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25.02.2005 General News

Majority asks Minority to apologise for showing disrespect for Speaker

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Accra, Feb. 25, GNA - The Majority in Parliament on Friday demanded an apology from the Minority for orchestrating what they termed "contempt, defiance, and disrespect" for the authority of Parliament, symbolised by the Mace.

According to the Majority, the Minority Side, led by their Leader Alban Bagbin, refused to rise to their feet when the Speaker, Mr Ebenezer Sekyi Hughes, led by the Mace was leaving the Chambers after the delivery of the Budget Statement on Thursday.

The Minority have however , refused to apologise, with Mr Bagbin saying that their actions were not orchestrated but a spontaneous overflow.

Summing up their reason for refusing to apologise, the Minority Leader said: " I disagree with the conclusions reached.. I do not see my way clear... I see no wrong done but I would abide by the rulings of the Speaker."

Mr Bagbin, who expressed surprise that the matter had come before the House since according to him he thought the matter was resolved on Thursday, challenged the Majority saying there was no provision in the Standing Orders to fault them for not standing when the Speaker was leaving the House.

The convention, however, has always been that when the Speaker enters or leaves the Chamber led by the mace, members, the public and the press are all expected to stand up out of respect for the dignity of the House.

The Minority's actions followed the reading of the Budget, when the Majority Leader, Mr Felix Owusu-Adjapong, was given a chance to make some interventions, however when the Minority Leader stood up to also make his submission, he was not called by the Speaker leading the Minority to remain seated while the Speaker was on his way out because they felt slighted.

The reason as to why the Speaker failed to call the Minority Leader to make his submissions, generated heated debates as there were arguments by the Majority that the Speaker's view was blocked by a cameraman, while the Minority claimed this may not be so besides the noise being made then to sack the cameraman should have drawn the Speaker's attention.

The demand for apologies came up when Mr. Kwame Osei-Prempeh, NPP-Nsuta-Kwamang Beposo, made a Statement on the floor of the House saying the Minority's behaviour in remaining seated was an affront to the House.

"Mr Speaker, it is an affront to the dignity of this House if the Minority refuses to get up when the Mace is being sent out.....from where I was sitting it was clear that Mr Speaker did not see the Minority Leader... and if everybody who fails to catch Mr Speaker's eye decide to be so discourteous there will be chaos in the House."

Mr Osei-Prempeh touched on the walkout by the Minority on February 23, in protest over the passage of the Bill for petroleum tax increases, and said such acts threatened the survival of democracy.

Dr Paa Kwesi Nduom, CPP-Komenda/Edina/Eguafo/Abrem, said an attitude was creeping in since the election of the new Speaker, which was bringing confrontation to the fore.

He said if consensus-building was not pursued in Fourth Parliament, work in the House would be drawn back.

Mr Nelson Agbesi, NDC-Ashaiman, urged the leadership to resolve the issue behind close doors.

Mr Michael Teye Nyaunu, NDC-Lower Manya, said the statement on the issue should not have been allowed since it was a shame for Parliament to wash its dirty linen in public thereby loosing public esteem. Some members of the Majority however, disagreed with this view, saying the act by the Minority was committed in the full glare of the public and it therefore, warranted being discussed on the floor of the House.

Mr Hackman Owusu-Agyeman, Minister of Works and Housing, was of the view that anybody who disrespected or "snubs" the dignity of the Mace did not qualify to be a member of the House.

Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Owusu-Adjapong, accused the Minority side of double standards and sticking to convention only when it suited them.

When the Speaker finally ruled on the matter, he referred the statement to the leadership of both sides of the House for deliberation and asked that they present a report to the House.