The ruling NPP MPs and the opposition NDC MPs are preparing for a battle on whether or not the busted Nkoranza North MP should be dragged out of Parliament. Eric Amoateng is currently remanded in a US prison pending his trial for allegedly possessing a controlled substance called heroin.
Even though Amoateng is set to appear before court on January 23, 2006, already a storm is gathering over his fate as Parliament prepares to reconvene on January 17th, 2006.
While elements in the NDC would like to see Mr. Amoateng stripped off his seat in Parliament, his colleagues in the Majority are insisting that he remains a Member of Parliament until a court of competent jurisdiction properly convicts him.
Citing Article 97 (1c) of the 1992 Constitution, a leading member Of the NDC Minority in parliament Ben Kumbour, said on an Accra-based radio station that a case would be made to unseat the busted MP he broke the 15 day limit imposed by the Constitution on Members Of Parliament from absenting themselves.
Article 97 (1c) states, “A Member Of Parliament shall vacate his seat in Parliament if he is absent, without the permission in writing Of the Speaker and is unable to offer a reasonable explanation to the Parliamentary Committee on Privileges, from fifteen sittings Of a meeting Of Parliament during any period that Parliament has been summoned to meet and continues to meet”.
But in a quick response the Majority Chief Whip, Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu, said he was unsure that his colleague on the Majority side would lose his seat until a court Of competent jurisdiction has proved him guilty. Dr. Ben Kumbour however said that what would be at issue is finding exactly what the phrase 'reasonable explanation' in article 97 (1c) Of the Constitution means, or for that matter, what is not reasonable.
“It is a matter Of public trust that he has been prevented from coming back to Parliament because he is involved in a criminal case outside the jurisdiction and would that be sufficient reasonable explanation. If the explanation is considered reasonable then the question people would be asking is whether in that context he put himself is a situation where other people would be questioning whether that explanation is good enough,” he said.
But in response the Majority Chief Whip stated, “I am not sure what the way forward is going to be for all of us. The reason being that if it does happen (the rustication of Eric Amoateng from parliament) it would be the first and indeed we have had several instances of Members who have stayed out of Parliament for more than 15 days. They have never been invoked, so I am not too sure anybody is going to press for this,” he said.
He went on that there have been numerous occasions when Members of Parliament have stayed outside Parliament in contravention of Article 97(1c), who were not punished, and so he did not think that the case of Amoateng would be the first.