General News Wed, 22 Jan 2003

Parliament reconvenes and ....

...resolves to promote fundamental human rights

The Speaker of Parliament, Mr Peter Ala Adjetey on Tuesday said Parliament would remain committed to the promotion of the fundamental human rights and freedoms enshrined in the constitution for the establishment of a just and free society.

He said "in the years to come, we in Parliament as the representatives of the people in whom sovereignty resides, will continue to keep ablaze our commitment to the realization of the ideals of democracy and to rededicate ourselves to freedom and justice".

Mr Adjetey said this in an address at the ceremonial opening of the Third Session of the Third Parliament of the Fourth Republic at Parliament House in Accra.

The ceremony was graced with the presence of the Speakers of the National Assemblies of the Republics of Burkina Faso, Federal Republic of Nigeria and Republic of Togo as well as the First Deputy Speakers of the National Assemblies of the Republics of La Cote d'Ivoire and Republic of Mali.

Mr Adjetey said in the course of the period, two important bills were presented and duly passed by the House.

These were the bill that decriminalized libel and thus created an atmosphere of freedom for journalist and the media as well as the National Reconciliation Commission Bill that was fiercely debated at the consideration stage and passed with a few amendments.

He said in the past year, Parliament thoroughly debated an array of domestic and foreign policy issues upon substantive motions moved in the House.

A number of significant International Conventions and treaties were also ratified, including the Protocol on democracy and Good governance that was supplementary to the protocol relating to the mechanism for conflict prevention, resolution, peace- keeping and security and the Kyoto protocol to the convention on Climatic change.

Parliamentary Speaker's Speech

Full text of the Rt. Hon. Speaker, Peter Ala Adjetey Speaker of parliament's speech at the ceremonial opening of the Third Session of the Third Parliament of the Fourth Republic of Ghana

Hon. Members,
It is my singular honour and joy to welcome you to this Ceremonial Opening of the Third Session of the Third Parliament of the Fourth Republic of Ghana.

The opening of the new session of our Parliament is a responsibility and a duty imposed on me as Speaker of Parliament by article 112 of the Constitution and I shall proceed now to discharge that responsibility.

It is my pleasure at this stage to formally welcome to the House the distinguished Hon. Speakers of the National Assemblies of Burkina Faso, La Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Nigeria,, and Togo and the ECOWAS Parliament, who have responded to our special invitation to share in our joy in celebrating 10 years of the restoration of Parliamentary democracy and the 2nd anniversary of the Third Parliament of the Fourth Republic.

I acknowledge the presence in our midst of:

The Hon. Mr. Roch Marc Christian Kabore, Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Burkina Faso,

The Hon. Mr. Djibo Nee Die Aya Martine. P~ Deputy ?Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of La Cote Yivoire,

The Hon. Professor Ali Nouhourri Diallo, Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament

The Hon. Mr. Ghali Urnar Na’Abba, Speaker of the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,

The Hon. Mr. Tcha Katanga Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Togo and

The Hon. Mr. Mountaga Tall, First Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Mali

I hope my distinguished Colleagues will enjoy their shod stay in our country, which they should consider as a second home.

Hon. Members, a thousand years in the sight of the Lord are but as yesterday, but 10 years of the restoration of parliamentary democracy in the life of this dear nation of mere mortals ours is no mean achievement, especially having regard to our tortuous history. We must, therefore, give thanks to the Almighty God for all that He has done for us and humbly beseech Him to continue to look with favour upon this nation as a whole, and upon this august House in particular, so that through the performance of its high duty to the State, this land and people may indeed be well and truly served.

On my own behalf and on behalf of the Leadership of the House, 1 warmly welcome you all to this Ceremonial Opening of the Third Session of the Third Parliament of the Fourth Republic.

As we all know, the most important function of Parliament is to make laws for the good governance of the country in accordance with the provisions of our 1992 Constitution.

Besides this function the Constitution a1so vests Parliament with deliberative, regulatory and investigative powers.

In the exercise of all these powers Parliament, as the legislative arm of government, is not un?mindful of the fact that one of the main objectives of our Constitution is to ensure that not only is executive power kept under constant check, but that all organs of government serve as a check on each other so as to curb arbitrariness and abuse of power.

Our Parliament will remain committed to the promotion of the fundamental human rights and freedoms enshrined in the Constitution for the establishment of a just and free society. In the years to come, we in Parliament as the Representatives of the people of this country in whom sovereignty resides, will continue to keep ablaze our commitment to the realization of the ideals of democracy and to rededicat!.3 ourselves to freedom and justice, which are the corner?stones upon which the foundation of this dear nation of ours is laid.

In the course of the period covered by this address many important bills were presented to this Honourable House and were duly passed. Time will not permit an elaborate enumeration of all these bills. Two of these bills, however, need to be singled out for mention. The first was the bill, which decriminalized libel and thus created an atmosphere of freedom for journalist and the media.

The second was the National Reconciliation Commission Bill, which was very fiercely debated especially at the Consideration Stage where differences appeared between the Majority and the Minority in this Honourable House as to the procedure for the appointment of the members of the National Reconciliation Commission and the period of time in the history of this country to be covered by the National Reconciliation Commission. In the end, the co?operation, which had existed between the Majority and the Minority in this House broke down on these two issues and the bill was passed with a few amendments including the so?called "Window Clause" under which the Commission was given Jurisdiction over periods covered by the bill, if they consider it periods in our history not specifically necessary to do so.

In the past year Parliament in the exercise of its deliberative function, thoroughly debated an array of domestic and 'foreign policy issues upon substantive motions moved on 'the floor of the House, pursuant to which some consequential resolutions were subsequently passed, such as the resolution on the representation of Ghana's Parliament in the West African Community Parliament.

A number of significant International Conventions and treaties were also ratified, including the Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance that was supplementary to the Protocol relating to the mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peace?Keeping and Security, and the Kyoto Protocol to the Convention on Climatic Change.

In line with the foreign policy objectives of the country, the House ratified three Conventions against international terrorism, namely OAU Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism, International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings.

To complement the development agenda of the Government, this Honourable House also ratified a number of important credit agreements. By far, the Agreement that attracted the most extensive public attention and scrutiny was the Loan Agreement between the Government and the International Finance Consortium (IFC) for an amount oil" LIS$350rn for various, infrastructural development projects.

Following the expression of grave dissatisfaction by the Minority group in Parliament with the Loan Agreement as well as what was referred to as '"obstacles that arose out of the implementation of the transaction", the Hon Minister for Finance in a statement on November 26, informed the House of the Government's decision not to pursue further discussions and negotiations in respect of the IFC loan".

It is true that the two major sides of the HOUSE took different positions on the IFC Loan Agreement. I would like to say, however., that the disposition of this Honourable House towards the Executive should 'be such that

Government would always feel encouraged rattler than reluctant to com7eR forward and share with Parliament any difficulties it experiences in the process of governance, and to, receive appropriate feedback and inputs from Honourable Members.

Hon. Members, the Appointments Committee has continued with its effective and transparent scrutiny of His Excellency the President's nominees for various appointments in accordance with the Constitution and Standing Orders of the House. The House last year approved the nomination of ten (10) persons,, seven of whom were for appointment as Justices of the Supreme Court of Ghana, two (2) for Deputy Ministerial portfolios and one as Administrator of the District Assemblies' Common Fund.

As we all know, the mechanism of asking Parliamentary questions is extremely useful in exposing wrongdoing or mal?administration by public officials thereby keeping ministers on their toes as well as holding Government to account. While I will urge Hon. Members, to refrain from asking frivolous Questions or Questions to which Answers are readily obtainable elsewhere during this Session, I will in the same breath urge Hon. Ministers to resist the temptation of playing a cat?and mouse game with evasive Answers to Questions asked of them in the House. There is also, I regret to say, an undesirable tendency on the part of some Ministers to provide unnecessarily long?winded answers to simple questions.

Many important issues pertaining to public policy and developments in the various constituencies have been brought to the floor of the' House for scrutiny through statements made by Ministers. I would like to think that the comments and opinions freely expressed by individual members as well as parties represented in the House ultimately influenced various government decisions,, policies and actions.

The Minister of Finance made a statement by way of a review of the economy as presented in the Budget Statement: and Economic Policy of the Government during which he provided the House with an assessment of the overall macroeconomic performance.

Hon. Members, it maybe refreshing to recall the statement by the Minority Leader on Privileges, Immunities and the Law on contempt: of Parliament. Notwithstanding the specific issue raised in that statement, it was clear at the end of the proceedings that the matter affected all of us in this House and indeed it opened up an opportunity for the House to draw public attention to the special rights of Hon. Members including the Speaker and Staff of the Parliamentary Service., and to fashion out through the collective efforts of both sides of the House, the scope, limitations and application of the privileges of the House for the guidance of the Executive and the general public alike in their dealings with the Speaker, Members and Officers of Parliament.

Since article 122 of the Constitution, which deals with contempt of Parliament, in general is a shade too open?ended, its parameters need to be defined, and it is my hope that the Committee of Privileges to which the matter was referred last Session but which could not complete work on the reference because the time available was too short will be able to complete work on it early this Session so that the whole House may pronounce on the matter.

Hon. Members, two Private Members' statements deserve special mention today in view of the special interest both statements generated in the media and among the general public with specific reference to their potential implications for the growth of our democracy.

The first was the statement on Parliament's unfulfilled Constitutional Obligations by the Hon. Member for Hohoe South Constituency. The statement reminded the House of some of its outstanding obligations as regards the specific Constitutional provisions enshrined in articles 22, 29 and 187 clause (15) As we mark ten years of the restoration of parliamentary, democracy, today, it is imperative now that this House gives priority attention in our Sessional calendar to the business satisfying the requirements of these mandatory Constitutional provisions.

The second statement was on '"the Perception of Corruption in the Judiciary and its effect on Foreign Investment in Ghana". From the views that were expressed by Hon. Members, it, was very clear that the matter was; of grave national concern and the House ought to pursue the matter to a definite conclusion and not be Seen to be sweeping it under the carpet. Indeed, the public hearings by the Judiciary Committee that followed a reference from the Speaker generated considerable public debate. The public perception of corruption in the Judiciary though not substantiated, needs to be erased if the Judiciary is to command the respect of all. That is why the final report of the Judiciary Committee is awaited by all of us this Session.

The Committee System is one key mechanism that enables Parliament to examine legislative and policy proposals in detail as well as provide the public and various interest groups with the opportunity to participate in the work of Parliament. The decision?making process is undoubtedly enriched through seminars, workshops and conferences often?times sponsored by our key development partners or collaborators notably, UNDP, USAID, CIDA, JICA, DANIDA,, the British Government, DFID, FES,, and the Chinese Government. These programmes immensely contribute to the institutional development of Parliament, which largely enables the Committees of the House to discharge their responsibilities effectively.

Hon. Members, our Parliament continues to hold aloft the flag of Ghana at many international forums; various delegations represented the House at many important gatherings of world parliaments. In spite of the often busy schedules of the House, I personally led different delegations to the United States Congress, China., the Canadian House of 112?Ornmons, the Indian Lok Sabha, and the Italian Chamber of Deputies. Members of the Leadership of the House also led delegations to attend conferences and training workshops of the,

The Inter ? Parliamentary Union (IPU)
The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA)
The Union of African Parliaments (UAP),, etc.

Of course, following the resolution of the House as I have mentioned earlier, our delegation to the West African Community (ECOWAS) Parliament regularly attended all meetings of the sub?regiona.1 Parliament to actively participate in its deliberations.

On the other hand, this Honourable House received various distinguished personalities and delegations during the past year. Notable among these were the British Prime Minister,, the Rt. Hon Tony Blair (MP) who addressed this House during an official visit to Ghana as part of a four ? leg West African tour. The President of the Republic of' Mali, H.E. Mr. Alpha Omar Konare also addressed this House during a state visit to Ghana riot long before he handed over to another popularly elected successor. The House also hosted delegations from La Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Uganda, and Namibia, who visited us on study tours.

During the year, the composition of this House was slightly altered as a result of two bye?elections that became necessary following the resignation of the Member for Bimbilla, Hon. Dr. Ibn Chambas who has since assumed office as the Executive Secretary of ECOWAS,, and the death in harness of the Hon. Reo Basoah. In their places Hon. Dominic Aduga Bingas Nitiwul and Hon. Yaw Baah respectively were sworn in to take their places. The two Hon. Members then subscribed to the oath of Allegiance and the oath of a Member of Parliament. Both Members belong to the New Patriotic Party (NPP) hence the summary of parliamentary seats held by the various parties is currently as follows:

New Patriotic Party (NPFI) 101
National Democratic Congress (NDC)  91
Peoples National Convention (PNC)  3
Convention Peoples Party (CPP)  1

Hon. Members will also recall my own swearing?in as Acting President during the year when it became necessary for H.E. President Kufour and the Vice President H.E. Alhaji Aliu Mahama to travel abroad on official duties.

By the grace of God and your words of encouragement and kind co?operation I was able to perform the onerous duties to the State as the Acting President. I must express my gratitude to all of you for you overwhelming response to the duty call at midnight for the swearing in.

Last year, the Parliamentary Service Board took certain far?reaching decisions that should put the service in a better shape. The new Clerk to Parliament and his management team have embarked on the development of new policy guidelines for the various functional areas of the Service, a Comprehensive Scheme of Service and work, plans for the National Governance Programme. Altogether, these measures are intended to give a new visionary direction to the Service and re?position it to be able to meet the ever?increasing challenges of this Honourable House and Parliamentary democracy in Ghana.

In a democratic country, the media provides the principal means by which most citizens obtain information about Parliament and the other organs of government. The leadership and individual Members of Parliament communicate their views on topical, national and sectional issues to the populace through the media. Commentaries and editorials in tile media have had varying degrees of influence on legislation and policies. As far as the work of this House is concerned, I am happy to acknowledge the vital and effective role that the Parliamentary Press Corps has played as a channel of communication and interaction with the general public.

Hon. Members, as you well know any kind of governance arrangement that has no room for a "debating chamber" is tragically bereft of.' a vital pillar on which democracy stands. We in this Hon. House believe that this House is the hub of Ghana's democracy; Without a Parliament this country cannot be said to be democratic. Indeed one can say with confidence that Ghanaians are generally agreed that a healthy democratic society will only flourish if we give room to public debates, the election of representatives in free, fair and regular elections, a spirit of tolerance and compromise and a strong resolve to make difficult policy choices; necessary for growth and development.

Over the past? decade Ghanaians have remained steadfast in their resolve to deepen the tenets of a democratic culture because of their belief that only a stable multi?party democratic system of government can end economic decline and offer them unlimited opportunities for the pursuit of their legitimate aspirations.

In my address to you a year ago, I alluded to the relative weakness of Parliament as a direct result of its many periods of traumatic dissolutions and restorations. Although, our partners in the international community have demonstrated tremendous goodwill towards our cause, there is no doubt that the solution to the many formidable challenge that confront us lies in our own hands.

I have repeatedly bemoaned the lack of adequate physical infrastructures to provide offices for all Members of Parliament and other functional areas of the Parliamentary Service and our frustrations in that regard. We cherish the hope that the assurances given by His Excellency the President on the speedy completion of the State House Building Complex in his State of the Nation Address delivered to the House both in 200.1 and last year will be fulfilled very soon.

Hon. Members whilst the search for the huge capital outlay required to refurbish the "'JOB 600' continues, the Parliamentary Service Board has decided as an intervening measure to put up modest structure on the plot adjacent to the car park and MPs/ Staff entrance to provide offices for our pressing needs.

We all understand the difficulties that we have been going through as a nation but we also should appreciate the act that the sustenance, of our democracy is a fundamental commitment. It is in this regard that we must again make a plea to His Excellency the President and to our Minister of Finance, the hard?working Hon. Yaw Osafo?Maafo, to ensure that this year we would improve significantly upon the allocations and appropriations that are made towards the completion of this Job 600 complex.

Hon. Members, I cannot end these opening remarks without recalling the blood curdling events that occurred in the Dagbon Traditional Area precipitating the imposition of a State of Emergency by His Excellency the President followed by the House sitting to exercise its power and discharge the duties imposed on it by article 31 of the Constitution. This House rose to the occasion and approved the President's action and has subsequently supported the resolution of the conflict by acceding to eight requests for extension of' the proclamation. I must emphasise that in resolving to extend the state of emergency on all those occasions, Parliament has had to take into account the interests of the people of Dagbon in particular and that of the nation as a whole.

The House also sent fact?finding delegations and emissaries to the area to ascertain the situation on the ground and to contribute to efforts to resolve the conflict and restore peace and security to the people of Dagbon. As we usher in a new Session, we pray that Government will complement this goodwill of the House by working assiduously to bring relief and piece to the people in the area. It is our fervent hope that sooner than later peace will return to Dagbon, as the collective goodwill of the people clearly demonstrates a commitment to peace and the restoration of normalcy to that part of the country.

19.  Industrial Designs Bill
20. Trade Marks Bill
21. Patent Bill
22. Copyright Bill
23. Interpretation Bill
24. Right to Information Bill
25. Alternative Dispute Resolution Bill
26. Companies Code (Amendment) Bill

At the first public Forum organised b this House in 1994, my predecessor, Mr. Justice D. F. Annan concluded his report to the nation by expressing faith in the survival of our democracy and "that Parliament has come to stay"'. Today, a decade after the first Sitting of Parliament in 1993, I am happy to share in that faith as an abiding reality. Long live Ghana, long live Parliament, long live the Fourth Republic, long live multi?party constitutional democracy in Ghana.

Hon. Members. I wish to thank you all for your attention and may the almighty God guide us through our deliberations during the Session. Once again, I heartily wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year.