New Political Vigilante Bill: Parliament succumbs to government’s pressure

Parliament has accepted a request by the Attorney-General (AG) to take the newly introduced Bill on Political Vigilantism and Related Offences Bill under a certificate of urgency.

The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Gloria Afua Akuffo, presented the Bill to Parliament on Thursday, April 11, 2019, with a request that it be considered under a certificate of urgency with less than 24 hours for the House to go on recess for the Easter holidays.

In a letter attached to the memorandum of the Bill to Parliament, the Attorney-General indicated, that “This Office respectfully requests approval for the attached Vigilantism and Related Offences Bill, 2019 to be laid and considered in Parliament under a certificate of urgency in view of the current Parliamentary calendar.”

The Speaker of Parliament, Professor Mike Oquaye referred the Bill to the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to determine the urgency of the Bill with respect to the request which was being sought by the AG.

According to the rules governing Parliament, when a Bill is treated under a certificate of urgency it is allowed to bypass some of the stages required in its passage. In some cases, the whole Bill could be taken in one day.

Order 119 of the Standing Orders of Parliament states, “Where it is determined and certified by the appropriate Committee of the House appointed in that behalf that a particular Bill is of an urgent nature, that Bill may be introduced without publication. Copies of the Bill shall be distributed to Members and may be taken through all its stages in one day.”

When the Committee returned from their deliberations on the matter, they were unanimous on the decision that the Bill was of an urgent nature and therefore urged the House to adopt their report.

In presenting their report to the plenary, the Chairman of the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Ben Abdala Banda, that the Bill needed some time for stakeholder input to enrich its enactment despite its urgent nature.

“The Committee however recommends to the House to allow sufficient time to enable the Committee to engage political parties, Civil Society Organizations, Security experts and other Stakeholders to solicit their views and perspectives towards the enactment of a robust law to combat the menace.” He said.

Having been convinced by the recommendations of the Committee, the House adopted the report to treat the Vigilantism and Related Offences Bill, 2019 as an urgent Bill.

Following this, Speaker Mike Oquaye gave a directive to the Table Office of Parliament to ensure that the Bill is one of the first things that gets treated immediately when Parliament resumes sittings after the Easter holidays.

The object of the Vigilantism and Related Offences Bill, 2019 is to disband political party vigilante groups and proscribe acts of vigilantism in the country. It creates offences specific to political party vigilante groups, the phenomenon of land guards and other acts of vigilantism.

This is in fulfilment of President Akufo-Addo’s promise he made during the 2019 State of the Nation Address to formally initiate a legislation to bring full closure to acts of violence associated with elections in the country if the two main political parties fail to agree on voluntary disbandment of vigilante groups associated with them.

The President’s intervention became necessary due to the widespread condemnation of the public in the aftermath of the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election of 31st January 2019, which was characterized by violence.

According to a portion of the Memorandum of the Bill, “Recent Public elections including by-elections held in the Fourth Republic have been characterized by violence particularly by-elections held in the following constituencies: Akwatia, Atiwa, Chereponi, Talensi, Amenfi West and more recently Ayawaso West Wuogon.”

The Bill, therefore, seeks to bring an end to this phenomenon of politically-related violence which threatens to derail Ghana’s fledgling democracy and the rule of law.

Source: Clement Akoloh ||



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