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General News Wed, 3 Dec 2003

Majority, Minority react to abrupt adjournment

Accra, Dec 3, GNA- The Majority Leader and Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Mr. Felix Owusu-Agyapong on Wednesday decried the abrupt adjournment of the House on the basis of lack of the constitutional requirement of 68 members for business to be carried out.

He said business on the floor of the house had often begun without the required quorum, adding, "I do not understand why the Speaker has decided to exercise his power in this way at this time."

At 1035 hours, there were only 22 Minority members and five of the Majority side on the floor of the House.

This prompted Mr. Samuel Sallas-Mensah, NDC-Upper West Akim to move for suspension of business for one hour in accordance with Article 48 (1) of the Standing Order.

The Speaker, Mr. Peter Ala Adjetey, pointed out that Article 48 (2) of the Standing Order required that the House be adjourned instead of being suspended after 10 minutes of a Motion, moved by a member questioning the issue of a quorum.

Exactly 10 minutes after the Speaker had read the Order, and the House still not forming a quorum, he adjourned sitting till tomorrow December 4.

The Majority Leader told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) that the Speaker had always complained about the absence of members on the floor of the House adding that the Majority, therefore, called a caucus meeting this morning to encourage their members to be present in the House.

He said there were other issues like low attendance at the sittings of the House and at Committees that the majority members needed to meet to solve. Mr. Owusu-Agyapong said he passed the information about the intended meeting of the caucus to the Speaker through the Clerk of Parliament, Mr. Kenneth Takyi, and that he was informed that the Speaker got the message before the House convened for the day.

"It is, therefore, sad that the Speaker acted this way, when in fact business in the House has often begun without the quorum," he said, adding "Moreover the motion by the Minority member was for a suspension, but the Speaker's action was a show of power out of anger to grant an adjournment instead."

In response to comments by the Majority leader, Mr. Takyi said the Speaker was indeed aware of the meeting of the Majority caucus and had decided to use the time to allow pending statements from members to be made until the majority side completed their meeting.

He said the Speaker expected the member who moved for the suspension to withdraw his motion after being told of the implication of moving the motion, but the member did not do so until the 10 minutes elapsed.

"The hands of the Speaker were tied and he had no choice than to act according to the Standing Order 48 (2) and adjourn the House," he said.

Mr. Takyi said the Speaker was not worried about the absence of the Majority members, but about the motion by a member who was aware that the House had often commenced business without the required quorum and yet he decided to move the motion.

He said members should be cautious of the way they act on the floor of the house so as not to create the impression that the Speaker is authoritarian, adding that when the NDC was in the majority the NPP often waited for them when they had caucus meetings.

"In other jurisdictions, members usually report in their numbers only when there is going to be voting on critical issues and it has been so in this House since the inception of the 1992 Constitution and today's was not different from the motion by the minority member," he said.

Mr Sallas-Mensah explained that he only asked for the suspension and "not an adjournment when he realised that there was no quorum in the House".

He said at the commencement of the public business it was realised that most of the members of the Majority side were not present and even though the Minister of Roads and Transport was earlier present, he had left the chamber before question time.

Mr Sallas-Mensah was reacting to certain accusations levelled against him that he caused the adjournment of the day's sittings adding that the NPP members used to co-operate with the NDC on such issues when they were in the minority.

He explained that when the NDC was in power they normally ensured that some of the members were in the chamber to attend to the business of the House while some of them attended caucus meetings so as not to disrupt business of the day.

The Member of Parliament said what he sought to do was to ask for a suspension of the sittings and he accordingly directed the Speaker to the apparent absence of the Majority side in the House and referred him to Standing Order number 48 (1) that called for a quorum.

Mr Sallas-Mensah said it was the Speaker who went further to read Standing Order 48 (2) that stipulates that when after ten minutes had elapsed and there was no quorum, the Speaker presiding must adjourn sitting till the next day.

He said it was in this light that the Speaker accordingly called for the adjournment of the day's sittings. It was, therefore, not his making that the House was adjourned.

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Source: GNA
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