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Will the Minority group in Parliament ever have their say?

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The second meeting of the First Session of the Seventh Parliament of the Fourth Republic of Ghana came to an end on Wednesday, August 2, 2017.  However, the meeting, which began on a cordial note, hit the rocks at the tail-end.

The seeming conflict, which was between the minority National Democratic Congress (NDC) Members of Parliament (MPs), and the Speaker of Parliament, Rt. Hon. Prof. Michael Aaron Ocquaye, over what the minority caucus described as his bias towards them, and his relentless attempt to gag them on Monday, July 31, 2017 reached its crescendo, when  the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, officially lodged a complaint against  the conduct of the speaker to the Council of State when the latter paid a courtesy call on the leadership of the House.

Before they officially lodged the complaint, the minority staged a walkout during one of its sittings, but their action came under heavy attacks from some members of the public including former Attorney-General, Mr. Martin A.B. Amidu, who has become a thorn in the flesh of the opposition NDC.

According to the minority, since the inception of the 7th Parliament of the 4th Republic, the Speaker has shown open bias towards them, cataloguing a number of critical moments where Rt. Hon. Prof. Ocquaye denied them the opportunity to either voice out their displeasure or question ministers of state who appeared before the legislature to answer issues relating to their respective ministries.

The minority, however, vowed to resist any attempt by the Speaker or anybody to silence them in the House.  They further threatened to initiate processes towards the impeachment of the Speaker if he continues to do same.  This stand by the minority and the Speaker’s unwavering position is something lovers of democracy should be concerned about, if we want our democracy to be rooted firmly.

It is not for nothing that framers of the 1992 Constitution and other statutory regulations allow representations from the various parts of the country to converge at one place to deliberate on national issues and as well make laws for us.

Per this arrangement, each and every member of the House must have his/her say concerning issues of national interest.  Thus, the minority side of the House should be given the opportunity to have their say at any given time likewise the majority.   The legislature arm of government has often come under serious criticism for being soft on the executive, especially the majority side, which party often finds itself in government. For this and many reasons, we need a strong, vocal and responsible minority to watch the back of the government of the day.

It is a fact that most of the reforms were championed by the opposition.  Thus the role of the minority in the scheme of affairs of our democratic governance can never be underestimated.

If we only need to counter balance and check possible excesses and abuse of the exercise of the state authority effectively, then it is the role of a political minority. And it is not for nothing that every country has a government but it is only democracies that have opposition so the opposition minority in Parliament has a role to play in deepening good governance and making room for the counter balancing act of checking excesses in the exercise of state power and or authority.

It is for this reason that the right of the minority to have its say should not be compromised at any given time. It is an open secret that the Speakers of the House are brought in to push government businesses. So, some of the antics used in the past by various speakers to get their government businesses through cannot be faulted.

However, the minority should be allowed to have their say, after all the minority can have their say but cannot have their way.  This saying known practice should be jealously protected to strengthen our young democracy.  In every parliamentary democracy, the minority’s right to have its say is a respected norm.  I’m saying this because in the public interest and in the interest of democratic stability, the rights of the minority to have its say must be safeguarded.

I believe in our twenty-five years of democratic practice, we need to develop a more tolerant culture as we build our democracy.  As long as we expect the minority to have their say, we ask that things are said mindful of the time in the circumstances, and the place when you are saying a particular thing.

So, I was extremely glad when the minority leader in an interview assured the nation that his side will continue to be responsible, stressing that they will not be cowed into submission.

“We are a responsible minority, we need to counter balance and check possible excesses and abuses of the exercise of state authority, therefore the opposition has a role to play, we know our responsibility but the right of the minority to have its say should not, and would not, and cannot be compromised at any given time. We know as the minority, we cannot have our way but we can have our say and that jealously must be guarded,” he intimated.

I equally pray that the Speaker will also not be cowed into submission by the current happenings, but be fair and firm in his decisions when the House resumes.  It is worthy to note that when the leadership of the House met the Legal Committee of Council of State, the Speaker re-affirmed his commitment to run an open-door policy.

These were the words of the Speaker: “It is very unfortunate what happened on the floor of the House few days ago, but if I had the opportunity to rule on any issue whether it is coming from the minority or majority, I will not hesitate to do.”

As a people, no matter where we come from or the colour of our political affiliations, we should all work hand-in-hand to solidify our notable status as one of Africa’s most stable democracies. And at all times, we should be able to agree to disagree.

Source: Franklin Asare-Donkoh || todaygh


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