that USA's financial support and obligation in respect of the Agreement had ended following its expiration. However, it was agreed that the meeting continued cooperation in terms of security and mutual exchange of information and intelligence on the activities of the two and/or their associates was essential. Ambassador Jackson expressed his openness to discuss any post 6th January arrangements and to carry forward same to the State Department for consideration. It is to be noted that no exit arrangements were originally discussed between the two Governments to end the bilateral arrangements at the time of negotiation. The USA has also been clear in our discussions with them, that per the Agreement, returning them to the United State of America is not an option open to discussion or negotiation. This means that all obligations relating to the two subjects have now become the responsibility of Ghana. Mr Speaker, in exploring options open to Government, we have hit two hurdles. The first being that the Agreement stipulates that: with your permission I beg to quote; “The Government of Ghana is to take measures to facilitate the integration of Mr Bin Atef and Mr Al-Dhuby into Ghanaian society”. What this means is that while the United States of America's obligation ends after two years, Ghana's obligationss continues after that. In addition and more significantly, the Ministry of Interior has informed my Ministry of records at the Refugee Board, which reveal that the government at the time granted the two detainees refugee status. This followed a request by the National Security to the then Chairman of the Ghana Refugee Board. They were issued a Decision Letter dated 21st July 2016, recognising their status as refugees. The implication is that in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees of 1951, and the 1967 Protocol on the Status of Refugees, as well as the provisions of the Refugee Law, 1992, (PNDCL 305D) of Ghana, the two have attained the status of refugees in Ghana. The most essential component of refugee status and of asylum is the protection against return to a country where a person has reason to fear persecution. This protection has found expression in the principle of non- refoulement which is widely accepted by States. The principle of non-refoulement has been defined in a number of international instruments relating to refugees, and in the 1951 United Nations Convention on the Status of refugees referred to above. It provides that; with your permission it states “No contracting State shall expel or return (“refouler”) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion” This provision constitutes one of the basic articles of the 1951 Convention.
Yes, Hon Samuel O. Ablakwa?
I am most grateful Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to contribute to the Statement. In doing so, I would wish to commend the Hon Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration for making the Statement. Mr Speaker, as we all know, this is a matter that is of enormous public importance. We have all been waiting for the much talked about decision on the matter. Indeed, last week, when His Excellency, President Nana Addo Dankwah Akufo- Addo met the media, in response to a veteran question by journalist Comrade Kwesi Pratt, the President stated publicly that he appreciates the urgency of the matter, so when Parliament resumes, we would hear from Government. So, the Statement by the Hon Minister for Foreign Affairs and Reginal Integration is very much in pursuant to the pledge that the President made. That is why when the Business Statement was presented yesterday, we on the Minority side, took issue with the fact that, contrary to the President's pledge, there was no indication from this Business Statement that the matter would come up. We are therefore glad that the Hon Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration has now made this Statement. Mr Speaker, there are a number of issues that we would need clarification on. The first one is about the lack of an exit strategy. We know that this House ratified the Agreement following the 22nd June, 2017 judgement by the Supreme Court. I would want to find out from the Hon Minister whether at the point of presenting the Agreement to this House -- If we are to admit that there was no discussion of an exit strategy, does it mean that in the ensuing discussions with the USA authorities under the new administration -- was there no discussion for an exit strategy? This is because, I recall that during the debate on the ratification, we raised the matter. We said that it was important for the Ministry to start engagements, so that we would be clear as a country, what happens after January 6, 2018. So, to hear today that it appears to have come as a surprise, I am not too clear in my mind about that. This is because, we have always known that we would get to January 6, 2018 and there would be the need for us to decide as a country, to know what we need to do. Mr Speaker, I have a second concern which has to do with a seeming lack of coordination or communication among Government, Ministries and Agencies. It would appear that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration did not know about the discovery of Refugee Status and so, it had to take the Ministry of the Interior to bring this to the attention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration at the last hour, if I understood the Minister for Foreign Affairs very well.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity. Mr Speaker, I must commend the Hon Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration for being on point on these Gitmo 2 detainees, and also to remind my friend the Hon Samuel Okudzeto that the Presidential Oath, which was sworn by the Ex-President Mahama, to the people of this country that he would at all times preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of this country,and which I would refer to page 205 of our Constitution. Mr Speaker, if we read article 40 of our Constitution, it says and I beg to quote; “In its dealings with other nations, the Government shall -- (a) promote and protect the interests of Ghana;…” Mr Speaker, this issue was very topical before the last elections, and it took two nationals of this country to bring finality to this issue in the Supreme Court.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, let me use this opportunity to thank the Hon Minister for coming to this House to brief us on this matter. It has been topical and the people's representatives have always wanted to know what the official situation is. Mr Speaker, in the Hon Minister's Statement, she raised a number of issues that I believe necessitates some clarity. Mr Speaker, the issue right from the beginning, I believe, bordered on some key questions that have never been asked, and in my opinion because they have not been asked, they have also not been answered. Mr Speaker, is it the official position of Ghana, that they are or either terrorists, have ever been involved or in terrorism, will be involved in terrorism or are likely to be involved in terrorism? Mr Speaker, if we answered these questions properly, then we would find guidance in our own legislation, which is the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2008 and with your kind permission, the Anti-Terrorism Act provides, and I quote from section 35: “Power to prevent entry and order the removal of persons 35 (1). The Director of Immigration or an officer authorised by the Director shall not grant an endorsement or authority to permit a person to enter this country if there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the person is, will or has been involved in the commis- sion of a terrorist act.” Mr Speaker, our law is therefore clear that if we believe that they have been involved, are likely to be involved or anything, then we cannot by our law permit them, but there is no evidence to show that these two gentlemen have ever been involved in the commission of terrorist acts. Mr Speaker, the fact of the matter is that the United States of America, in the pursuit of its fight against terrorism, rounded people up in certain parts of the world, took them to Guantanamo Bay, having established that these two people --
Hon Member, do you stand on a point of order?
Mr Speaker, respectfully, as far as I know, the Legislative Instrument (LI) that was in contention at the Supreme Court was that of article 75; whether the Agreement was an international one that was supposed to come before Parliament for approval and ratification. Mr Speaker, it was not about the Anti-Terrorism Act; it was about the Agreement itself. So, my Hon Colleague is out of order by quoting the Anti-Terrorism Act.
Hon Ayariga, please continue.
Mr Speaker, the matters are so serious, so I will focus on it and ignore the rest. Mr Speaker, we have not established that they are terrorists. We have not established that they have ever been involved in terrorism. The fact, as I know is that the US, in its fight against terrorism, as a pre-emptive measure, rounded up some people and sent them to Guantanamo Bay to scrutinise them to see if, indeed, they were involved in terrorist acts. The US has not reported to us that these two people were involved in terrorist acts. So it is a simple question of our immigration laws and our own anti-terrorism legislation. So the facts are, as the Hon Minister indicated, we entered into an Agreement to receive them. We have received them, and the Agreement has expired. There are simple issues now, which the Government could easily resolve. Mr Speaker, these people are from a certain country. International law governs the relationship between an individual and his country. They have the option to decide that they would want to go back to their country, Yemen. If they decide that they would want to go back to their country, we cannot prevent them. Mr Speaker, given that there may be war in their country, they may also decide to seek asylum in any other country, and Ghana is one of the countries in which they could seek asylum. Mr Speaker, if they seek asylum here, nothing prevents the Government of Ghana from granting them that situation and then they become governed by the law on international refugees. Mr Speaker, I do not believe that there is a problem -- the way that some people sought to portray in the past and seek to
portray today -- There is no problem at all. It is a question of the Government of Ghana deciding today, whether upon the expiry of the Agreement, they would want to grant them asylum status in Ghana. Mr Speaker, if that is what the Government is doing, the Government should say it. The Government should not say there is no exit plan because there should be enough lawyers in Ghana who appreciate the legal position and should be able to guide the Government on exactly what to do. Mr Speaker, if they are granted asylum in Ghana by the Government of Ghana, there is no question about resources for their upkeep, et cetera. We have several other refugees in Ghana today, and it is the United Nations (UN) that is primarily responsible for their maintenance as refugees. That is the law of refugees, as we know it. It is the UN system that becomes responsible for maintaining them as refugees. So Mr Speaker, in all honesty, the law is clear on the matter. It is up to the Government. Are they granting them asylum status? Yes or no? If they are granting them asylum status, international law on refugees governs the situation. The two Governments have come to realise, after this long unnecessary political games that we have played, that we cannot establish that they are terrorists. Mr Speaker, we have come to realise, that the Agreement that we entered into with the USA to get them out of the USA and to be in Ghana, which Agreement was ratified by Mr Speaker, when sensitive matters like this come to this country, let us as a nation, always approach the matter, not with the kind of passion and politicking that bedevils simple legal matters, and make it impossible for us to do the right things. Mr Speaker, I would want to end on the note of thanking the Hon Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration for coming to brief us on the situation. We are very grateful to her and the Government of the NPP for accepting the two refugees. Today, they have shown compassion -- [Laughter] -- and we commend them for such compassion. They have learnt that the NDC was also a very compassionate Government. [Hear! Hear!] Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting me this opportunity to contribute to this debate. Let me first of all thank the Hon Minister for Foreign Affairs for her Statement. The Statement was clear, precise and straight to the point. It was based on the facts and the chronology of events within the law.
Order! Hon Ayariga, I gave you a very good opportunity. Give him one. [Laughter] I like the debate, and heckling in this way is not acceptable. Please, go on.
Mr Speaker, the discussion of terrorism, the applicable law in Ghana about terrorism and the rest are totally irrelevant in the circumstances. The law that was quoted referred to the Ghana Immigration Service as rightly the institution that would, depending on its assessment, accept a person or not. That is not the situation in this matter. It is a situation of an Agreement between the Government of Ghana and the USA, and these two gentlemen were accepted into this country based on the agreement. The position all along was first about procedure -- whether the appropriate procedure was pursued in granting entry to these two. Mr Speaker, I would want to make it clear that the position of this Government and that of the former Government have converged, and have never been the same from the beginning. The first point, the present Government was clear on when in Opposition was that there was the need for procedure, which should make the application pass through this Parliament. It was settled by a court decision, and it was brought here and accordingly ratified. Mr Speaker, let me refer to page 3 of the Agreement that was ratified, paragraph 3 thereof, which the Hon Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration alluded to; but I would want to put in context. It reads and I beg to quote: “The government of Ghana is to take measures to facilitate the integration of Mr Bin Atef and Mr Al-Dhuby into the Ghanaian society.” Mr Speaker, this is the Agreement that the former Government entered into, and was ratified. Therefore it became an executory part of the Arrangement. It remained the part of the arrangement that was supposed to be implemented. That is what I mean by “executory”. So, after the validation, both the Ministries of the Interior and of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration engaged the United States (US) Ambassador in consonance with the Agreement. It moved towards what would happen at the end of the two years, which is stated on page 3 in paragraph 7 of the Agreement. Mr Speaker, what should be made clear is that the Hon Minister for Foreign Affairs Regional Integration and did no wrong when she alluded to the fact that she just got to know of the refugee status of the two gentlemen in the country. That was because all along, going by the Agreement, there was no indication that this executory part was executed. Mr Speaker, before the preparation got into final discussion, it became necessary for us. Mr Speaker, there are certain aspects, for security reasons, I would not discuss them here. It took due diligence to prepare the Government to deal with the situation post this Agreement. They revealed that before the ratification, the refugees status was granted. Mr Speaker, let me emphasise here, that I am saying that for certain security reasons, I shall not delve into the process; but it became clear to us in the end that refugee status was granted. Accordingly, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration was notified.
Now, in consonance with the Government's commitment to human rights and the law, we are bound to respect the refugee status which had been granted, and can only deal with it within the context of international law. Hon Ayariga has made it clear, and there is no gainsaying that once they are granted refugee status, we can only deal with them in the context of applicable international conventions and law. This includes exercising their option to go back to their country of origin, which is clearly not in a state to receive anybody.
[Interruptions.] It is serious misinformation to say that this Government is in the process or has granted the two refugee status. The paragraph 3 of page 3 had been executed, and that status had been granted by the former Government. Therefore we respect it because we respect the rule of law, and we would deal with it. Mr Speaker, but to emphasise and raise the issue that they have the right to go back to their country is not tenable now. This is because Yemen is not in a state of — So accordingly, the Hon Minister has made it clear at the end, that Government would be guided by the interpretations and the various things that are accepted within the law from the appropriate agencies, namely the Ghana Refugee Board and the international institution dealing with refugees. It is a coincidence of conclusion, but we come from different premises. Our premise is based on their record in Ghana for the two years. Mr Speaker, I would want to make it clear that this Government is conscious of its responsibilities under international law in the relationship between us and friendly countries including the USA. Mr Speaker, I would have thought that because of the fact that now, the Statement of the Hon Minister for Foreign Affairs Regional Integration has coincided with the position that was taken by the previous Government from different premises, there was no need to continue to make Statements that would turn to affect our relationships intra and externally. I think that the intervention of Hon Ablakwa was finding out why we did not know about it, and I have explained it. The chronology would suggest that it came from our Ministry after due diligence and what we did; we had to take technical steps to find out that they were the same people involved. Mr Speaker, so I would conclude, that this is not the time for us to involve in partisan Statements, but to thank the Hon Minister for Foreign Affairs Regional Integration, and to say that the President has delivered on the fact that he would stay in position, which is that these two are refugees duly granted the status by the former Government. We respect the status, and we would work within international law to ensure the interest of Ghana at all times. Our obligations under international law are respected. Thank you, Mr Speaker.
We would have one more from each side; five minutes each. Hon Member?
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I would want to thank the Hon Minister for the Statement that she made, and also to make sure that we correct certain misimpressions that have been made in the course of the Hon Minister's Statement and the contributions that have been made by Hon Members on the other Side.
Mr Speaker, the Government, under the law and Constitution of this country, is a continuum. That was why the Rt Hon Speaker was sworn in even when the President of the Republic and the Vice President were outside this country. The point is that because the Government is a continuum, when one inherits obligations, they are the obligations of the Republic of Ghana. This Agreement is by and between the Republic of Ghana and the Federal Government of the United States of America. Mr Speaker, in the circumstances, it is not proper for the Hon Minister to try to shift responsibility by saying that this was signed by the previous Government. As an administrative matter, it is true that it was signed by the previous Administration. However, if there is any substantive obligation arising out of and in connection with this Agreement, it is a matter that must be handled properly by this current Government.
Hon Member, let us make that statement circumspectly. The fact that the Government or governance is a continuum does not prevent any previous action of any Government whatsoever to be analysed, possibly reviewed or repudiated legally by subsequent means. So, that matter does not arise as a broad statement. Make yourself clear, lest the impression might be given that whatever has been done by what one may call a previous Government, no matter what it is, whether in Europe, America or wherever, must be swallowed, no matter what, in all parameters. That is not local or international law. Please, go on.
Thank you Mr Speaker, I appreciate the point that you have made. In the course of the presentation, it was made clear that terrorism was not relevant as far as this matter was concerned, and the Hon Minister for the Interior pointed that out. I want to state categorically that terrorism was at the heart of the suit that was filed in the pleadings before the Supreme Court. I was then the Hon Deputy Attorney-General and Deputy Minister for Justice, and handled the matter directly before the Supreme Court.
Mr Speaker, it is very relevant in the discussions that are underway. It has been made clear in the Hon Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration Statement, and has also been supported by the Hon Minister for the Interior that there were no exit arrangements. That is not true. The Agreement that was signed was terminal in nature. In the Agreement, it was stated categorically that measures should be taken to return them in January 2018. The reference to integration was in respect of the period of the Agreement; that we should take measures to ensure that they integrate into the Ghanaian society.
Hon Former Deputy Attorney-General and Deputy Minister for Justice, would you kindly read this mandatory provision from the initial Agreement, on the provision for a date of return? It is necessary. Could you kindly read that?
Mr Speaker, I do not have the Agreement here before me. The point I would like to make is that the Agreement --
Hon Member, respect- ably, an exit arrangement with clear and mandatory arrangements is very crucial to this Agreement. If you want to make that proposition, which incidentally many well informed persons have never heard, please support or withdraw it.
Mr Speaker, the point I would like to make is that, one --
Would you support it or withdraw it for now? Our rules are clear. If you cannot support it, you could withdraw for now.
Mr Speaker, at the right time, if I have a copy of the Agreement, I would make reference. I remember that --
Hon Member, the rules are clear.
Mr Speaker, I withdraw my statement regarding the mandatory character.
After withdrawing, you may proceed.
However, Mr Speaker, the point still remains that the Agreement was terminal in character. The Agreement terminated on 6th January, 2018. As a treaty that has expired, it is the duty of the current Government to take steps to either renew or renegotiate the treaty, or deal with whatever exit arrangements are contained in the substantive obligations of the current Agreement. Mr Speaker, I would also want us to take note of one thing regarding the refugee status of the two persons who were received into this country. The point that has been made by the Hon Minister is that because of the international law principle of non-refoulement, we cannot return them to their country of origin, nor to the United States of America. That principle has two parts. The first part relates to whether the refugee would be persecuted in the country if returned, or faces danger to his person or liberty if returned. Has the current Government done any evaluation to show that they would be persecuted or be in danger if they returned to Yemen? If that is the case, this House needs to know the facts. Otherwise, there is no reason why they should remain here. Mr Speaker, I do not think that we could blame the former Government for conferring refugee status on them, and then turn round to say that because we conferred refugee status on them, they are governed by law and cannot be returned. That cannot be it. Their status as refugees could even be revoked, as we speak.
Hon Member, your time is up.
Mr Speaker, may I conclude that there was a reference to the fact that we created --
Hon Minister for Defence?
Mr Speaker, thank you very much. On behalf of the people of Ghana, I would want to thank the Hon Minister for even having the courage to come here. I say so because of the facts on the ground. When the Gitmo-2 were brought, the people of Ghana did not know anything about it. [Interruption.] -- It is a fact. The former Minister is on record --
Hon Members, let us proceed with the rules of engagement and give every Hon Member a chance for proper arguments. Hon Minister, you may continue.
Mr Speaker, the former Hon Minister for the Interior is on public record to have said that even as the Hon Minister for the Interior, he did not know anything about this Agreement. That is a fact.
Hon Okudzeto Ablakwa, do you rise on a point of order?
Rightly so, Mr Speaker. The Hon Minister for Defence is misleading this House. The Hon Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration at the time, Hon Hanna Serwaa Tetteh, put out a public statement, informing the people of Ghana about this arrangement.
Mr Speaker, let me repeat. At the time of entry -- [Interruption.]
At the time of entry of the two, the Government did not inform the people of Ghana. [Interruption] It is true that the Hon Minister released a statement, but it was after the two men had entered the country. Mr Speaker, we do not need rocket science to know that Yemen is in turmoil. It is common knowledge. Mr Speaker, it is also true that the position of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) in opposition and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in Government are never the same. In fact, they are poles apart -- they are not even parallel; they are poles apart.
Hon Members, Order!
Mr Speaker, the two were arrested on suspicion of terrorist activities, and there is a difference between them being terrorists and being arrested on suspicion of terrorists activities. That has always been the position of the NPP; that they were arrested on suspicion of terrorist activities. So, if they were being brought into the country, the Agreement should be brought to Parliament.
Hon Members, the noise would not help. The Hon Leaders would have ample time to contribute, and I would like the rules of engagement to be regarded. Hon Minister, please continue.
Mr Speaker, what did we do when we came into Government? True to our words, that this Agreement must be brought to Parliament, we satisfied the Supreme Court condition and brought it to Parliament for it to be ratified. Mr Speaker, unknown to the people of Ghana, and even to the Supreme Court, the previous NDC Government then had given them refugee status. Until today, nobody in Ghana, including yourself, knew that the previous NDC Government had given them refugee status, and had shifted the goal posts completely. Mr Speaker, the Agreement that talked about moving them -- Even if, today, the Agreement is that they should be moved, the fact that they have been moved from ordinary suspects to refugees changes the question. We cannot just throw them out because, today, they are refugees. Mr Speaker, today, they are not just ordinary Yemenis, they are not ordinary citizens, nor people who have been suspected of terrorist activities and brought into the country. Today, by the action of the previous NDC Government, they are refugees. So, the question has shifted to treating them as refugees. That was why the Hon Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration said that the appropriate authorities would look into it. Mr Speaker, I would want it to be known that this Government is very cautious about the safety of the people of Ghana. We are very cautious, and we would make sure that the people of Ghana are completely safe. That is the reason we are hesitant to take any decision that would have security implications on the people of Ghana. Mr Speaker, I can assure you that the people of Ghana are very safe -- extremely very safe, that when it comes to the issues of people who are involved in terrorism, this Government is tracking and has every information about everybody. [Interruption.] -- And who caused it? Mr Speaker, I would want to say once again, that the question that necessitated this particular Statement was as result of people asking when the Gitmo-2 would be sent out of this country. It includes people from the other side of the aisle, who have taken the position that the Government should send them away -- but they failed to tell the people of Ghana -- today, the people are not just being guarded, but they are refugees. Mr Speaker, I believe they owe the people of Ghana an apology. [Interruption.] -- It is true. They really owe the people of Ghana an apology. They have tied the hands of Ghanaians at the back, and then they come out to shout as if they know nothing about it. Meanwhile, they took the decision to make them refugees -- they took the decision to make it very difficult for anybody to send them out. They took that decision. They knew that they had made the people refugees. They have committed the people of Ghana to hold them as refugees, knowing that it is extremely difficult to repatriate the people to Yemen, where they, on a daily basis, fight one another with no functioning government. Then they have come out to say we should send them away. Where should they be sent to? Mr Speaker, for security reasons, like I said, I would not talk much; but we would want the people of Ghana to know that all the problems associated with the question of the Gitmo- 2 emanated from them, and it would end with them.
Yes, Hon Minister for National Security?
Mr Speaker, I thank you for this opportunity. Mr Speaker, I would want to say that we all appreciate that this is a very delicate matter, and I believe there is the need for each and every one of us to be careful with our choice of words. Mr Speaker, I believe that in these circumstances, it helps if we could keep to the facts only, which I believe are very clear. Mr Speaker, the facts are that the previous Government in its wisdom, and believing that it was in the best interest of the country, entered into an Agreement to accept the two gentlemen. Mr Speaker, secondly, the previous Government took the deliberate decision that there was no need to consult the people of Ghana or Parliament before taking this decision. But fortunately for us, the attention of the Government was drawn to it, and just before the election, it was a major issue; whether or not the proper procedure should not have been taken by coming to Parliament. Mr Speaker, fortunately for us, the Supreme Court gave a decision and said, yes, the matter should have been referred
Hon Members order!
Mr Speaker, probably, that could have been the intervention, but then the second hurdle; the Government of the day then found it necessary to give them a refugee status. Mr Speaker, this complicates it. In my opinion, by giving them that status, we have promoted them from protective custody into refugees. Now, they are not just in Ghana for us to give them some protection, but they are in Ghana as refugees. The lawyers have pointed out that there are implications with them being given that status, one of which is that, the decision to let them go or not does not just rest with Government but with them. Mr Speaker, the significant thing is that a deliberate decision was taken to give them this refugee status. This decision was taken even though there was nothing in the Agreement that demanded that the Government should give them refugee status. It was a deliberate decision by somebody who thought it was in the best interest of the country. That is the issue that we should try to address and not politicise. Mr Speaker, in the face of this reality, the hands of Government have effectively been tied to the extent that any decision to take the people away, must have their consent. We need to accept that the problem has been created. We need to accept that there is, indeed, a hurdle and we need to accept that there is the need for us to discuss this in a manner that allows us to come to a conclusion which is in the best interest of the country. But the terms, as I said earlier, are that in discussing this matter, let us stick to the facts and we should not manufacture what we claim to be facts, which indeed are not. And the fact is that a deliberate decision was taken to accept them, and that in so doing, the country demanded that reference should have been made to Parliament to ratify and agree to it, which was not done for some reason. Fortunately for us, the Supreme Court of Ghana has given finality to that argument, and the court said that, by saying no, this is a transaction that should have come to Parliament. Parliament has been so good to accept it and has since done what is necessary to ratify it. We have had two years under the Agreement and it has come to an end. What do we do, especially now that somewhere along the line, somebody took the deliberate decision? And we may as well ask, who took that decision? Was it the Executive Secretary of the Refugee Board, or the Chairman of the Refugee Board? Was this a Cabinet decision of the Government at the time? Was it something that received an Executive approval from the President at the time? But whatever it is — [Interruption.] We do not have any evidence and that is what we must be examining. Following that decision, we now have a problem which is that we simply cannot send them away.
I must respectfully remind Hon Members that when a person is on his or her feet in this Honourable House, no Hon Member of Parliament should be shouting, “sit down”; I heard it with my own ears. I would not want to take any further steps. But let us please be very mindful of the relevant decorum in this Honourable House.
Mr Speaker, let me thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the Statement by the Hon Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, in a matter relative to the Gitmo-2, their admission into the country, subsequent to parliamentary ratification, and subsequent to lapse of time and expiration of time. Mr Speaker, but let me respond that this is a sovereign country, even though our Parliament is not sovereign, we do have a strong Parliament. Mr Speaker, let me respond to the Hon Minister for National Security, that Parliament ought to have been consulted, when and how? And he should be informed that Parliament was adequately apprised of this issue on 19th February, 2016. The Hon Minister then, Hon Hannah Tetteh, was here to apprise the House of this. Mr Speaker, I listened to the Hon Minister for Defence and other Hon Colleagues and I worry about the reduction of a major foreign policy decision into a partisan debate.
We could refer to it today as the previous Government. At the time of taking this decision —
Hon Members on my right, if you have any point, you may pass it on to your leader. The Leadership are summarising; they have fifteen minutes each. Hon Members, you would not speak across; you should simply give every point to your leader. Hon Minority Leader, you are on your feet.
Mr Speaker, today, in their comfort, they can refer to it as previous Government -- it was a legitimate Government, clothed with authority and mandate to pursue the foreign policy of Ghana to the best interest of our country, which it did, led by President Mahama.
Hon Members, no interruption.
Mr Speaker, we have noted that. Mr Speaker, granted that they are refugees, and so what? [Interruption.] I can quote the ‘Foreign Minister' in her Statement that “they are of good behaviour”. I can also quote the Hon Minister for the Interior say that “they are no threat” -- So, what if they are refugees? They were told by the former President Mahama and the NDC that they were granted entry into this country on the basis of compassion and humanitarian grounds - - and so what? Mr Speaker, if they are minded, I am holding the Refugee Act of 1992, PNDC Law 305D -- Foreign Minister, when you come to Parliament, we would want to believe that you have read and read extensively on the subject matter. If Government does not believe that they deserve to be refugees, it should act accordingly and appropriately in accordance with the Refugee Act of Ghana. Mr Speaker, indeed, there is a section of the Refugee Act -- section 15 which is headed -- Withdrawal of refugee status. Mr Speaker with your permission I beg to quote: “15(1) Where at any time the Board considers that there are reasonable grounds for believing that a person who recognisd as a refugee (a) should not have been so recognised; or (b) has ceased to qualify as a refugee for the purposes of this Law, the Board may withdraw the recogni- tion”. So, if they have a problem, they should invoke the law and do what is appropriate. It is within the law. This pretence must stop. [Interruption.] The Hon Minister is clothed and it is in the law, therefore, to hear the debate -- [Interruption.]
— rose --
Hon Minister, you would have right of response, so would you kindly let the Hon Minority Leader finish? [Interruption.] Hon Members, I know this has become quite an interesting debate.
Mr Speaker, so it is within the powers of this Government to revoke that status if they believe same. However, this is where I have harmony with the Hon Kan Dapaah. From the start of the Statement, the language of the Hon Minister should have been one which promotes rapprochement to build strong foreign policy. [Interruption] We have brought them here, send them away! [Interruption] So, it is within the law. Mr Speaker, I have also heard arguments here that nobody should raise the matter of terrorism when we are discussing this matter. On 14th September, 2001, Congress passed the authorisation for use of military force against terrorism. This is the source of Guantanamo Bay between America and Cuba -- itself is an act to fight terrorism. But the problem is the fundamental abuses of the rights of those persons which became a conscionable problem for the United States of America and lovers of human rights and the protection of those rights. Mr Speaker, therefore, to come and say here that nobody should raise terrorism, they should check again. That is the basis -- that is what gave birth to Guantanamo Bay. In fact, they were 245 detainees until they were reduced to 41 detainees. Even in the US Congress, when former President Bush established Guantanamo Bay and President Obama took over, there was debate about this matter just like we are doing, and we should learn from it. This is because former President Obama's view was that he cannot supervise those human rights abuses. Mr Speaker, I have seen persons in this Chamber use the words ‘alleged terrorists' -- they are alleged. It does not mean that if USA suspects somebody to be a terrorist, Ghana accommodates the person as a suspected terrorist. No! Who says USA could not get it wrong? They got it wrong. The United States of America got it wrong on Guantanamo Bay -- even in the congressional reports. So they should not come here and say their hands were tied. Mr Speaker, I am holding the Agreement that the Foreign Minister brought to this House for ratification which was signed by her. I just need this paragraph from her document that reads: “Consequently, Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby arrived in Ghana on 6th January, 2016.” The tenure of the Agreement was to last for two years. In her own words, once again, in the last paragraph before you concluding words, you said --
Hon Minority Leader, you would address the Chair. So, it is not in your own words again, in the Hon Minister's own words.
Mr Speaker, I take a cue from that. In the Hon Minister's own words, ‘package for the family on or about January 2018'. Again, it is a matter of public record. The Hon Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration of the Republic at the time, Ms Hannah Tetteh, on 6th January, 2016 -- on the same day, briefed the people of Ghana on this matter. [Interruption.] She issued a public statement which is here. We would print a copy and lay it here. But I say this is the Agreement which expired on 6th January, 2018. So, if there is a lapse of time -- Mr Speaker, I now go to the Hon Minister's Statement -- a Statement she made, and I am quoting for the records. It says:
Would you address the Chair! Hon Members, Order! Hon Minority Leader, please continue, conclude and address the Chair and the Chair only. Hon Members, this is how to keep the decorum of this Honourable House.
Mr Speaker, I would abide, but just give me two or three additional minutes.
Please, proceed and conclude.
Mr Speaker, I am quoting from the Statement which asks: “The USA has also been clear in our discussions with them, that per the agreement, returning them to the United States of America is not an option for discussion or negotiation.” This is the Hon Minister's Statement and not mine. This is what she just read. When a blind man says that he would throw a stone at you, he might be stepping on it. In this matter, they were not stepping on any stone and they said they would take the terrorists away. Take them away! We had an Agreement; we were the blind people but there was no stone under our leg. Mr Speaker, I would end with another proverb. It is only a blind fool that one steps on his ‘something' two times. [Laughter.] If you cannot see, do you not feel it? Mr Speaker, they knew, and I am quoting -- Even the matter they have brought to the fore was a foreclosed matter as far as the USA is concerned. Indeed, in the Agreement that we ratified, there was room to integrate them into Ghana. That is why it is not legally nor morally wrong to grant them refugee status, because the fundamental object was to integrate them. How do we integrate them? Mr Speaker, if we are not obliged, why was this Parliament invited to ratify and not to reject it? Mr Speaker, in concluding, I could only agree that I wished that the debate on this matter was not partisan. I also wished that we had not reduced the country to previous and current Government as if the approval and disapproval, deportation and admission of the Gitmo 2 -- how does this improve the quality of the Ghanaian? How does it improve the quality of the Ghanaian, that today, in the Parliament of Ghana, one would want to take credit? The NPP says they would want to take credit. Take it! It is your credit. Take and send them away. [Laughter.] Every credit they want, they have it. They have taken credit that they are refugees. If they do not want to recognise them as refugees, the law is in their hands. Mr Speaker, this Parliament must take it self seriously. Why did Parliament ratify it? It was brought here by the Executive. But I would conclude on a very good note. The Hon Minister for the Interior, Mr Ambrose Dery, made a significant comment, and that is what should guide us. The issue before the Supreme Court -- and again, when he says the people of Ghana did not know anything about this matter, how then were those Ghanaians able to go to the Supreme Court to question it? [Laughter.] They had no knowledge of the matter, yet, they could go to the Supreme Court to question it. But he made a point and I agree with him. I think what went to the Supreme court was a matter of whether an International Agreement of that nature, per our governance structures and processes, was satisfactory and complete if it did not have parliamentary approval, to which the Supreme court gave a succinct ruling which I agree with. That was the vest issue. So, they should not come and reduce the pursuit of foreign policy to NDC and NPP colours. It is very unfortunate for our Republic. Mr Speaker, I believe that what this “Foreign Minister” should be inviting us to do, for which we would support her is that, the time has lapsed. Do we grant an extension?
Thank you. Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, I thank you very much for the opportunity granted to make some comments on the Statement from the Hon Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration.
Teach them! Teach them!
Mr Speaker, the Hon Minister is a Ghanaian Minister responsible for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration. She is not a Foreign Minister. I believe this is very rudimentary that Hon Members should know.
Mr Speaker, the Hon Minority Leader indicated to us that he wished that the debate on the Statement were not reduced to partisanship. Our Standing Orders are clear, and Order 70 (2) provides that after a Statement has been made, we can only comment. It is not subject to debate. So, they got it wrong at the very outset when they believed that they should subject it to debate, and that was exactly what they did.
“A Minister of State may make an announcement or a statement of
government policy. Any such announcement or statement should be limited to facts which it is deemed necessary to make known to the House and should not be designed to provoke debate at this stage…” So, Mr Speaker, the Hon Minister came and fed us with facts; nothing more, nothing less. That is how Hon Members should understand it. Mr Speaker, I believe it is very important to recognise that the Hon Minister informed us that per the content of the Agreement, there appeared to have been an extension to it. Indeed, on 19th February, 2016, when the then Hon Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration came to this House, she spoke to us about a note verbale which had occasioned the acceptance of the two people. When she came to this House and spoke to us, she did not brief us about the refugee status of the two because at that time, that status had not been granted to them. So, the information that was given to this House, which all of us were privy to, did not contain the fact that refugee status had been granted to the two people who had been accepted into the system. We were told on 21st July, 2016, that they were accorded refugee status. So, one would have expected that in the handing over note, this additional information would have been provided to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration. This, unfortunately, was not part of the handing over note and that is a tragedy. Mr Speaker, that is why it is surprising to hear from the Hon Ablakwa, who says that the Hon Minister is springing this on us as a surprise. Yes, indeed, it is a surprise to this nation because on the day of handing over, this was not part of the handing over notes to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration. The question to ask is, why was this kept as a secret from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs? That is what we should interrogate because that is where the problem emanates from. This is because this is a very serious issue. They had moved a step further to grant refugee status to the people on 21st July, 2016 and we in Parliament did not know because when they came here, that had not been done. Mr Speaker, we had committed ourselves to a two year period ending 6th January, 2018 and then in-between that time, they granted refugee status without informing the good people of this country and providing additional information to this House and informing the Ministry. What was the intent behind that? I did not say that he said that. but I said that is the obvious implication --
Mr Speaker, when they elect to hide vital information from a succeeding administration, that certainly is dangerous to this country. Mr Speaker, the Hon Mahama Ayariga, as part of his contribution said, and I quote him verbatim; “there is no reason why the people should remain here in this country”. If indeed, that was true, how do we situate that in the context of the refugee status that the Government of yesterday granted them? We cannot blow hot and cold, and we should not be playing to the gallery when the facts point to a different direction. We cannot be doing that. I am happy that the Hon Minority Leader said to us that Parliament should consider ourselves as a serious institution. We cannot blow hot and cold, and we cannot elect to play to the gallery when the facts point to a different direction. Mr Speaker, now, the first principle -- we should all be worried because the first principle of any international relation is that we should seek to promote and protect the interest of a particular country, in this case, Ghana. Indeed, article 40(a) of the Constitution talks about that. For emphasis, let me quote article 40 (a) of the 1992 Republican Constitution; “In its dealings with other nations, the Government shall -- (a) promote and protect the interests of Ghana;” That is why we should be worried. If people without any question marks from anywhere want to enter Ghana, they apply for visas to be granted them for entry. Mr Speaker, if a people are a subject of Agreement before they are allowed to enter this country, you should, at the very outset, accept the principle that there are question marks on them. Otherwise, why should they be a subject of agreement in the first place? Why could they not walk to our Embassy and seek visa to come to Ghana? So, this pretence is worrying, and the fact that there is an allegation against them, that they were alleged to be terrorists, does not mean that indeed and in truth, they were terrorists. It is an allegation that we should interrogate. An allegation has been made against the Ministry of Trade and Industry, that they engaged in cash for seats; we have brought it here to Parliament for Parliament to investigate. Even an allegation should be a subject of interrogation and due diligence. So, as a priori, we should not just say that on humanitarian grounds we have accepted them when they may pose a risk to our own citizens. Mr Speaker, today, the people who said that we should treat them on humanitarian and compassionate grounds are saying that let us take them somewhere -- they have a country. Yes, they have a country called Yemen, but we all do know what is happening in Yemen. Should we throw them to the dogs? If they came from Syria and knowing what is happening in Syria, would we say that they should be sent back to Syria on humanitarian and compassionate grounds?
We should keep them.
Mr Speaker, good. So, now they are saying that let us disregard everything and send them back. Let us be principled and consistent in our arguments. We cannot be blowing hot and cold.
Mr Speaker, I am addressing you and that is why I have called ‘Mr Speaker'. I know that you have just returned from another kingdom -- [Laughter.] So, I would urge all of us; the Hon Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration and the Hon Ministers for the Interior and Defence, and indeed, for National Security, to combine their efforts to continue to monitor the people while they are here, if any untoward things should happen, they should quickly come together to inform Parliament and then we would go ahead and do what is right to promote and indeed, protect the interest of the good people of this country. Mr Speaker, for now, I am very satisfied with the promptness of the response from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and indeed, the Hon Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, and I would urge that she acts with such dispatch as she has displayed in this case, regarding any other matter that may be relevant to the promotion and protection of the interest of the people of this country.
Order! Hon Minister? In the meantime, the Hon First Deputy Speaker would take the Chair.
Mr Speaker, in wrapping up, I would like to thank Hon Members for their contributions, but also to touch on two issues that I believe need clarity. The first issue has to do with lack of an exit strategy that accompanied the Agreement. That is a fact. I want to say that when I took over as the Hon Minister for Foreign Affairs, I found it necessary to engage the American Embassy and the Ambassador specifically, and he did confirm that no such arrangements had been discussed.
MR FIRST DEPUTY SPEAKER
Mr Speaker, I did it because I felt that it was necessary because of the sentiments that had been expressed by Ghanaians, and during the meeting, it became clear that nothing of the sort had been agreed upon. Mr Speaker, I felt that one important way to solve this issue and clean it up was to see if a third country would receive the two ex-detainees. Unfortunately, we found out at the very last minute during my negotiations that they had been granted refugee status and so they are indeed refugees in Ghana. Mr Speaker, this meant that they could only leave this country if they consented. So, it has been quite difficult and we still continue to look at ways in which we could clean this up, but for now, it is impossible to do anything about it because they are legally resident here as a result of them being granted refugee status. In conclusion, I said in my Statement that as a government, we are constrained to explore any other options at this time, but we would await an in-depth examination of the issues by the appropriate agency. Mr Speaker, so, I would like to assure the people of Ghana that this is where we are now; our hands are tied indeed, but we would continue to find ways out, if it is the wish of Ghanaians. Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity given me.
Very well. Thank you, Hon Members. It is past one hour and so I regret that there were other Statements that had been admitted but they cannot be taken today. We would proceed to other matters. At this stage -- [Interruption] -- Hon Member, are you done? If you are done we would continue. At the Commencement of Public Business -- Presentation of Papers. Item numbered 4 on the Order Paper by the Hon Majority Leader and Hon Minister for Parliamentary Affairs.
Hon Members, item numbered 5 -- Presentation and First Reading of Bills.
Mr Speaker, I would present item numbered 5 (a) on behalf of the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice. Mr Speaker, but I would want to seek your indulgence to effect a correction which I believe is attributable to a typographical error -- it is the Witness Protection Bill, 2017 and not 2018.
Hon Majority Leader, which one are you amending? Is it the Order Paper or the Bill?
Mr Speaker, the correction is for the Order Paper.
Very well. Hon Members, the correction is on the Order Paper. It would now read the “Witness Protection Bill, 2017”.
Mr Speaker, that is so.
Hon Minority Leader?
Mr Speaker, ordinarily, I would have no objection but the Hon Majority Leader wants detail. First of all, where is the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice? Secondly, is it a typographical error? Mr Speaker, no. The date of Gazette cannot be a typographical error so he should just say that he is keeping this in tandem with the date it was Gazetted. If he says that it is a typographical error, then it is as if it is just the printer's devil but I do not think that it is so. Mr Speaker, it would even affect the next item that he would present. So, for purposes of elegance, I believe the reference should be that they were gazetted according --
Hon Minority Leader, which one was Gazetted? Is it the Order Paper?
Mr Speaker, no. Mr Speaker, we are following a constitutional provision and before he introduces the Bills, the date of gazette would inform whether it is 2017 or 2018. I hope so.
The Bills are before me and they were gazetted in 2017 and so it is the Order Paper which quoted them wrongly as 2018.
Mr Speaker, so, I am saying that it is not ordinarily typographical but it is keeping it consistent with what has been done. Mr Speaker, if it were me, he would rise and say that I got it wrong. Mr Speaker, let him be corrected - do not go to his defence. [Laughter] It is not ordinarily typographical -- this is a business of Parliament and he knows what to do when he wants to make an amendment to something that he wants to submit. Mr Speaker, I have deliberately done this -- when it came to the Statement by the Hon Minister for Foreign Affairs, he rose and quoted the Standing Orders on debate but when the Hon Minister came back then there was no Standing Orders. [Laughter.] Hon Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, Sumpahene, you should be sumpa to all of us. [Laughter]
Mr Speaker, this is Government business and I lead Government Business in this House. This Bill was Gazetted on the 13th December, 2017 and I believe that there was a mix up and the Table Officers got it wrong. Mr Speaker, I am just drawing attention that there was a mix up and indeed this morning I spoke with them that they got it wrong -- it is 2017. I believe that somebody thought that because it is coming to the House for the first time in 2018, then it should be 2018. Mr Speaker, certainly not; it is the date of gazette that matters and that is what he said. So, it was gazetted on 13th December, 2017 and that is why I am drawing attention. Mr Speaker, the few amenities that should be coming to me -- the Hon Minority Leader should not struggle to share the spoils. I am the Leader of Government Business and I am telling him that it is a mistake on behalf of the people who did this. So, it is Witness Protection Bill, 2017.
Very well. You may now lay the Bill.
BILLS -- FIRST READING
Item numbered 5(b) -- Technical Universities (Amendment) Bill, 2017.
Mr Speaker, again, let me lay the document on behalf of the Hon Minister for Education and to also indicate to the House that there is also a mistake on the Order Paper. It is supposed to be 2017 and for purposes of elucidation, it was gazetted on 8 th December, 2017.
Mr Speaker, I now understand why he walks the double leg of an Hon Minister and also an Hon Majority Leader. In all honesty and fairness, where is the Hon Minister for Education? There is a Hon Minister of State responsible for tertiary education and there is another Hon Deputy Minister; but the Hon Minister for Parliamentary Affairs is still the available Hon Minister. Mr Speaker, does he want to tell us that he is the available Minister when we have four Hon Ministers at the Ministry. Mr Speaker, I believe he is in charge of Government Business. So this morning, did he not relay to them Government business? A few minutes ago, he was in charge of Government Business. Where are his Ministers to come and do Parliamentary business? He should make sure they attend upon the House.
Mr Speaker, the Minority Leader is even much closer to the Hon Minister for Education than myself. [Laughter.] He has him constantly on his radar. He knows wherever the Minister is and he traces and tracks his movements. So, he knows where he is. Mr Speaker, the Hon Minister is outside the jurisdiction and this Bill is about policy and policy is supported by Cabinet and Deputy Ministers are not members of Cabinet. That is why when it comes to laying of Bills, it does not fall within the remits of Deputy Ministers so to do. Mr Speaker, I thank you.
Hon Majority Leader, the explanation on the absence of the Hon Minister is well noted but the Hon Deputy Ministers are also Members of Parliament and they are not even here.
Mr Speaker, I said that they are not Cabinet Ministers and this is a policy document. That is why
I am not disagreeing with you on that. Why are they not here? Anyway, we would get to that.
Mr Speaker, just to inform you that the President has summoned a meeting involving all Ministers and I indeed even gave an indication that I thought today, latest by 12.00 o'noon, we would have finished with our business and I would join them. Unfortunately, no thanks to the Hon Minority Leader and his busy body Members, I am still being kept here. Mr Speaker, the “busy body” is used advisedly, and indeed, in a lighter vein. Mr Speaker, so that explains it.
Very well. Leave is granted you to --
Hon Minority Leader?
Mr Speaker, before you grant him the leave, I am just indulging you to arrest the leave momentarily while I get him to appreciate that as Leader, it is not good enough if he wants us to proceed on Cabinet Ministers and non- Cabinet Ministers' ability to lay policy documents. After all, the size of Government, the elephant minus 21 means the rest cannot lay papers. That would be problematic.
Very well. I think this should be a debate for another day. So Hon Majority Leader, kindly lay the Paper.
Mr Speaker, I know the ambush antiques of the Hon Minority Leader, I can always predict him and that is why I stated the constitutional imperative. That is all that I said. I have not added to that, but I know that occasionally, we have relaxed our own rules and in due time, when it comes to relaxing the rules, the relevant appeal would be made. Thank you, Mr Speaker.
You may now lay the Bill on behalf of the Hon Minister.
BILLS -- FIRST READING
Item numbered 6? Chairman of the Committee?
Mr Speaker, I am informed by the Chairman of the Committee that we could take this Motion tomorrow.
Very well. Hon Majority Leader, any indication?
Mr Speaker, I believe we have come to the end of today's Business and now having to reschedule the Motion listed as item numbered 6, in which case I would move that this House do now adjourn until tomorrow at 10.00 o'clock in the forenoon.
Hon Minority Leader?
Mr Speaker, I beg to second the Motion for adjournment. Thank you. Question put and Motion agreed to.