Minority Members of Parliament (MPs) have denied that MPs who supported the ratification of the Ghana-US military defence cooperation agreement at the joint committee meeting came from the minority National Democratic Congress (NDC).
They said there was no voting at the meeting of the Joint Committee on Defence and Interior and the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and so it was misleading to suggest that the NDC MPs voted in favour of the agreement.
"We wish to place on record that the attempt to create the impression that the majority of MPs who voted in favour of the passage of the agreement in issue came from the minority NDC is false,” they said in a statement signed by the Ranking Member on the Defence and Interior Committee, Mr James Agalga.
It described as 'deliberate mischievousness', the display of the Votes and Proceedings of Parliament dated March 22, 2018 on social media which captured among others the attendance list of members of the Joint Committee on Defence and Interior and Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to suggest that the majority of members who actually attended the committee meeting and recommended the ratification of the agreement came from the minority NDC.
The statement said a careful scrutiny of the votes and proceedings displayed on social media would indicate in no uncertain terms that the list of MPs’ attendance did not disclose any voting pattern.
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"It is, therefore, very misleading for anyone to simply identify MPs whose names appear on the attendance list by their respective political parties and conclude that the majority of members present at the meeting came from the NDC and that they must be the ones who recommended to the plenary that the agreement be passed," it said.
The statement said at the commencement of proceedings before the joint committee, the NDC Minority Members of Parliament raised very critical objections to the agreement in the collective.
For instance, it said the Minority NDC members rejected the agreement as one which contravened Article 75 of the Constitution on the ground that it was never executed by the executive branch of government prior to its laying in Parliament. "This objection, it is important to emphasise, was conceded by the Minister for Defence," it said.
The statement added that following the Defence Minister’s own admission that the agreement had not been executed by the President or his agent in line with Article 75, the minority NDC MPs argued strenuously for the Chairman of the joint committee to declare a division in a ruling to authorise the clerk to the committee to act in accord with Order 211 of the Standing Orders of Parliament to no avail.
Order 211 of the Standing Orders reads as follows: “(1) Every decision in a committee shall be taken by the clerk of the committee asking each member of the committee separately how he desires to vote and recording the votes accordingly.
(2) In taking the division, the names of all members of the committee shall be called in alphabetical order.
(3) When a division is claimed in a committee, every member of the committee present shall, unless he expressly states that he declines to vote, record his vote either AYES or NOES. The clerk of the committee shall enter in the minutes of the proceedings a record of each member’s votes. A member must vote according to his voice.
(4) As soon as the clerk has collected the votes, the chairman shall state the number of members voting for the AYES or NOES respectively and shall then declare the division.
The statement said in view of the fact that the chairman of the committee declined the Ranking Member’s invitation to declare a division, Order 211 of the standing orders was never invoked. The failure and/or refusal of the chairman to invoke Order 211 resulted in a stand-off at the committee for well over three hours.
Eventually, it said, the minority NDC MPs insisted that all objections raised by them be captured succinctly in the report.
"It is, therefore, mind- boggling for anybody to suggest that the minority NDC MPs having argued that the agreement was unconstitutional, will turn around and recommend its passage.
"In fact, the committee could not agree on what recommendation to make in relation to the agreement in its report as the minority NDC MPs and the majority NPP MPs simply took entrenched positions.
Eventually, the compromise position taken was for the Minority NDC MPs, led by the Ranking Member for Defence and Interior committee, Mr James Agalga, to propose an amendment with the concurrence of the majority MPs led by the Chairman of the Defence and Interior committee, Mr Seth Acheampong, to allow for the recommendation for the ratification of the agreement to stand in the name of the NPP majority members of the committee," it said.
The statement said that explained why the chairman of the Committee for Defence and Interior also proposed an amendment to be taken in respect of paragraph 6.4 of the committee’s report so that the NPP majority members would distance themselves from what they claimed to be harsh language of the said paragraph 6.4.