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Minority Slams Mills On Foreign Travels   
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A heated Debate erupted in Parliament on Thursday over President John Mills’ foreign travels. The debate was over Article 59 of the Constitution and Order 51 of the Standing Orders of Parliament.

Article 59 of the Constitution provides that the President shall not leave Ghana without prior notification in writing, signed by him and addressed to the Speaker of Parliament.

Order 51 on the other hand provides that Communications from the President to the House shall be made to Mr Speaker by a written message signed by the President, or in the absence of the President by the Vice President or by a Minister acting on behalf of the President. Whereas the Minority argued that the two provisions make it mandatory for the House to be officially informed by the President’s foreign travels, the Majority side on the other hand holds an opposition view. It all started after the Minority accused the President of breaching the Constitution by not giving prior notification to the House of his Libyan trip.

The issue was first raised on Tuesday but resurfaced on the floor today when acting Sports Minister Hon Rashid Pelpuo appeared before the House to answer an urgent question on preparations towards the upcoming Africa hockey championship to be hosted by Ghana. Stating his position on the matter on the floor of parliament, Majority leader Alban Bagbin said if the president decides to communicate to the house he does not necessarily have to appear on the floor of parliament to communicate to members of the house. He could do it through the speaker. “When the intention of the president is to communicate to the house the communication is to the house, the communication is done through the speaker.” He said.

Hon. Bagbin added that the president has on several occasions communicated to the house through the speaker but not all have been brought to the house. “The speaker has received on several occasions communications from the president; its not all communications from the president that are brought to the house.” The minority leader submitted further that: “it is only through practice that the speakers come to read the communication on the floor of the house; that’s not a convention” The Minority side however made a strong case against the Majority Leader’s argument on the two provisions.

Former Attorney General Hon Joe Ghatey argued that since the speaker is the third in command of the nation and not the second, the president communicates to him mainly for him to channel it to the people. “Madam Speaker, You are not the second in command in this country, you are the third in command. So if it was just to inform you in your person then it would be enough if the president informs the vice president because the vice president takes over from him but he informs you, the third in command, because you would inform the people of Ghana through parliament.” He submitted.

After about an hour of heated debate between the two sides over the issue, Speaker Mrs. Justice Joyce Bamford Addo made her ruling. She explained that it is not all correspondents addressed to the speaker that must be sent to parliament. She ruled however that where constitutional matters are involved then even if it is addressed to parliament it must be sent to parliament.
“It is not all correspondence which is addressed to the speaker which must come here. “Where constitutional matters are involved like order 59, about the President leaving ther country then even if it is addressed to parliament it is for parliament and that is what the constitution requires.” She ruled.
Source: Citifm

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