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17.02.2006 General News

NDC MPs to lose seat after 15 days?

By Public Agenda
NDC MPs to lose seat after 15 days?
... but Eric Amoateng is still an MP - NDC Accra, Feb. 17 (Public Agenda) -- 94 Minority MPs of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) party are likely to infringe on article 16 of the Standing Orders of Parliament should they stay out of Parliament for 15-days. Article 16 clause one of the Standing orders of Parliament states that “A Member shall not absent himself during a meeting for more than fifteen sittings without the permission in writing of the speaker. Any Member infringing this Order shall have his conduct referred to the Privileges Committee.” The 15-day sittings ultimatum is drawing closer as the MPs have only 8 days left after which they could be referred to the Privileges Committee of Parliament. The committee will then deliberate on the matter and recommend to Parliament on what course of action to be taken against the protesting MPs. As the 15 days draw nearer some political analysts have suggested that the seats of NDC MPs could be declared vacant should they stay out from parliamentary sittings for more than 15 consecutive days, thus rendering them unemployed. However, NDC MPs for Bawku Central, Bole Bamboi and Bongo, Messers Mahama Ayariga, John Mahama and Albert Abongo respectively have and have dismissed the charge arguing that the Article in question talks about “absence without reasonable cause” and would not apply in their circumstance. Deputy Speaker of Parliament and MP for Ellembelle, Freddie Blay,however, agrees with suggestions that the NDC MPs could be breaching Article 16, clause 1 of the Standing Orders of Parliament should they stay out of the house for 15 days. According Freddie Blay, the NDC MPs could be referred to the Privileges Committee and their seats subsequently declared vacant if they do not report to parliament by February ending. He said if their seats become vacant, the country could be saddled with finding money to organise 94 by-elections Mr. John Ndebugre of the PNC and MP for Bawku West, Zebila, agrees with Mr. Blay and argues that besides the possibility of the NDC MPs being referred to the Privileges Committee their indefinite boycott is interfering with parliamentary business and thus a drain on the economy. According Mr. Ndebugre due to the MPs boycott, ministers of state who suspended government business and appeared in parliament to answer questions could not do so because the MPs who raised the questions were not in parliament. Besides, Mr. Ndebugre argues that the NDC MPs are failing their constituents who elected them to parliament to discuss pertinent issues affecting their lives. “Those in the rural areas are not concerned about ROPAB. They (The MPs) were not sent to parliament to be walking out over ROPAB. Their constituents sent them there to make laws and ensure that they have access to potable water and other necessities of life and not about ROPAB,” he said. When Mr. John Mahama was asked whether he deemed the boycott of parliament as necessary under the 1992 Constitution and the Standing Orders of Parliament, he retorted, “of course. We wrote to the Clerk of Parliament and explained why we are going on an indefinite boycott of parliament and I think our reasons are reasonable.” For Mr. Ayariga, “if the majority takes a belligerent decision and refers us to the Privileges Committee, we will respond” appropriately. The Bawku Central MP wondered why the “conduct of Mr. Eric Amoateng,” the Nkronza North MP who is being held up in the United States for alleged drug trafficking, “has not been referred to the Privileges Committee?” In Ndebugre's views, the Amoateng's case is different because “he (Amoateng) is not available to be referred to the Privileges Committee,” But Ayariga counters, “It is his conduct” not himself “which should be referred to the committee.”


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