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General News of Wednesday, 3 July 2019


'New Parliament will allow Speaker see MPs clearly' - Majority Leader gives 3 reasons

The Majority leader Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu has provided three justifications for the controversial plan to build a new Parliament house.

He said it is to provide security for MPs, improve the Speaker’s ability to see MPs blocked from view by pillars in the chamber.

It is also about time for Parliament to get its own chamber after customising the State House for its work since 1992.

Parliament is under pressure to justify its decision to build a new House, expanding the 275-seater chamber to 450 seats.

Architectural designs outdoored by the Parliamentary Service Board last Friday has sparked wide criticism on social media.

The Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Mike Oquaye, has been described as out-of-touch while the project is seen by many as profligate.

Even MPs are demanding answers from Parliamentary Leaders, insisting they were not consulted. Several on both sides of the House have publicly kicked against the plan.

A plan is afoot to march to Parliament next week to express outrage.

The Majority Leader has said the plan is not conclusive.

“It has been a long-standing issue,” he traced discussions of this plan at the Parliamentary Service Board to have begun under Joyce Bamford-Addo who was Speaker of Parliament from 2009 to 2013.

He said the talks continued under Doe Adjaho who took over from Mrs Bamford-Addo and has now crytalised under Prof. Mike Oquaye.

Speaking to JoyNews’ Evans Mensah on the late evening show, PM Express, the Suame New Patriotic Party MP said, the Executive has moved its seat to a new building, the Jubilee House in 2009 while the judiciary also has a dedicated building.

“Parliament as an institution since independence, has not had any dedicated facility for it….Parliament is the only arm of government that has not has had its own edifice,” he said.

The current chamber is housed at the State House built by President Kwame Nkrumah in 1965. But one of the buildings at State House was converted into the chamber for MPs when Ghana returned to democratic rule in 1992.

Since then, the chamber has been expanded from its 200 seats in 1992 to 230 in 2004 and the current 275 in 2012. He said the increase in seats has caused “serious congestion” in the chamber which affects the contributions of some MP.

“Today, there are so many MPs who sit beside the column who cannot be identified by the Speaker. They do not catch the Speaker’s eye so even when they get up the Speaker cannot identify them.”

“The very people that they represent turn around and say that their representatives are not making any waves in parliament, they are not talking.”

He said the columns have hidden at least 22 MPs who struggle to get permission from the Speaker to contribute in Parliament.

The Suame MP also complained, the current chamber impedes the state’s ability to provide security for MPs. He said the walkways are congested and the worst could happen in an event of a stampede.

“There is no parliament anywhere in the world where we have the public having direct access to the members in the chamber.”

A visitor in Parliament allegedly tried to commit suicide in Parliament weeks ago by jumping down a rope tied inside the public gallery.

Even the Speaker, is also exposed to danger. Sitting below the press gallery, anyone could possibly harm the Speaker.

“Poor some acid on the Speaker or use any offensive weapon on the Speaker,” he conjectured.

The Majority Leader said there are no reserve places for distinguished guests to Parliament like Supreme Court judges and former presidents. Even Ministers and deputy Ministers who come to visit the chamber find no place to sit.

He said the new chamber will also bring an end to the need for Parliament to relocate to a wide open space at the Independence Square to swear in a new President.

With concerns about terror threats, the new president could be endangered.