Mike Oquaye, Speaker of Parliament
The Minority National Democratic Congress (NDC) demonstrated its intent to be adamantly partisan and vociferous in parliament to thwart the efforts of the Nana Akufo-Addo-led government to fulfill its promises to the electorate during the official opening of the Seventh Parliament early Saturday.
The minority leader, Haruna Iddrisu, doubted the physical ability of the new speaker, Prof Mike Oquaye, to run the affairs of the House successfully when he was nominated by the Majority.
The minority members also started pestering him and calling him names when he was delivering his inaugural speech, which is a clear indication that the new president, Nana Akufo-Addo, could be given a baptism of fire by the minority when he delivers his first “State of the Nation Address” next month.
The newly elected speaker, Prof Oquaye however reminded all the MPs that Ghanaians were looking up to them as their representatives as well as the government for the solutions of the socio-economic problems that confront them on daily basis.
“Our people expect us to help fix the economy, provide jobs for the unemployed, improve access and quality of education, healthcare and generally give them hope,” he said.
He pointed out that parliament is for the people and they want us to be honest, accountable and responsive to their needs.”
He said the MPs must always remember that the mandate given to them and the government is to help build a vibrant society anchored on the principles of fairness and equality of opportunities.
“The promotion of good governance requires a parliament that can effectively perform the three cardinal functions of representation, oversight regarding the executive and law making. Our ability to effectively control public expenditure will be good service to our people,” he indicated.
He said as a speaker, he would encourage healthy debates and asked the minority to engage in open, frank, fair and honest debates so as to make a case for themselves and also offer constructive alternatives when issues of national importance come up.
He however warned the majority which has huge numerical advantage to always be guided by high ethical consideration so that it does not relapse into ultra majoritarianism which is a symptom of the tyranny of the majority.
Speaker Mike Oquaye stressed that during his tenure, he would encourage Private Members Bills, stressing that it is unfortunate that Members of Parliament cannot initiate legislation independent of Article 108 of the Constitution which says once the bill has financial implications, it can only be introduced by the Executive and that the narrow view has been taken that every bill has financial implications.
“If a Private Members Bill seeks to make a law that will tighten the strangle-hold on corruption can that be a burden on the public purse?” he quizzed.
“I do not see how laws which help protect our environment, improve upon our tax collection be inimical to the public purse,” he noted, stressing that the introduction of Private Members Bills will release the best of the innermost capacities and capabilities of Hon Members, broaden their horizon while members will gain the respect of the populace.
He also challenged the Seventh Parliament to improve upon the laws on elections like what has been done in Kenya where the ‘The Electoral Offences Act’ has been enacted to help sanitise the system after the recent post-election civil war in that country
“Why should our law allow any two adults who are registered to vote, to stand in for a person whose age or nationality is in doubt? We can define only a small category of persons who could give guarantee and they should swear to an affidavit verifying the truth and be jailed for five years if caught in falsehood. What should happen to those who steal ballot boxes, those found with ballot papers and who commit other electoral offences,” he said, stressing that the law must prescribe a jail term of say five years for all those commit these electoral offences.
He said the new MPs must quickly learn from the experienced ones while the experienced ones must also mentor the new ones since all of them have to be treated equally when it comes to debate time.
“I need to remind the new MPs that the highly procedural nature of parliament calls for an equally high level of commitment to the rules and procedures of the institution,” he said, and called on the new MPs to prepare and present statements on any issue of national interest.
“Your brilliant visibility in parliament will affect your re-election,” he said, stressing that he would meet with the leadership of parliament to seek support of leading think tanks in Ghana to help the new MPs deliver.
“I will ask for the cooperation of all and sundry to make our stewardship a big success.”
He indicated his preparedness to also properly resource all committees of parliament since a committee of parliament is the workshop of parliament.
“When committees are weak, parliament is seriously dented, Bi-partisanship is the hallmark. Not only should committees be sharp in their routine tasks, but also they should exercise singular initiative in enquiring into all matters of public interest from Archaeology to Zoology. This inquisitorial power of parliament will be applied to its logical conclusion under my stewardship,” he noted.
By Thomas Fosu Jnr