North Tongu MP, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, has applauded the Speaker of Parliament for his decision to refer three Majority MPs to the Privileges Committee for their continuous absence in Parliament.
According to the NDC lawmaker, the ruling by Alban Bagbin, is in order.
Speaking in an interview with Emefa Apawu on Top Story on Tuesday, he indicated that for sometime now, he has been advocating for action to be taken against absentee MPs, and therefore he welcomes the directive by Alban Bagbin.
“I commend the right honorable Speaker for adopting a non-discriminatory approach. I am glad that the Right Honorable Speaker is in a non-discriminatory manner dealing with the issue relating to absenteeism with all the three Members of Parliament”, he remarked.
In expressing his agreement with the decision, Mr. Ablakwa reiterated that based on his earlier findings, MP for Ayawaso Central, Henry Quartey and Assin Central MP, Kennedy Agyapong, have become notorious absentees.
During Parliamentary proceedings on Tuesday, Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin, referred the three members of the House to the Privileges Committee, for their continuous absence in Parliament.
The three are; the Dome-Kwabenya MP, Sarah Adwoa Safo, Ayawaso Central MP, Henry Quartey and Assin Central MP, Kennedy Agyapong. All from the New Patriotic Party (NPP) side of the House.
According to the Speaker, the three legislators have breached the 15-day absence rule, hence his decision to refer them to the Privileges Committee for the necessary actions to be taken.
Delivering his ruling on the floor of Parliament on Tuesday, Mr. Alban Bagbin explained that based on the relevant provisions of the 1992 Constitution and the Standing Orders of Parliament, the named NPP lawmakers are guilty of the absenteeism threshold for Members of Parliament.
“I have accordingly come to the irresistible conclusion that a Member who absents himself or herself for 15 sitting days from Parliament in a particular meeting, without the permission in writing of the Speaker, falls squarely within the ambit of Article 97, clause 1(c) of the 1992 Constitution and Order 16(1) of the Standing Orders of Parliament”, he stated.
Mr. Alban Bagbin also made reference to a previous ruling by the Court of Appeal in 2008, in the case of Professor Stephen Kwaku Asante versus the Attorney-General and three others.
According to him, the Court of Appeal ruled that, “the permission granted by the Speaker for a member to be absent from the proceedings of the House cannot exceed 15 days at any point in time. And that it is unacceptable for Parliament to [give] absence to a member for a period exceeding the 15-day threshold as envisaged under Article 97, clause 1(c) and the Standing Order of Parliament”.
But reacting to this ruling, the Minority Chief Whip, Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka disagreed with the Speaker.
In his opinion, the Speaker cannot on his own accord refer the said Members to the Privileges Committee.
According to the NDC lawmaker, if such a ruling is allowed to prevail, a problematic convention will be created for Parliament.
He, therefore, urged his colleagues on both sides of the divide to rally against the Speaker’s directive concerning the three NPP lawmakers.
“The danger, colleagues, as we sit in this chamber is this; if we allow Speakers to take petitions from outsiders and suo moto, [refer] members of Parliament to it, colleagues, we’ll be doing ourselves a great [disservice].
“Because we will one day get a dictator Speaker who will simply take statements from outsiders and begin to penalise individual members of Parliament. It is on this basis that I call on all of us, to resist the attempt by Mr. Speaker to refer our colleagues to the Privileges Committee”, he stated.