Minority’s bias charge ‘palpably false’ – Parliament
Parliament has described as false, allegations by the Minority that the Speaker of Parliament Prof Mike Oquaye has been biased against them.
This was contained in a statement by Parliament’s Acting Director of Public Affairs Kate Addo on Tuesday, August 1.
She stated that “the allegations that Speaker was biased against the Minority are palpably false and baseless”, adding: “In some cases, pertinent background information of the incident are left out of the reportages”.
It would be recalled that the Minority threatened to impeach the Speaker over claims of bias against them.
This followed a complaint by its leader Haruna Iddrisu on Thursday, July 27 that Prof Oquaye had limited him to just one question when the Minister of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) appeared before parliament.
Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto was on the floor to answer questions relating to government’s Planting for Food and Jobs programme.
Accra100.5FM’s parliamentary correspondent Richard Appiah Sarpong said Mr Iddrisu appeared infuriated about the turn of events and accused the Speaker of bias.
Mr Iddrisu said: “You know the essence of parliamentary questions is significant and integral to the exercise of oversight. Your refusal to allow me even as Minority Leader to proceed can only be an effort to cripple us.
“We respect you as chair of this house; we have a responsibility as leadership to support you in maintaining order in this house…” Mr Iddrisu added.
But Parliament’s Public Affairs Directorate has discounted such claims indicating that “the contributions allowed by the Speaker on that day at Question Time clearly favoured the Minority”, hence it was strange for the Minority to rather claim that the Speaker favoured the Majority.
The statement pointed out that questions were taken from five Majority MPs as compared to questions by seven MPs from the Minority.
The statement further explained that clearly “the Minority rather was favoured. Indeed, by their numbers in the House, the Speaker could even use a ratio of 60:40 in favour of the Majority”.
Below is the full statement:
RE: HON MUNTAKAH ALLEGATIONS OF SPEAKER BIAS PARLIAMENT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ATTN.: NEWS EDITOR
The attention of Parliament has been drawn to certain unfortunate happenings in the House on Thursday the 27th of July 2017, which have generated public interest. This is to correct certain erroneous impressions created.
The allegations that Speaker was biased against the Minority are palpably false and baseless. In some cases, pertinent background information of the incident are left out of the reportages.
It is the practice of the Speaker to call on the “Leadership” of the two sides to have one speaker from the Leaders to speak after the ordinary Members have contributed to deliberations on the floor of the House.
On that day, when the Speaker invited the “Minority Leadership” to contribute, the Minority Chief Whip Hon. Muntakah stood up and spoke on behalf of the Minority Leadership. Later, the Minority Leader, Hon. Haruna Iddrisu also got up to make an intervention. The Speaker said, although the Minority Leadership had taken their turn, “out of deference” to his position as Minority Leader, he was going to allow Hon. Haruna to ask one additional question. The Minority Leader refused the offer. He said he was entitled to more questions. The Minority Chief Whip Hon. Muntakah then came in with remonstrations seen live on TV.
Some weeks ago, in a similar situation, when the “Majority Leadership” was asked to have their turn, the Majority Leader beckoned another person to speak. Then the Majority Leader rose to speak further. The Speaker said the Majority Leadership had taken their turn and that what the Majority Leader was seeking to do was tantamount to “having a double bite at the cherry.” The Speaker then graciously allowed the Majority leader two minutes to make his submission. The Speaker said this was to show respect to Majority Leader. The Majority Leader complied with the directive, spoke to the issue within the time allocated to him and sat down. This was dignifying.
It is clear that the Speaker is mindful of applying the directive to BOTH sides of the House and he has consistently done so. There was therefore no need for the inexplicable outburst in the House.
Notably the contributions allowed by the Speaker on that day at Question Time clearly favored the Minority. It is reproduced from the Official report as follows:
Supplementary Questions (Majority Side)
1. Mr. Frank Annoh Dompreh (NPP Nsawam Adoagyiri)
2. Mr. Samuel Ayeh Paye (NPP Ayensuano)
3. Mr. Steven Siaka (NPP Jaman North)
4. Mr. Kwabena O. Darko Mensah (NPP Takoradi)
5. Mr. Mohammede Hardi Tuferu (NPP Nanton)
Supplementary Questions (Minority Side)
1. Mr. Ras Mubarak (NDC Kumbungu)
2. Mr. Ebenezer Okletey Terlabi (NDC lower Manya Korbo)
3. Alhaji Collins Dauda (NDC Asutifi South)
4. Mr. Cassiel A.B Forson (NDC Ajumako/Enyan/Essiam)
5. Mr. Sampson Ahi (NDC Anlo)
6. Mr. Thomas Nyarko Ampem (NDC Asuogyamn)
7. Alhaji Mohammed Mubarak Muntakah (NDC Asawase)
Let the public know clearly that the Minority rather was favoured. Indeed, by their numbers in the House, the Speaker could even use a ratio of 60:40 in favour of the Majority.
The Standing Orders (Order 60:2) provide one hour for the entire Question Time. On this occasion, the Speaker allowed one hour ten minutes for one Minister and one question alone and gave the bigger percentage to the Minority. This is generosity, not bias.
The Standing Orders provide a process for appealing against a Ruling by the Speaker. The conduct under review is clearly Un-Parliamentary.
It should be added that last Friday when Hon. Muntakah discussed with the Speaker, police checks in the homes of some Minority MPs, the Speaker immediately acted on the matter.
The Speaker could only have assured Hon Muntakah that he would take the matter up with the authorities, but he went further to say he would have the matter raised on the floor of the House in full public view. The Speaker indeed allowed the matter to be raised and also has since taken up the matter with the authorities.
Ms. Kate Addo
Ag. Director of Public Affairs