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23.01.2006 General News

Kwesi Pratt denies ‘coup plot’

By Statesman

Fallout from dismissal of 3 CPP MPs

There is confusion in the Nkrumaist camp. Friday's controversial decision to deprive what is left of Kwame Nkrumah's party of its entirety of parliamentarians has further exposed the party's shortcomings, with the Chairman refusing to confirm the story and passing the buck to Kwesi Pratt, who was not present when the vote was taken. This has, however, resulted in one founding member of the Convention Peoples' Party accusing Mr Pratt of staging a “coup.”

However, Mr Pratt, the Chairman of the CPP Publicity Committee, has defended the apparent decision of the Central Committee of the party to dismiss its only three Members of the 230-seat Parliament. They are Freddie Blay (Ellembelle), Kojo Armah (Evalue-Gwira) and Paa Kwesi Nduom (Komenda-Edina-Eguafo-Abirem) from the party. He has described the dismissal as “a popular decision” within the party.

“I was not at the meeting. I am yet to receive a full briefing. But as a loyal party member, I am not opposed to the decision and since the Central Committee is the highest decision-making body of the party, its decision is proper and must be respected,” Mr Pratt told The Statesman Saturday.

The decision of the Central Committee, which was taken at its meeting in Kumasi last week, has been described by leading CPP member Kwesi Agbley as a coup d'etat conspired by the Managing Editor of the Insight, Mr Pratt, with support from the National Chairman of the party, Edmund Delle.

When The Statesman reached the CPP Chairman to confirm news of the expulsion, he referred the paper to Messrs Pratt and Riley Poku. The latter serves as Chairman of the Legal and Constitutional Sub-committee of the party. Mr Agbley said he was given the same referral notice to the two men when he contacted Dr Delle for confirmation of the expulsion stories carried in the mass media. Mr Agley said Mr Poku described the Chairman's referral to him as “unfair.” Mr Pratt also expressed some surprise by the referral when we spoke him. Perhaps, uncomfortable for the decision-takers, the substantive issue behind their decision (party disloyalty) to expel the MPs has been tampered by the apparent dubious process that led to it.

The three in a press conference held Thursday at the Accra International Conference Centre called on the leadership of the party to resign their positions so that an interim executive can be put in place to supervise the re-organisation of the party. The decision to expel them from the party was taken on that very night at Kumasi, where a scheduled party workshop was taking place. Mr Pratt, however, has dismissed the allegation of staging a coup d'etat against the three MPs because he was not at the meeting, and neither was he aware of the agenda for the meeting.

“I was aware there was a seminar and was invited to what I thought was a regular Central Committee meeting. But the decision to dismiss the three was not on the agenda. There was no grand conspiracy. As a matter of fact, several party members have been waiting for this [expulsion] for four years.” Kwesi Agbley, a founding member of the party and of the Parliamentary Action Group, a rebel splinter group led by the three MPs, has described the Central Committee meeting and its decision as Mr Pratt's own way of deflecting attention from the recent troubles of the National Democratic Congress. The NDC has been hit by a spate of resignations since its December National Delegates Congress in Koforidua.

Mr Agbley further accused Mr Pratt of working to destroy the CPP to satisfy “his friend” Mr Rawlings.

But Mr Pratt's response to Mr Agble's charge was simply “I feel sorry for him.” The dismissal of the three MPs, it has been argued in certain circles, could trigger by-elections in the three constituencies that Dr Nduom, Mr Blay and Mr Armah represent.

On the proper interpretation of the Constitution, an MP on a party ticket need not voluntarily leave his party to render his seat vacant. Article 97(1)(g) says the seat becomes vacant “if he leaves the party of which he is a member at the time of his election to Parliament to join another party or seeks to remain in Parliament as an independent member…”

But Mr Pratt does not appear to be worried about that prospect, and the danger that the party could lose those seats, given that their victory was greatly assisted by the decision of the ruling New Patriotic Party not to contest those seats in 2004.

He told The Statesman: “the most important consideration has to do with maintaining internal cohesion and also ensuring a certain minimum discipline within the party.”

There are grave doubts concerning the legitimacy of the expulsion decision. None of the three MPs involved were offered the right to respond to the charges against them.

The General Secretary of the party, Nii Noi Dowuona, when reached for comment by The Statesman, said he could not speak on the matter because he was not at the Central Committee meeting and also had not seen a written record of proceedings at the meeting.

However, in an interview with Joy FM, an Accra based FM station on their Saturday news analysis programme Newsfile, Prof Dowuona described the decision of the Central Committee as irregular.

He said the decision could only be made upon the recommendation of the party's Disciplinary Committee. Prof Dowuona said he was unaware of any such recommendation of sanction against the three, stressing that the last time the three gentlemen and Kweku Baako, the Editor-In-Chief of the Crusading Guide, were summoned before the Disciplinary Committee on charges that they were working against the interest of the party, the Committee recommended that they be pardoned.

The General Secretary was also unhappy about the fact that the invitation letters were issued in his name even though they were in fact issued and signed by the Deputy General Secretary of the party.

The Chairman of the Publicity Committee of the party is also not worried about charges that the decision of the Central Committee did not follow due process, focusing, predictably, on Dr Nduom.

“First of all, especially Dr Nduom, the charges against him were things he himself had been saying on several radio stations. Also, in the last election, he campaigned for the NPP candidate for Cape Coast, Christine Churcher, against the party's candidate, Araba Bentsi-Enchill, who is also the National First Vice Chairperson of the party.

“These are matters in the public domain placed before the party and Dr Nduom has appeared before the Central Committee at least twice.”

According to Mr Pratt, Dr Nduom's situation was not helped by his own threat to leave the CPP if the National Executive was not removed by June. Mr Pratt also said the Central Committee decision was almost a unanimous one.

“The vote itself was interesting. The information I was given was that on Thursday night, the vote was 17-5 in support of dismissal. It was thought that the decision had to be revisited so another vote was taken the following day and it was 21-1 in favour of dismissing the three.

“That is virtually unanimous support. The total membership of the Central Committee is around 30 but you cannot always get all of them. In any case the 22 members formed a quorum.”

All three MPs, members of the Central Committee, have said they were not notified about the meeting.

Mr Kweku Baako has described the decision of the Central Committee as “infantile, reckless and complete rubbish.”

The three dismissed MPs, in their Thursday press conference, said the leadership of the CPP have demonstrated their inability to lead the party to achieve the objective they themselves have loudly and proudly championed.

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