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Minority walks out over Holiday Bill

BY: Musah Yahaya Jafaru
Minority walks  out over Holiday Bill
Minority walks out over Holiday Bill

The Minority members in Parliament yesterday staged a walkout over the Public Holiday (Ammendment) Bill, because they said the amendment sought to rewrite the country's history regarding the founding father status of Dr Kwame Nkrumah.

Their opposition was mainly against the government's decision to change the status of Ghana's First President, Dr Nkrumah, from a founder to be one of several other founders.

Before the walkout, the Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, and the Minority Ranking Member on the Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, had hinted that any future National Democratic Congress (NDC) government would amend the Constitution to reassert the founding father status of Dr Nkrumah.

But the Majority members led by their leader, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, argued that Dr Nkrumah could not be the sole founding father of Ghana since there were other prominent Ghanaians who played key roles in the independence struggle.

They said even before Dr Nkrumah was invited by the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), there were some founding pillars of UGCC who had started the independence struggle.

The debate and subsequent walkout followed a motion for a second reading of and presentation of the report of the Committee on Defence and Interior on the Public Holiday (Ammendment) Bill.

After the walkout, the Majority side stayed through to take the bill through a second reading. It will now go through the consideration stage before it is read a third time and passed.

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The purpose of the Public Holiday (Ammendment) Bill is to amend the Public Holidays Act, 2001 (Act 601) to provide for January 7, August 4 and September 21 as additional statutory holidays and for the celebration of May 25 and July 1 as commemorative days.

Minority's concerns

In his submission before the walkout, Mr Iddrisu said "we (The Minority) will not be part of any move to rewrite the country's history."

He said the role played by Dr Nkrumah in the attainment of Ghana's independence could not be disputed, although he admitted that other Ghanaians played their part in the independence struggle.

Mr Iddrisu, who is the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament (MP) for Tamale South, said every country had an icon and indicated that Dr Nkrumah was Ghana's icon and must be recognised as such.

He said even the BBC had recognised Dr Nkrumah as the African of the Millennium, while his statue had been mounted at the African Union (AU) Headquarters in Ethiopia.

Therefore, he said, any attempt to change the founder's status of Dr Nkrumah to have a founders' day celebration was an attempt to "deny him the due reverence."

Mr Iddrisu said anytime there was a change in leadership in the country, that historical anomaly would be corrected and indicated that the frequent changes would not do any good to the country's image.

He also faulted the government's decision to celebrate January 7 as a holiday, and indicated that the President and MPs were sworn in on January 7.

He said some people might raise a constitutional matter as to why the President would take an oath on a holiday.

The NDC MP for Builsa North and Ranking Member on the Defence and Interior Committee, Mr James Agalga, and the NDC MP for Sagnarigu and Ranking Member on Communications Committee, Alhaji Bashir Fuseini Alhassan, argued that Dr Nkrumah's contribution to Ghana's independence and the African struggle was monumental.

Therefore, they said any attempt to change the narrative of his contribution would not succeed.

Majority's rebuttal

Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, who is the New Patriotic Party (NPP) MP for Suame, said nobody was disputing the contribution of Dr Nkrumah, but the UGCC members who invited him back to the country contributed significantly to the independence struggle.

He said the UGCC members paid allowances to Dr Nkrumah and also bought a vehicle for him and fuelled it for his rounds.

Therefore, Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said to make him appear as the only player who achieved success without recognising the contribution of others was unacceptable.

Wrapping up, the Minister of the Interior, Mr Ambrose Dery, who moved the motion for a second reading, rejected the claim that the government was seeking to rewrite Ghana's history.

"We do not seek to rewrite the history but to put it in the right perspective", he said.

Mr Dery, who is the NPP MP for Nandom, said even the Minority recognised that Dr Nkrumah did not play the role of independence struggle alone.
Presenting the report, the Chairman of the Defence and Interior Committee, Mr Seth Kwame Acheampong, said whereas the

Majority members on the committee endorsed in totality the policies and principles underlying the bill, the Minority side stated their position of division regarding the bill on the basis of ideology in accordance with Order 211 of the Standing Orders.

"The committee having examined and satisfied itself with the provisions of the bill recommends its passage into law by majority decision," he said.

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