The Speaker of Parliament, Mr Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, has referred the Member of Parliament (MP) for Assin Central, Mr Kennedy Ohene Agyapong, to the Privileges Committee of Parliament, following an alleged threat he made against a journalist with the Multimedia Group, Mr Erastus Asare Donkor.
The Speaker directed the committee, chaired by the First Deputy Speaker, Mr Joseph Osei-Owusu, to investigate and report the conduct of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) MP, who is also the Chairman of the Defence and Interior Committee, and report to the House which would take the final decision on whether the MP’s conduct was contentious and amounted to an abuse of the privileges of the House.
“It is not the Speaker or any other person apart from the House that will come to the conclusion whether what is alleged is just mere allegation or supported by facts and whether those facts really do constitute contempt of the House and abuse of a privilege of members,” the Speaker said.
Not above the law
Addressing Parliament yesterday, Mr Bagbin said: “It is important for me to emphasise here that the privilege and immunity of free speech applies in full force in plenary sessions and committee sessions, not when members are outside debating issues or on radio or television (TV).
“You do not have that right or privilege and immunity to just say anything because you are a Member of Parliament. Not at all. We are not above the law and it is for a good reason.”
Mr Bagbin stated that just because the MPs represented a large number of people, did not mean they should be given full immunity to be able to say what the people say they want them to say.
“That is why you say it here (in the Chamber) and you are covered. That immunity does not cover you in the market square or anywhere to just say anything because you’re an MP. I want to urge the House to do this as a House because it is something that affects all members and I as the Speaker, when it comes to the image of the House I have an interest,” he said.
The Speaker’s directive came after the National Democratic Congress (NDC) MP for Tamale North, Mr Alhassan Suhuyini, moved a motion to draw the House’s attention to the conduct of the Assin Central MP on his own television network, which had caused another network, Joy FM, to refer him to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service for investigation.
He prayed the Speaker to exercise his power under Order 27 which stated, inter alia, that notwithstanding anything contained in that Order, Mr Speaker may refer any questions of privilege to the Committee on Privileges for examination, investigation and to ascertain the comments that were made and recommend sanctions that would act as a deterrent for the future of the MP in question and other members who might act like him.
Mr Suhuyini, therefore, urged the Speaker to exercise his powers under Order 27 and refer Mr Agyapong, whose act and conduct continued to affront the dignity of Parliament, thereby bringing it into disrepute as captured under Order 30 (2).
The Tamale North MP read the letter, dated July 13, 2021, from Multimedia to the CID that quoted what Mr Agyapong, as the Chairman of the Defence and Interior Committee, allegedly said on his show, a conduct he described as unacceptable.
Adhere to rules of House
In a reaction, the Deputy Majority Leader, Mr Alexander Afenyo-Markin, argued that the rules of the House were clear that a prima facie case against the Assin Central MP needed to be established.
He said the applicant, Mr Suhuyini, who had mounted a contempt application, needed to procure and make available the “substance of what he is alleging.”
According to him, it was inadequate for Mr Suhuyini to only refer to the supposed letter from Joy FM to the CID and called on the Speaker to ensure that the rules of the House were followed in order not to “sacrifice the procedures of the House.”