Majority: Speaker’s refusal to release Madina MP to Police worrying

The Majority caucus in Parliament has expressed disappointment in the Speaker of the House, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, for refusing to release their Madina colleague, Francis-Xavier Sosu, to assist the Police with investigations into alleged offences committed during a recent demonstration in his constituency. 

According to the caucus, the decision by Mr Bagbin sets a bad precedent and a departure from how his predecessors handled such situations. 

Mr Bagbin, on October 28, turned down a request by the Police in a letter to him a day earlier for the first term lawmaker to be released for investigations into a demonstration he led; a demonstration the Police said turned violent. 

“I am directed by the Rt. Hon Speaker to inform you that proceedings for the Third Meeting of the First Session of the Eighth Parliament commenced on Tuesday, October 26, 2021, and having regard to the limitations of Article 117 and 118 of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic, he is unable to release the Member of Parliament as requested in your letter (of October 27, 2021),” the letter signed by Nana Tawiah Okyir, Deputy Director, Legal, Parliamentary Service, said. 

But in a statement issued in Accra yesterday by the Second Majority Whip and MP for Tolon, Habib Iddrisu, the caucus said the decision by the Speaker was “troubling.” 

“The Majority leadership views the foregoing response by Mr Bagbin as a troubling departure from how his predecessors handled such requests,” it said.

The statement recollected that when previous speakers, Joyce Bamford Addo and Edward Doe Adjaho received such requests, they responded by inviting the relevant MPs, held discussions with them and asked them to avail themselves to the investigative bodies. 

Speaker Aaron Mike Oquaye, the statement said, modified the arrangement including making his conference room available to the police to meet the MPs they were interested in to conduct their initial investigations; a move the statement said was to protect the dignity of the MPs. 

At all these times, the statement said Mr Bagbin, then MP for Nadowli/Kaleo, was part of leadership and was privy to these arrangements. 

“Now Speaker of Parliament, Rt Hon Bagbin, appears to be instituting new rules that seem to undermine the rule of law without any prior discussion with the leadership of the House. We ask: What exactly has changed?” 

In the view of the caucus, the constitutionally guaranteed immunity of MPs in any democracy must not only be protected always but “jealously guarded as well. However, never should we, as a Parliament, make the mistake of allowing immunity to be construed to mean impunity.” 

The caucus contended that with the Sosu case under reference, the House has a constitutional, legal and moral duty to co-operate and collaborate with the police to ensure that the rule of law prevailed. 

“Parliament must not be seen to be creating a false regime of two separate laws in Ghana – one for MPs and another for non-MPs. Instead, Parliament must ensure the equality of all citizens, including MPs, before the law.” 

Responding to the statement, however, the First Deputy Minority Whip, Ibrahim Ahmed, described the conduct of their colleagues on the opposite side of the divide as a stab in the back because there was a resolution for both sides with other external institutions to meet and look at the way forward. 

“We are already opposition and ever ready to support our brothers on the other side to govern the country but when you are not ready for the support and you are now attacking Mr Speaker, so how do we support you? Mr Ahmed said at the commencement of sitting and asked the Second Deputy Speaker who was presiding to call the Majority caucus to order. 

BY JULIUS YAO PETETSI

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