MP Crosses Speaker's Red Line

Despite the persistent warning by the Speaker of Parliament that members of the House should respect the chair, the MP for Effiduase-Asokore, Frank Boakye Agyen, appears to have defied the directive. He is reported to have crossed the Speaker’s ‘red line’ by allegedly making contemptuous remarks on Joy FM, that sought to bring the integrity and dignity of the Speaker’s office into disrepute. The law maker, on a talk show programme on Joy FM, a local radio station in Accra, said the Speaker of Parliament, Rt. Hon. Edward Doe Adjaho was influenced in his decision to dismiss a motion calling for a parliamentary inquest into the acquisition of Merchant Bank Ghana by Fortiz Private Equity Fund Limited. The Speaker recalled the House on January 6, 2014, for an emergency sitting to consider a request filed by the Deputy Minority Leader, Dominic Nitiwul demanding investigation into the acquisition and the sale of Merchant Bank Ghana Limited to Fortiz. Mr. Adjaho after carefully listening to arguments raised by the minority and majority reasoned that both the Legislature and the Judiciary could not determine an issue simultaneously. To him, the House would prejudice the outcome of the case, which is before a court of competent jurisdiction, if it admitted the motion that sought to scrutinize the said transaction. But moments before the Speaker made that determination, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, and MP for Awutu Senya West, Ms. Hannah Tetteh, who stood up to leave the floor after a phone call, beckoned the Clerk and slipped a note to him, which he (Clerk) gave to the Speaker. Because of this action, Mr. Frank Agyen thought the Speaker had been influenced into taking that decision. However, the Majority Chief Whip and MP for Asawase, Alhaji Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka, not happy with the conduct of Mr. Agyen brought contempt proceedings against him, on the floor of Parliament yesterday. Mr. Adjaho, giving his thought on the matter, said he had requested for a transcript of the said publication, in order to make a determination on the matter, which he said sought to attack the dignity and integrity of the Chair, and not about his person. “I believe that this is a matter that should be referred to the Privileges Committee. But I told the member that given the nature of this particular matter, it should be raised by me so that it doesn’t politicise the House, Majority, Minority, NPP, NDC side. “And that is why under Standing Order 27, I thought that this is a matter that should be referred to the Privileges Committee for investigations and report,” he noted. He added: “Honourable members, my personal attitude is that peace should not be criminalized. So, if you recall, I have tried all these years, since I have been on the Chair from my First Deputy Speaker days, as much as possible, not to refer matters of this nature to the Privileges Committee. “I have tried to put a lot of restrain on myself, but where the Chair is being accused of being influenced, it seems to have crossed the red line.” He said if the House does not go into the matter, “I think that it is going to undermine the authority of this House, not only for the present, but for the future of this Honourable House.” Mr. Doe Adjaho said he has had consultations with the leaders of both sides of the House and came to a conclusion that the matter be referred to the Privileges Committee to find out if what happened was contemptuous of the House to guide a determination of the matter. But the Minority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, speaking on the matter, pleaded with the Speaker not to resolve it through procedures of the House, but to allow the leadership to handle the matter because the issue has the potential of degenerating. “Mr. Speaker, I will plead that instead of the referral to the Privileges Committee, we had a forum to be chaired by your good self , at which will be present the two deputy Speakers and other members, whose names have been mentioned for us to discuss this matte behind the curtain,” he said. He continued: “Mr. Speaker, I believe this will be a very good option for us just to show that we will be able to hold this House together as one entity…… I would want to submit we follow this path.” The Majority Leader, Hon. Benjamin Kunbour on his part, agreed that in trying to score political points, there was the temptation to be overzealous and carried away, describing it as a human weakness which all members have fallen into at one time or the other. He said it was important that members learned a lesson from Mr. Agyen’s situation and watched what they said in the political realm, agreeing with the Minority Leader that the issue be handled tactfully in order to keep the cohesion of the House. The Speaker, after listening to both sides, changed his mind of referring the issue to the Privileges Committee. “I am putting the referral in abeyance. I want the leadership of the House to look into this matter and make proposals on how to go about it within a week,” he added.