Parliament’s Privileges Committee to hear absentee MPs case in-camera

0
69

A Member of Parliament’s Privileges Committee, Kweku Ricketts Hagan, says the media would not be permitted to cover the hearing proceedings of three MPs who were referred to the Committee for absenting themselves from the house beyond the constitutionally required time period.

The three MPs, Henry Quartey of Ayawaso Central, Sarah Adwoa Safo of Dome Kwabenya and Kennedy Agyapong of Assin Central will face the Committee starting today May 26.

Explaining why the media has been banned from covering the proceedings he stated that “the nature of evidence as we’ve been hinted might be on medical grounds…”

“And it is on that basis that the [Privileges] Committee came to that conclusion that it would be best that we give the opportunity for people to come and be able to come and be able to discuss with us, charged with that responsibility on what the reasons were or the evidence.”

In an interview with Citi FM, the Cape Coast legislator stated that when the Committee is done with its work, a report will be published which will explain whatever determination the Committee takes.

“Of course, when we are done with our work, we will put a report together and seeing the report, it will establish the reason why we recommended that a member should have a legitimate reason to still stay in Parliament or not and I think that will become a public information,” he said.

“I’m telling you the committee’s decision is that, we didn’t think that it will be appropriate to discuss what is likely to be health matters, because we know that at least two of them or all three of them have been dealing with some medical issues and we thought that it will not be appropriate,” Mr Hagan added.

In an earlier interview with JoyNews’ Parker Wilson, the NDC MP noted that the hearing will begin with Henry Quartey today.

The others are expected to follow suit on the following days.

“The 27th which is a Friday is Adwoa Safo, the 31st which is the following Tuesday will be Kennedy Agyapong,” he told Joy News’ Parliamentary correspondent.

The Cape Coast South MP noted that apart from the Assin North MP, who requested to be scheduled to May 31, because he would go for a medical review, the other two MPs have so far not informed of their intention to be absent.

“As far as I am concerned, I have not been informed by the Clerk that they have said they can’t come or whatever, so I assume that if they have received the invite, then we expect to see them. Only Hon. Kennedy Agyapong is the one that I know has asked for permission which myself and the Chairman discussed and we obliged that he can have that,” he stated.

He noted that any MP who fails to appear before the Committee will be cited for contempt of the House.

“Well, that is contempt of the House, straightaway. If you do that you are further complicating your situation, because we are on obligation here to obey the law and the Constitution of this country and a Member of Parliament should know better and this is a very serious matter to do with your being here in the House or not,” he noted.

The Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin in April referred the three MPs to the Privileges Committee for breaching the 15-day absence rule of Parliament.

According to the Speaker, the three legislators have breached the 15-day absence rule, hence his decision to refer them to the Privileges Committee for the necessary actions to be taken.

Delivering his ruling on the floor of Parliament on Tuesday, Mr. Alban Bagbin explained that based on the relevant provisions of the 1992 Constitution and the Standing Orders of Parliament, the named NPP lawmakers are guilty of the absenteeism threshold for Members of Parliament.

“I have accordingly come to the irresistible conclusion that a Member who absents himself or herself from 16 sitting days of Parliament in a particular meeting, without the permission in writing of the Speaker, falls squarely within the ambit of Article 97, clause 1(c) of the 1992 Constitution and Order 16(1) of the Standing Orders of Parliament”, he stated.

Bagbin’s referral of the MPs to the Privileges Committee follows a petition by former Member of Parliament for Kumbungu, Ras Mubarak.

Ras Mubarak in his petition to the Speaker said the conduct of the three MPs requires immediate action as it breaches Constitutional Provisions and Standing Orders of Parliament.

“It has come to my notice through Parliament’s Hansard, and newspaper and radio report that four Members of Parliament have all absented themselves from Parliament for more than fifteen sittings of a meeting of Parliament without the permission of Mr. Speaker in writing.”

“In view of this reported breach of the constitutional provision, I respectfully petition your high office to direct for their conduct to be referred to the Privileges Committee for consideration and necessary action,” portions of the petition said.