The Leadership of the Majority in Parliament has noted with concern the refusal of Speaker Alban Bagbin to release the Member of Parliament (MP) for Madina, Mr Francis-Xavier Sosu, to the police for investigations.
Mr Sosu is being invited to assist the police to unravel alleged offences during a recent demonstration he led in his constituency.
A statement issued by the Majority Leadership and signed by Mr Alexander Afenyo-Markin, the Deputy Majority Leader, said a letter dated October 27, 2021, from the Ghana Police Service, identified Mr Sosu as a person of interest and requested the Speaker to release him to assist with investigations.
However, in a response dated October 28, 2021, the Speaker said: “Proceedings of the Third Meeting of the First Session of the Eighth Parliament commenced on Tuesday, October 26, 2021 and having regard to the limitations of articles 117 and 118 of the 1992 Constitution, he is unable to release the MP as requested.”
The statement said the Majority Leadership viewed the response as a “troubling departure from how the Speaker’s predecessors handled such requests.”
It cited Speaker Joyce Bamford Addo and Edward Doe Adjaho’s handling of such invitation of MPs during their days in office, who responded by inviting the relevant MPs, held discussions with them, and then asked them to report to the police or investigating authorities.
The statement said during Professor Mike Oquaye’s tenure as Speaker, he modified the arrangement including making the Speaker’s Conference room available to the police to meet with MPs they were interested in, and to conduct initial investigations.
He did this to protect the dignity of MPs while at the same time ensuring that they were not put above the law, it said.
“At all these times, Hon Bagbin as he was then, had been part of the Leadership of the House,” it added.
“Speaker Bagbin appears now to be instituting new rules that seem to undermine the rule of law without any prior discussions with the Leadership of the House,” the statement said, asking; “What exactly has changed?”
“As a group, the Majority believes firmly that constitutionally guaranteed immunity for MPs in our democracy must not be protected always but jealously guarded as well. However, never should we as a parliament make the mistake of allowing immunity to be constructed to mean impunity.”
The statement said in the particular case under reference, Parliament had a constitutional, legal and moral duty to cooperate and collaborate with the police to ensure that the rule of law prevailed.
Parliament must not be seen to be creating a false regime of two separate laws of Ghana – one for MPs and another for non-MPs, it said.
“Parliament must ensure the equality of all citizens, including MPs before the law.”
Mr Ahmed Ibrahim, Deputy Minority Chief Whip, who reacted to the statement during Thursday sitting, presided over by Second Deputy Speaker Andrews Amoako Asiamah, called for calm as the House waited for Speaker Bagbin, believed to be on a national assignment outside the country, to return.
He said at a conclave meeting before proceedings began that there was a discussion that Leadership of Parliament should meet with the Attorney General, and the Ministers of the Interior and National Security to find a way forward to avoid institutional conflict.
“Mr Speaker, I got here only to be given another press release, which seems to be pouring fire on the already existing fire,” he said.
“Mr Speaker, we are already in opposition. We’re ever ready to support our brothers on the other side to hold the peace together…..let’s hold on till the Speaker comes.”
He pleaded with both sides of the House not do anything to interrupt the flow of parliamentary democracy and the peace of the country, but must unite and work to hold the House and the nation together.
In response, Mr Afenyo-Markin said the Ministers for the Interior and National Security had worked together in getting to a certain agreement to manage the matter.
He said the press statement come before the conclave meeting, but assured the House that it was not to undermine the Speaker adding that the Majority Leadership would continue to respect the authority of the Speaker.