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General News of Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Source: Public Agenda

Speaker, Council of State Chair in tango; re-sends CRC document

The Speaker of Parliament, Rt. Hon. Edward Doe Adjaho, and the Chairperson of the Council of State, Mrs. Cecilia Johnson, are locked in a constitutional tango over the proper procedure of presenting a document on the Constitution Review Commission's (CRC) recommendations on entrenched articles in the 1992 Constitution to the Council of State.

Rt. Hon. Doe Adjaho reportedly dispatched the document to the Council of State without informing Members of Parliament after the Attorney General gave him the Bill containing the government's White Paper on the recommendations of the CRC. But Mrs. Johnson returned the document to the Speaker accompanied with a letter stating that the Minority has alerted the Council of State about the impropriety of the submission of the Bill to the Council without recourse to Parliament.

In a show of dissatisfaction over Mrs. Johnson heeding the Minority's position on the unconstitutionality of the manner, the Speaker forwarded the Bill to the Council of State, Doe Adjaho returned the document to the Chair.

The referring of the Bill back to the Speaker for parliamentary deliberation is said to have taken place 24 hours after the Minority disagreed with the procedure which Hon. Adjaho adopted at a news conference last Wednesday. The Minority described the Speaker's action as unilateral, unconstitutional and inappropriate. But the Parliamentary Majority defended his decision.

The Minority New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament on the Legal, Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, Hon. Joseph Osei-Owusu told Accra-based Joy FM that Mrs. Johnson, in a letter to the Speaker and copied to Minority Leader Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, acknowledged that “the position taken by the Minority Leader to be the correct interpretation of the Constitution.”

The said letter stated, in part, that the Council is “therefore returning the proposed amendment containing the bill to the Speaker to take it to Parliament.” Hon. Osei-Owusu commended the Council's action as being “correct” and also “vindicates us.” He asked Hon. Adjaho to respect the Council's directive and lay the Bill before Parliament.

But Majority Chief Whip Muntaka Mubarak would not accept the decision of the Council of State. Hon. Mubarak fumed that Mrs. Johnson “acted alone” when she returned the Bill to the Speaker, adding: “I am sorry for her.” He queried whether she is now taking advice from the Minority Leader since the Chairperson acted based on the letter she received from the Minority Leader. “If she had to take advice, I wonder if she wanted to take advice from the Minority without necessarily even hearing from the Majority Leader or the Speaker.”

He revealed that the Speaker has “responded appropriately” to the Council and that the document is assumed to be with the Council. He emphasised that the Speaker did the right thing by referring the document to them. The Speaker, he said, has therefore challenged the Council of State to seek interpretation of the constitution at the Supreme Court because “he thinks that per his own judgment, his understanding of the Constitution, he acted right, and therefore has referred the document back to the Council of State.”

According to article 290 (2) and (3) of the Constitution, “A bill for the amendment of an entrenched provision shall, before Parliament proceeds to consider it, be referred by the Speaker to the Council of State for its advice and the Council of State shall render advice on the bill within thirty days after receiving it. (3)The bill shall be published in the Gazette but shall not be introduced into Parliament until the expiry of six months after the publication in the Gazette under this clause.”

In a related development, Professor Mike Oquaye, a former Deputy Speaker of Parliament, lawyer and Political Science lecturer, had earlier told Citi FM that it was flawed for the Executive to issue a White Paper on the recommendation of the CRC. Prof. Oquaye contended that because the CRC represented all segments of the Ghanaian polity and collated its views on the amendment of the Constitution, it was wrong for the government to issue the White Paper rejecting some of the CRC's recommendations. According to him, by picking and choosing the recommendations, the government now owned the report of the CRC and not Ghanaians as a whole.

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