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ABSENT…BUT SIGNED IN PRESENT

Crises of some physically absent but recorded present occurred during the sittings of the Constituent Assembly [1979] and the Third Republic [1979-81].  Reports recently confirm the trend has resurged in Parliament here today.It is a curable but seems incorrigible diseaseof parliaments in most places.  Whether or not, let me go back for refresher evidence, though only akin.I dwell on Fiifi’s philosophy—“Dzi wo fie asem”—‘be concerned about your own palaver’.  (Fiifirefers affectionately to former President Prof, J.E.Atta Mills).

Some members of the Constituent Assembly 1979, were found out playing truant.  They signed in as present and left shortly after the opening only to come back for lunch which was free and exclusive to them in the cafeteria of the House and simply sneaked out after belly-full.  It took some time before this was brought to the attention of the speaker, the late Prof. Justice V.C.R.A.C Crabbe.  The members were severely reprimanded by the Speaker just as current Speaker Prof. Mike Ocquaye spoke when the crisis ruffled the House (Tuesday 19 November 2019)

I have cited only one directly corresponding back and another related occurrence simply because [i] both were the ones which slipped into public domain.  In the life time of current and prior parliaments, the buzz has carried similarities; and [ii], to indicate that we have been here before to worry about the repetition(s) because either the histories have not been heard ever or the issues evolved are irrelevant and or would not be taken as guiding principle for even a code of honour by follow-on generation(s).  Besides those events really happened and would thus not requireto engage any debate, spirited to civil, given our politics, likely to compete-peddling false narratives, as if to cover up for a dysfunctional parliament

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I prefer to see the bigger picture in the importance of the House, duty to country—the raison d’etre for being there and personal values.  The reason is it is hard to talk about one without talking about the other.  For example, the Rt.Hon. Speaker’s stricture would that the truths make immediate self-correction happen.  I am afraid whereas that is the wish of the country and MPs themselves, the expectation is at best hypothetical.

Points are that substantive part of conversation is in cahoots with [a] sustainability of the orders due to schedules of an MP [aggravated from now on by the inevitable need to start campaigning around this time-on for “Ballot 2020”.  Absenteeism would be rampant.  This raises a constitutional matter of significance concerning how to deal with the phenomenon.  There is no comfort zone about this humbug. [b] Theprevalent general political illiteracy, not yet dismissed from the country, 62 years after independence.

Otherwise, how would politics have to rely on hiring bullies to scare, intimidate buy the vote or stuff the ballot boxes,rigging the process to either remain in power or win the elections?

Further stumbling blocks for democracy are political party government and power of the party “Whip”, relative to party organization and politics within versus the rival outside, Oneof the handful of remarkable British past Leaders Disraeli had once said “parliamentary government is party government”.  And French Statesman Alexis de Tocqueville said the MP stops being useful for and to his Constituents soonest after entry.

Let me stay on that for a moment:  the ballot box is a competition, determined by the electorate as to which party collects the majority, commanding or notto govern.  This devalues choice of candidate, because the electorate vote for and by the colour or emblem and rarely for candidate’s credentials—a fine chemistry between the “KroboEdusei-CPP-theory” and the “insignia-syndrome” Then it is fair to divide the in-the-net-dodgers.  I make it three types—the official duty-goners , the un-avoidables and the plain fugitive-offenders.  The standing instruct says “you must be granted permission” to be absent.

I would think it natural that it is circumscribed by conditionalities such as the request shall not be impromptu as much as practically possible. If the “on-duty” excuse becomes the constant “general”, it would suggest something seriously undermines the work of the House. Apparently it seems the case and would appear reportedly, unchecked yet to involve cabinet holder-ranks. This retrieves issues back to the troublesome question: “should the Government be also members of Parliament?”.  The key conflict in the debate is the “Separation of Powers.” The Constitution for and of the “Third Republic” ceded the demarcation; but it would be hard to make even a jaundiced judgment because its statutory term was truncated [31 December 1981]; and how or whether it succeeded or failed, was not specifically listed in what caused the ditching.

I think with the benefit of hindsight that the craftsmen and women of the present “FOURTH”, regarded the dual mandate in one, like in Britain, as axiomatic.  It works there, though not without manageable hiccups.  It is plausible to grant that in the normal run of the mill functions of the individual member of parliament are too many and become complicated by pressures, ad hoc and lo g-standing conventionally, to disable him to decide each issue on its merit, there should be exits which shall reduce the excesses from the burden and foster brisk, brief and precise parliamentary work to deliver for “good of country,” cardinal.

“This could be achieved in three ways.  The first is reducing the total quantity of legislation and seeing that it is more fully discussed.  The second is by devolving on lower tiers of government work which is now done of necessity in Westminster [ie the Legislature].  The third would be to reduce the actual numbers of members of parliament to correspond with the lower volume of work.  This would reduce the number of speeches and the amount of time wasted in repetitive debate.”[The Dilemma of Democracy—Diagnosis and Prescription—Lord Hailsham-pub. Collins Sons & Co Ltd Ldn 1978 pg. 131]

With all the grumblings about the failure of politics and governments, this may offer some “extreme unction”.  But partly unfolding from the furoreabout the absconding trends the shadow of the effects of permissiveness having arrived in the chamber, disparaging.Butthat is not kernel of the conversation to halt the humiliation permanently.  Our pillar in rescue is we concur in the view that it is our fault. And therefore, it leaves the quickest resolution with us to put things right.

Meanwhile, I can re-copy to slot in conclusion, the advice I left with the parliament of the Third Republic which had driven itself into drowned in pursuit of only their privileges, asking the media to widen the publicity for their scant work against being lackadaisical in number of ways.  They are excerpts from my GBC Radio News Commentary 17 Feb. 1981:

“…The good thing about open democracy is that it offers the major arms of the system opportunities to interact to and with themselves.  And each is expected to consider soberly the alarm bells, each from the other, as intended to be mutually helpful and for the general good also.  The truth is… if all the things that were done and said on the floor of the House under privilege of course, were reported, several constituents would file withdrawal notices and many HonourableMembers must now be looking for jobs elsewhere.

“For, they are either not going to merit re-endorsements by their parties, or could expect lost deposits if they insisted next time round.  In other words and informatively only, publicity has usually one of effects: the good, which is ephemeral.  And the bad, a backlash.  That backfire power is normally lasting and consistently damaging”.

© Prof.nanaessilfie-conduah. 

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