The Christian Council of Ghana (CCG) and the pressure group, OccupyGhana, have condemned the brawl that erupted on the floor of Parliament last Monday during the consideration of the Electronic Transaction Bill, also known as the E-Levy.
The CCG reminded the Members of Parliament (MPs) that debates in Parliament must remain a platform for the exchange of ideas and not an opportunity for confusion and hostility, while OccupyGhana expressed its dismay and disappointment at the misbehaviour of the MPs that resulted in fisticuffs in the House.
These were contained in separate press statements issued by the CCG and OccupyGhana.
According to OccupyGhana, the violent misbehaviour of MPs on the floor of the House was getting to intolerable levels, and that this time around it should not go unpunished.
It, therefore, called for thorough investigations and prosecution.
Democratic gains negated
The CCG, in its statement signed by its Chairman, the Rt Rev. Prof. J.O.Y. Mante, said what happened on the floor of Parliament negated Ghana’s democratic gains over the past 30 years.
It urged the MPs to show the way to protect and deepen democratic processes in Ghana’s governance system, stressing that “what happened on the floor of Parliament is unacceptable, to say the least, and we condemn such behaviour”.
The council urged parliamentarians to take urgent steps to build consensus to ensure that the nation had a budget to work with in 2022.
“We also urge the leadership of Parliament to put measures in place to prevent any future incidence of mayhem,” it advised.
It reiterated its commitment to support the legislators with prayers in the discharge of their responsibilities.
“Christian leaders in our country will continue to pray for our legislators for God’s grace and wisdom at all times. We ask for God’s blessings upon Parliament. May God bless our nation Ghana”, the statement said.
In its statement, OccupyGhana said in less than 12 months, the Parliament of the Fourth Republic had abandoned even pretexts of good and democratic behaviour and was competing with itself for the designation as the worst group of MPs that Ghana had had the misfortune of electing in its entire history of electing MPs.
It demanded the prosecution of the MPs who were involved in the fight that brought proceedings to an abrupt end.
It said since the law was no respecter of persons, those MPs caught on camera engaging in the violence on the floor of the House should be made to face the law.
It noted that the police had already indicated by a public statement, dated December 21, 2021, that it was powerless to intervene in the matter.
“We disagree. None of the immunities granted by the Constitution to MPs in articles 115 to 120 covers crimes committed anywhere, including the floor of Parliament. Specifically, MPs’ immunity in Article 116 is specifically limited to ‘any matter or thing brought by him in or before Parliament by petition, bill, motion or otherwise’.
“There is no possible interpretation of this immunity that will cover the crimes we saw them commit on TV,” the statement said.
It added that Article 122 of the Constitution, which provides that acts that obstruct or impede Parliament or affronts its dignity constitute contempt of Parliament, did not distinguish between MPs and non-MPs.
“Article 123 then provides that even the exercise by Parliament of the power to punish for contempt ‘shall not be a bar to the institution of proceedings under the Criminal Law’,” it said.
“The acts of assault, battery and unlawful fights we watched on live TV constitute criminal acts, and the people of Ghana should never be told that MPs can get away with crimes once they commit those crimes in Parliament,” the statement added.
It said the MPs were aware, yet unconcerned, that the entire nation was watching them on live national TV when they engaged in those despicable acts of trading insults and punches in a manner that could be described best as “uncouth, dishonourable, un-Ghanaian and an absolute embarrassment to the nation”.
It said no Ghanaian, regardless of his or her political party affiliation, should treat the misbehaviour by the MPs lightly, adding that it was the reason OccupyGhana believed that the usual ‘unqualified’ apology would not suffice.
“In fact, it will add insult to the injury caused by them to the good people of this country,” it added.
The Police Administration has indicated that it has initiated steps to engage the Clerk, Marshal, and leadership of Parliament to fashion out a more proactive way of supporting parliament in handling security issues within the chamber in conformity with the laws of the country.
This was made known in a statement signed by the Director-General of the Public Affairs Directorate of the Ghana Police Service, Assistant Commissioner for Police (ACP) Mr Kwesi Ofori in response to criticisms from a section of the public blaming the police for being ineffective in ensuring law and order in the legislature.
It said it was not within the mandate of the police to enter the Parliament House to ensure sanity when there was a brawl.
“By Ghana’s constitutional arrangement, security issues within the chamber of parliament are the responsibility of the Marshal to Parliament, who takes instructions from the Clerk of Parliament on such matters,” the statement said.
Members of the Majority and the Minority caucuses in Parliament engaged in fisticuffs during deliberations on the E-Levy Bill last Monday.
The MPs were seen pushing one another fiercely in anger and disagreement, ending up with some hitting others.