Feature Article of Monday, 20 February 2012
Columnist: Amegashie, Felix Mawulolo
It is by no mere coincidence that many have condemned the attitude of the minority New Patriotic Party [NPP] on the floor of Parliament on Thursday February 17, 2012, during the presentation of the State of the Nation Address by His Excellency President John Evans Atta Mills.
President Mills met perhaps the rudest reception while undertaking a constitutionally mandated exercise as captured under Article 67 of the 1992 Constitution of the republic of Ghana which reads, “The President shall, at the beginning of each session of Parliament and before a dissolution of Parliament, deliver to Parliament a message on the state of the nation”.
It would be recalled that the Minority Leader, Hon. Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu, publicly embarrassed the President when he refused to accept a handshake offered him soon after His Excellency finished delivering the “Action Year State of the Nation Address” in 2011. A handshake from the President has evolved as a convention in Parliament offered to the leadership on both divide before the President’s exit from the chamber of parliament.
This time round, the minority NPP took that attitude a step higher as they dressed in mourning attire according to dictates in Ghanaian custom, with printed red cards in readiness for the President’s arrival at the Chamber of Parliament to undertake a constitutional mandate.
The presentation was marred by scoffs, unremitting interjections, screams, laughter and bursting into songs by the minority NPP to the chagrin of observers, citizens and worse of all members of the Diplomatic Corps who were duly represented in Parliament. It was even more embarrassing for the image of Ghana as this exercise was broadcast live on many radio and television networks and streamed online on the worldwide web [www].
The entire exercise was devalued by the attitude and posture of the Minority who came to parliament with a rehearsed song targeted at either derailing the exercise, undermining the presentation or to make mockery of the persona of President, the august House and the Constitution of the Republic of Ghana. He undertook the exercise upon the summons of the people of Ghana who have vested their will and powers in the 1992 Constitution and the gross disrespect shown the President was equally meant for the good people of Ghana.
Ghana undoubtedly is a beacon of hope on the African continent and beyond especially with the successes we have chalked up with our unique practise of multi-party democracy since the days of His Excellency President Jerry John Rawlings. Many of our neighbours still look up to our practices and conventions as the most credible and home-grown yardstick for democratizing polities.
It is against this background that parliament ought to set some ground rules for members so as to swell up seriousness and respect for the office of the Head of State whenever he/she appears before the House to carry out the will of the people.
Two days to the presentation, the conspiracy against the exercise was for the Chambers to be emptied in protest over what our members of Parliament want us to believe were low wages and salaries paid them for their services. One wonders what that boycott would have achieved if it was carried out anyway aside embarrassing the President.
This is the same house that passed laws abhorring any form of industrial action in respect of demand for improved working conditions and salaries yet they have chosen the same path they illegalized by the laws of Ghana. That brings their respect for our laws under serious scrutiny as law makers and the seriousness they attach to what they do in the best interest of the nation.
Moving forward, the leadership of Parliament must consider introducing and enforcing a code of conduct for members to control the extent to which such a national exercise could degenerate into a passing exercise anytime a sitting President comes before the house to undertake constitutionally mandated assignments.
Furthermore, our MPs should shy away from these acts of extending their propaganda outfits onto the floor of parliament. The practises where headbands, clothes, placard are used to either distract the presentation of the State of the Nation Address and to cause undue disturbance on the floor of the house must be avoided.
Seriousness must be attached to the exercise to the extent that our MPs must be seen to be interested in what the President is presenting to the nation and to the world at large as a critical exercise on our calendar.
We need to respect the office of the President even if we consider ourselves better than the person elected by the popular votes of the people to carry out the mandate of his government.
The Minority NPP’s attitude and posture as displayed during the state of the nation address was most unfortunate and grossly disrespectful to the constitution of Ghana. We must never come to witness that grave embarrassment forced upon our image as a nation anymore in our history and Parliament must take the lead in setting the ground rules for future encounters as to what is acceptable, what is not acceptable, what is prudent and what must be avoided.
Ghana remains the lighthouse guiding the path of many countries on the continent to multi-party democratic practices. That reputation and integrity must be protected and shaped to improve our own democratic credentials. Our MPs must join in the efforts to move Ghana forward through their actions, utterances and commitment to the very exercises that concretize our democracy and rule of law.
God Bless our Homeland Ghana.
God Bless President Mills.
Felix Mawulolo Amegashie
NDC Youth Activist.