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Politics of Thursday, 3 March 2016

Source: Dan Acheampong

NPP desperation peaks as attempt to malign First Lady fails

Another desperate attempt by the NPP to malign First Lady, Her Excellency Lordina Mahama has failed. NPP MP for Bekwai, Joe Osei Owusu demonstrated arrogance when he declined to apologize yet could not substantiate allegations that the First Lady is putting up a warehouse for her private NGO at the Flagstaff House.

The MP who sought to play mischief during a debate on the State of the Nation Address claims the facility was not part of the original plan approved and describes it as an ‘act of impunity’. Though he could not substantiate, he arrogantly declined to withdraw or apologize. The Speaker has subsequently expunged it from Wednesday’s proceedings.

But this serious blunder must stop and the leadership of Parliament must not fail to protect the sanctity of the House, especially as NPP MPs continue to misconduct themselves.

First of all what does the Standing Orders of Parliament say about MPs who lie through their teeth on the floor or make sweeping statements to attack personalities for political mischief?

Article 115 and 116 of the 1992 Constitution are clear on Privileges and Immunities for MPs.

Article 116 Clause 2 ….reads, ’Whenever in the opinion of the person presiding in Parliament, a statement made by a member is Prima facie defamatory of any person, the person presiding shall refer the matter for inquiry to the Parliamentary committee on privileges which shall report its findings to Parliament not later than thirty days after the matter was referred to it.

3. Where the committee referred to in clause (2) of this article reports to Parliament that the statement made by the member is defamatory of any person, the member who made the statement shall, within seven days after that report, render an Apology at the bar of Parliament, the terms of which shall be approved by the Parliamentary committee on privileges and communicated to the person who has been defamed.

4. Where a member refuses to render an apology in accordance with clause (3) of this article, the Speaker shall suspend that member for the duration of the session of Parliament in which the defamatory statement was made and a member so suspended shall lose his parliamentary privileges, immunities and remuneration, but they shall be restored to him if, at any time before the end of the session, he renders the apology as required by clause (3) of this article.’

The Flagstaff House has responded. The facility is a storehouse for use of the office of the President. Checks indicate it shall among other things be used to keep gifts and replicas donated to the Presidency.

But why will anyone build a private warehouse within a landed property belonging to the state and in this case no other place than the Flagstaff House. What then happens if the NDC loses power? It does not make sense. Obviously the Bekwai MP either failed to do proper due diligence or deliberately spewed gibberish.

It is strange an experienced legislator like him will embarrass himself and it’s become obvious this was a ploy to divert public attention after the bashing Nana Akufo Addo is receiving for his hollow ‘true state of the nation address which was full of lies’.

Joe Osei Owusu’s failure to provide concrete proof of his libelous and defamatory statement and refusal to apologize is an affront to the Speaker, Parliament as a whole. The NPP Flagbearer who has been silent on similar actions by NPP MPs, an affront on the conscience of right thinking people in society. It also sends wrong signal to people including students who often occupy the public gallery.

There is already evidence of a grand agenda to use MPs to spew lies and hide behind Parliamentary privileges.

Last month MP for Nkoranza North, Major Yaw Derrick Oduro (rtd) together with former NPP General Secretary, Kwadjo Owusu Afriyie failed an agenda to link the First Lady to the DKM Micro Finance mess. The Queen mothers of the area demanded an apology and they refused.

Why would the MPs or NPP in general target the First Lady who is not into mainstream politics? Can anyone deduce that they are targeting Her Excellency Lordina Mahama because of the impact of her NGO activities on ordinary Ghanaians especially women and children?

The Lordina Mahama Foundation which has earned international recognition for the medical outreach programme which includes the provision of medical equipment to hospitals across the country, support for disadvantaged or vulnerable groups as well as provision of start-up kits to various vocational training institutions . Mrs Mahama who is the President of the Organization of African First Ladies Against Aids (OAFLA) is championing Orphanages Building Projects, Women empowerment, HIV and Cancer Campaign.

Loose comments by some NPP MPs are on the ascendancy as the nation prepares for a crucial election later this year. On January 27, another NPP MP, Kwadjo Baah Agyemang who represents Asante Akyem North issued a statement inciting attacks against Fulanis. The MPs xenophobic comments led to a violent attack on the nomads leaving one dead. Two residents also lost their lives during other pockets of violence in the area.

Ironically MP for Bekwai Joe Osei Owusu jumped to his defense insisting the Ashanti regional Police Commander cannot invite him for questioning and anything contrary would breach the Standing Orders of Parliament.

Last month, MP for Assin North, Kennedy Agyapong was also in the news obviously for the wrong reason. The MP used unprintable words against Okay FM presenter Valentina Naa Agyeiwaa popularly known as Afia Schwarzenager. His action was publicly condemned when many concluded he must have carried out his threat to release nude pictures of the lady on social media.

The Assin North MP has made worst statements in the past. During the 2012 electioneering campaign, Kennedy Agyapong called on Ashanti’s to clobber the head of any Ga or Ewe they come into contact with. In the heat of the campaign then, many expected the NPP flagbearer Nana Akufo Addo to publicly condemn it but he failed.

The Speaker of Parliament cannot allow these to be washed under the carpet. The sanctity and integrity of Parliament must be protected to guard against similar actions. MP for Bekwai need to be hauled before the Privileges Committee and be made to apologize to the First Lady and the House as a whole.

Ghana’s fledgling democracy must be guarded and the public ought to join the call for action now. The NPP Flagbearer who has equally been challenged over false allegations must show leadership.

He must publicly condemn Joe Osei Owusu’s statement to demonstrate he has dissociated himself to prevent similar incidents in future.

In the UK, the 1983 Representation of the People Act rates it an offence to make false statements about a candidate. In 2010, the Labour MP Phil Woolas was condemned by the election court for doing that, and had to leave politics.

These measures are meant to instill discipline. Ghana should adopt best practice.

Interestingly there is a provision in the Standing Orders which empowers the Speaker to have recalcitrant MPs arrested by the Marshal and sent out of the Chamber for defying the orders of the Speaker. This did not happen in the case of the Bekwai MP but it does not stop a private individual from petitioning the Speaker to enforce the provision, this will test the system and stop such reckless statements.

Our Constitution and Parliament as the legislative arm of government must be purged if Ghana’s envy as a beacon of democracy is to stay.

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