General News of Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Source: Joy Online

Forcing Minority to sit in Parliament absurd - Okudzeto

Legal Practitioner Sam Okudzeto says it is ridiculous to ask the Supreme Court to order the Minority in Parliament to participate actively in all Parliamentary deliberations.

He says any such request of the Supreme Court can only be destined to make mockery of the highest court of the land.

The Court, according to him, does not have unlimited powers to order Members of Parliament (MPs) to attend to Parliamentary business in the manner being contemplated by some three petitioners who are seeking a declaration by the Supreme Court that the boycotts by New Patriotic Party (NPP) MPs of some government business was unconstitutional.

Minority MPs declined to participate in the vetting of ministerial nominees of President Mahama whose election they are challenging in the Supreme Court.

They also staged a walkout when the president went to the House of Parliament to deliver his first State of the Nation address.

Some three petitioners say the seats of the Minority MPs must be declared vacant because the sitting MPs, had by those actions, violated the constitution which mandates them to attend to all parliamentary business.

Responding to the arguments, Mr. Okudzeto said, “There is too much sensationalism in this country and I think people just want to be in the news.”

He said parliament itself had spelt out in its Standing Orders rules guiding the conduct of MPs and that if any member(s) violate any rules relating to attendance, the House would apply the sanctions thereof. Attendance in Parliament “is not a matter for the Courts; that is a matter for Parliament to regulate itself,” he stated.

“We should appreciate of course also that there are three separate [arms of government] established under the Constitution; there is the Executive, there is Parliament and there are also the courts; one does not have overwhelming authority [such that] the courts are going to be ordering Members of Parliament to attend meetings of Parliament,” he added.

The senior legal practitioner said it important to recognise that just as ordinary citizens have a right to protest and do get police protection when they are protesting, the NPP MPs were also entitled to protest if the reasonably believed their grievances before the Supreme Court to be genuine.

Even more fundamentally, the MPs, he asserted, were not boycotting parliamentary sessions as the impression was being created.

“People are claiming that the president was not elected according to law…Now if they want to boycott the president…that is their own business. I don’t see any power of any court giving an order for a member to attend Parliament,” he stressed.

Mr. Sam Okudzeto is convinced that the petition seeking to compel the Minority to attend all sessions was for nothing more than a publicity stunt.