The Standing Committee of the Council of State has held talks with the leadership of the Majority Caucus in Parliament to discuss ways the two sides of Parliament can work together to foster a firm harmonious working relationship and consensus-building in the House.
Yesterday’s meeting allowed the council to engage in frank and candid deliberations with the Majority group on ways to “quell the high temperature” that has come to characterise deliberations in Parliament.
Much like the earlier meeting between the council and the Minority Caucus last week, yesterday’s talks paved the way for the Majority Members of Parliament (MPs) to share, from their viewpoint, the challenges militating against smooth deliberations in Parliament.
Led by the Chairman of the Council State, Nana Otuo Siriboe II, the meeting was a follow-up to an earlier one the council had with the leadership of the Minority group in Parliament, led by the Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, last Wednesday.
It is one of a series of meetings scheduled to be hosted by the council to encourage good governance and foster peace among the country's political leadership.
The council intends to have separate meetings with the Speaker of Parliament, Mr Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, and his two deputy speakers today.
Members of the Council of State at the meeting were Mrs Justice Georgina T. Wood, Mr Sam Okudzeto, Mr E. T. Mensah, Alhaji Aminu Amadu and Prof. Ato Essuman.
Representing the Majority were the Majority Leader in Parliament, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu; the Deputy Majority Leader, Mr Alexander Afenyo-Markin; the Majority Chief Whip, Mr Frank Annoh-Dompreh; the First Deputy Majority Whip, Ms Lydia Seyram Alhassan, and the Second Deputy Majority Whip, Mr Habib Iddrisu.
Addressing the press ahead of the closed-door meeting, Nana Siriboe said since the inauguration of the Eighth Parliament, Ghanaians had been fed with unpalatable news from the House.
He said there had been a lot of acrimony, confusion and sometimes physical fights or fisticuffs.
“These do not reflect well on the nature of Ghana’s Parliament. This is the Eighth Parliament since the Fourth Republic and all the seven Parliaments have performed with a lot of credit and it is not proper that we should see this enviable record which we have had go down the drain,” he said.
Describing Parliament as an awesome institution, he said recent developments in the House were, unfortunately, making Parliament become “awful”.
“And we have to arrest that situation, and to be able to do that, we must be able to interact with you the actors,” he said.
The chairman said after the council’s meeting with the leadership of the Majority group, it intended to have separate meetings with the Speaker, Mr Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, and his two deputy speakers today.
“When we have had all the information and data, we will then meet with all of you and see the way forward to effectively bring you together.
This is because the country stands to lose if parliamentary work and activities are impaired or distracted,” Nana Otuo Siriboe said.
Recalling how the council offered the Minority group the opportunity to speak on parliamentary issues that bothered it, he said he also expected the Majority group to give the council “the best of your candid opinions and report of what has happened and end up with recommendations on how you think bridges can be built.”
We can overcome differences
Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, on behalf of the Majority leadership, expressed profound appreciation to the chairman and the members of the council for the initiative they had taken.
He noted that the escalation of tension in Parliament was bringing the hard-won image of Ghana into disrepute.
Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said those events were also lowering the esteem of Ghana’s Parliament, which, until recently, was a shining star in the firmament of democratic governance in Africa.
“I think that by our own commissions and omission, we are bringing down the image when we thought that, given the standing of the current Speaker, my own long stay in Parliament and the experience the two have gathered between us, we were going to lift the performance of Ghana’s Parliament.
“Unfortunately, the converse has been the case and there are many actors who have also contributed to this rather tragic situation,” he said.
Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu pointed out that both the leadership and the members of the two caucuses had come to the realisation that they could overcome this turbulence if we were sincere with ourselves.
The Majority Leader, who is also the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, was optimistic that efforts would be made not to reduce what had been happening in Parliament to what he described as “a mere talk shop.”
The Majority Leader said the earlier the members came to that recognition and had a reconstruction of what the House had been doing, the better it would be for the actors in Parliament.
He recalled that the last tension episode in the House occurred at a time when MPs from Sierra Leone and Rwanda had visited Ghana’s Parliament.
He said the delegation had come to understudy Ghanaian democracy but, unfortunately, “we reduced ourselves into fisticuffs.”
“It is bent but not broken yet, and if it is not broken, we believe we can mend it,” he said.
Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu also expressed the belief that the Council of State, at the helm of affairs, “you will not only prod us into line but also, given your elevated status, tell whoever is the errant soul: please, let us put our act together because Ghana stands the risk of losing it”.