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The Privileges Committee of Parliament, looking into issues of contempt of Parliament raised against the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Assin Central constituency, Kennedy Ohene Agyapong, was compelled to indefinitely postpone sitting on the matter on Tuesday not long after sitting had begun.
This followed preliminary objections raised by lawyers for Ken Agyapong at the commencement of the hearing. Notable among them was the claim by three members of the committee to opt out of the sitting; upon which the chairman of the committee Joseph Osei Owusu made the ruling on postponement.
After sitting had been called to order by the chairman and the complainant, Mohammed-Mubarak Muntaka, MP for Asawase and Minority Chief Whip had taken the oath.
It was at this juncture that lawyers for Kennedy Agyapong, Messrs T.K Hammond (lead counsel) and Alexander Kwamena Afenyo-Markin raised those objections.
They (counsel) argued that referral to their client as contemnor was improper because he had not yet been found guilty of the contempt charges leveled against him. As such they preferred him to be addressed as respondent. This the chairman upheld.
Secondly, they said the hearing was likely to create bias taking into consideration publications in “The Daily Graphic” – Kennedy Agyapong has a case to answer, and interviews granted the press by some members of the committee sought to prejudice the case because they had formed their own opinions even before hearing begins. The counsel suggested that those members in questions be recused from the sitting.
Thirdly, the evidence upon which the petition was granted was not coming from the proper premises. They had not been given samples of evidence with which their client had been charged, to enable them get enough time to study it before hearing resumes. They therefore wanted to be issued with evidence of the case and that sitting be postponed to enable them study the case before the next hearing.
The three members of the committee, Cynthia Morrison, MP for Agona West, Nana Eyiah, MP for Gomoa Central and Samuel Nsowa-Dyan, MP for Upper Denkyira West had decided to recuse themselves from the hearing on grounds that they have close relationship with the Respondent, who is chairman for the Central Region caucus in Parliament, which they are all members. This they did in writing.
The lawyers argued that based on this fact, the committee ought to replace these members before hearing could be done.
The chairman however over ruled all these objections indicating that the report of the committee would inculcate all of these.
The chairman also indicated that the letter of recuse in question had not come to the notice of the committee. Subsequently, hearing should go on as scheduled.
However, after heated arguments on the issue with the lawyers displaying the letter, a copy was finally made available to the committee.
After conferring with leadership of the committee, the chairman announced that sitting be postponed to another time as they dilate that matter, the outcome of which could not be made public.
Sitting was consequently adjourned indefinitely.
Source: S.O. Ankamah