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General News Wed, 27 Nov 2002

Minority will stay out if need be - Bagbin

Alban Bagbin, Minority Leader, on Tuesday said the group would boycott Parliament to defend privileges and immunities of members if need be. "We, the Minority reaffirm our conviction in the action we have taken so far in this matter and will not hesitate to repeat same if the need arises."

Hon Bagbin was delivering a statement on "privileges,immunities and contempt of Parliament and members of Parliament", a sequel to an earlier statement issued to the media on reasons why the group boycotted Parliament for three days.

"In less excruciating circumstances, my colleagues on the other side are now in the Majority embarked on at least three walk-outs over a 12-week period. He said the privileges and immunities of members are an integral part of, and flow from the rights and freedoms of the entire citizenry.

Bagbin said, "by bringing to the fore once again the need to clarify these immunities and privileges, we recognise that such rights do not confer absolute immunity from liability to criminal and civil process." He called on the leadership of the House to clarify guidelines governing the application privileges and immunities of all concerned.

"We believe that the seriousness and urgency of this matter demands a speedy determination of guidelines governing the application of these special rights of Parliament, as these are fundamental to the sustenance of our democratic governance." He said the minority is principally responsible for keeping government on its toes and for fearlessly asserting the rights of the legislature.

"It is important and absolutely essential for everybody to appreciate that it is only when the opposition performs its functions fearlessly that the rights and freedoms of everybody in the country are ensured. The reading of history proves that freedom always dies when criticism ends."

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Papa Owusu Ankoma, Majority Leader, said the house had lost a perfect opportunity to enhance the image of the legislature. He said if enough consultation had been made on the matter, such a statement would have crystallised the views and feelings of the House.

The Leader said even though the Majority disagrees with the boycott of the Minority, it respects its right to protest.

Madam Hawa Yakubu, NPP-Bawku Central, asked members to close their ranks on the privileges and immunity issue since it concerns all. "When in 1993, we were passing the Law on Financial Loss to the State, little did we know that some of us would be affected."

Nana Akufo-Addo, Minister of Justice and Attorney General, said he found nothing wrong with the action of the Police, when he was invited for questioning in 1998, when he was in the minority. "After reflecting on the issue I found that the police did the right thing. That is why I never raised the question of privilege and immunity in Parliament at that time."

He said Dr Ato Quarshie, NDC-Komenda-Edina-Eguafo-Abirem, was being questioned on an alleged illegal transfer of 44 million DM Marks. The member said he would furnish the House with the details of police enquiry on allegations involving members in due course. He said as the chief law officer of government, "I'm satisfied with the conduct of government in these affairs."

Source: gna
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