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There was a moment of discomfort for the minority in the Parliament of Ghana, following the line of argument by the majority on the 2020 State of the Nation Address (SONA), compelling the former to break its loud silence not to take part in the debate.
The minority, which had earlier told the House that it would not take part in the debate, had their Chief Whip, Alhaji Muntaka Mubarak, breaking that vow on the floor of the House on Tuesday, February 25, 2020.
In his submission, Afenyo Markin, MP for Effutu, referred to colleagues from the other side, including Dominic Ayine, Okudzeto Ablakwa, Sam George and Muntaka Mubarak among others, questioning the roles they played in what he described as the failed management of the economy under former President Mahama.
He further referred to Kwame Agbodza, to tell the House if his constituency, Adaklu, was not witnessing development, particularly in education.
“Can you say so? can Hon Ahiafor say so?” Afenyo Markin quizzed.
The MP, who had spotted the Minority Chief Whip trying to catch the Speaker’s eye, told his colleague to talk into the microphone, amidst laughter from the other members, with the Speaker, giving Muntaka the opportunity to speak.
Having being given the chance, Muntaka said, “Mr. Speaker, we have to be responsible in this chamber. Mr. Speaker, you drew our colleague’s attention that he should not be inviting members. He went on calling names. He is not being fair to the members and I think you (Afenyo Markin) have to be responsible” he said, describing their decision as a political tool in parliamentary process.
Visibly looking angry, Muntaka called on the Speaker to call Afenyo-Markin to order, “other than that, we will be forced to also call names.”
But Afenyo-Markin argued that he was only arguing on facts and not calling names, asking Muntaka to tell the House if this government was not doing anything in his constituency.
In the chair, the First Deputy Speaker, Joseph Osei-Owusu drew the attention of the Effutu MP to order 93(1) of the standing orders of the House, which states that personal allusions could not be made during debates. Accepting the direction of the Speaker, Afenyo-Markin pleaded with the Speaker to make a determination on Muntaka’s statement that his reference to constituencies and officials was irresponsible.
“Mr. Speaker, I humbly call on him to withdraw and apologise to me. Mr. Speaker, your ruling I will comply to. I am saying that the use of the word irresponsible is against this provision (Order93(2). He is a very sensitive person and would not take kindly to this. He should withdraw and apologise.
The Minority Chief, however declined to respond to this application by Afenyo-Markin and the Speaker also overruled the application on the basis that the latter was cautioned earlier, and order 93(2) also speaks against personal allusions.
A persistent Afenyo-Markin continued his debate that he did not make personal allusions, stressing that Muntaka took him out of context.
“Mr. Speaker, in making my next point, it is my case that the posture of the minority even coming into the Chamber, exchanging pleasantries and just walking out is most irresponsible. Especially as the minority was led by its leaders, including the minority chief whip is very irresponsible. To walk out on the first gentlemen of the land is most irresponsible. And for all of them to go and sit in their offices and watch is again most irresponsible.
“And then come back and sit in this Chamber and claim that you are not participating is another most irresponsible act. To deny your constituents the opportunity to express your view on a constitutional matter is again irresponsible. To even sit in the Chamber, say you are not talking yet be murmuring is again irresponsible. But, Mr. Speaker, we are law abiding and responsible,” he said.
Minority will not debate Muntaka
Earlier, the MP for Ofoase/Ayerebi, who is also the Information Minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah had moved a motion for the debate on the 2020 State of the Nation Adress to commence, an action which per parliamentary processes, needed secondment.
Speaker Oquaye asked the Minority Chief Whip, who was leading the Minority, as his superiors were not in the Chamber, the position of his side.
According to the speaker, “it is customary when this particular motion is moved on my right, there is a seconder on my left. What is the position as at now?” he asked of Muntaka.
“Thank you very much Mr. Speaker. Like you rightly said. It is not a rule. It is just a convention. Our position is that, we are not participating in this. So we will not be speaking to it. That’s why we are quiet,” Muntaka spoke the mind of the Minority.
The speaker however called the majority leader, Osei Kyei-Mensa-Bonsu for his take on the issue. The latter indicated that nothing technically prevented the minority from taking part in the debate.
Meanwhile, he stressed that the decision to do so was solely that of the minority.
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