The Parliament House
July 5, 2019
*OPEN LETTER TO CONSIDER THAT CHAMBER IN THE SHORTEST POSSIBLE TIME*
As for the poor, you will always have them with you. And there is no way you can tackle and solve all of their problems. But, you will not always have a new Parliament
—–Credit: The Holy Bible
The Sovereignty of Ghana resides in the people of Ghana in whose name and for whose welfare the powers of government are to be exercised in the maner and within the limits laid down in this constitution.
—— Article 1(1): Ghana’s Constitution, 1992
In the 1940s, during the heated period of self-government–there were somewhat two dissenting views: Self-government Now (by Veranda Boys CYO) as against Self-government in the Shortest possible time (by intelligentsia UGCC). Mr. Speaker, Kindly permit me to liken these two views to what we are hearing currently; Drop that Chamber vs Consider that Chamber in the shortest possible time.
Mr. Speaker, the whole Nation, for the first time in over 2years, has been struck with a self-seeking unwarranted bad timing disappointing news from your House (Parliament). That, Parliament is soon to consider a 450-seater chamber building project.
The last time we heard such disappointing news (and it even went viral) was in October & November, 2012, when then Vice President John Mahama after the death of President Mills, authorized a salary increment for MPs (Legislature) and the MPs also agreed to a pay rise in the salaries for the Executive. Interestingly, these acts took place behind closed doors.
An approach far shocking, and hitherto, receives the highest condemnation both at home and, Abroad. One of the saddest thing to have happened under our democracy.
Mr. Speaker, the fact (not impression) has long being established that, Parliamentarians are apt, subtle and conclusive on matters that promote their interest. No wonder a bill can sometimes take nearly a decade before its passage. This seeming inward looking approach of lawmakers has its future consequences.
Mr. Speaker, there is a section of Ghanaians who on one hand do not see the relevance of Parliamentarians, and who on the other see Parliamentarians as selfish and greedy.
An opinion poll involving 3,600 participants and undertaken on facebook by Manasseh Azure Awuni in July 2018 on the usefulness of Parliament or otherwise shows startling perception. See question below:
“Is parliament useful in its contribution to our democracy and development as a nation or it is a useless institution which has failed in its role…?”
Parliament is useful: 22%
Parliament is not useful: 78%
NB: Some harsh words have been taken out but friendly readability but the facts remain intact.
The opinion polls above clearly indicate the views and perception of the ordinary Ghanaians. A perception very dangerous, suicidal and unhealthy for our young democracy. This perception is a fertile ground for chaos. And the better we change the impression, the better it will be for our democracy.
Mr. Speaker, I have heard people argue without facts why they think the new Parliament is out of place and irrelevant. And I have equally heard a section of Ghanaians argue without facts why they also think that the new Parliament is needed.
Interestingly, I have heard and seen some shameless hypocritical undeserving members of Parliament of the opposition minority National Democratic Congress carry themselves in a manner that does not only speaks ill of the members of incumbent majority New Patriotic Party but the Parliament house in its full elements, as though they are hearing the new chamber initiative for the first time. This old (medieval) and archaic populist democratic strategy is only not cowardice, but indicts and betrays the favour and honour the August house had enjoyed within all these years.
Mr. Speaker, we are told, that, the edifice is to start before the year 2019 ends. And it’s estimated to cost $150-200million. A portion of the documents indicates that, the new Parliament comes with a restaurant, museum, chapel, mosque, a 400-seater public gallery inter alia. Some Parliamentarians argue that, the building which was under the mandate of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was meant for a different purpose. And not to house Parliamentarians. On the issue of space, Mr. Speaker, is Ithe 300-seater capacity job 600 office complex which already has a church, mosque, hospital, restaurant and the rest, together with the 275 seater chamber not spacious enough to be used for our duties for now?
Mr. Speaker, I comfortably comprehend the plight of my Parliamentarians. And I have had time to access the relevance of the new chamber. Below are some of the arguments establishing the validity/relevance of the new chamber:
1. In 2017, a heavy storm ripped of the roof of the parliament house.
2. New chamber will enable Speaker see members clearly (no obstruction of view)
3. A new seat (Jubilee house) for Presidency should correspond same for lawmakers
4. For swearing in of the President rather than the blackstar square
5. For security and convenience reasons
6. The proposal to build a new Parliament has been with the PSB for a space of time since 2013 which did compel Ex. President Mahama promising to have it built. I am not to point accusing fingers at who first brought out the idea of a new Parliament. After all, if we are to go into the crux of the matter there is particular political party which had just scored an own goal.
7. Suame legislator, Osei-Kyei Mensah Bonsu justifies new Parliament
8. Osei-Kyei Mensah Bonsu justifies cost of new chamber
9. Majority leader justifies cost of new chamber
Mr. Speaker, the reasons given above for a new Parliament are all justifiable. I heard some of your households quizz Ghanaians that, did we not build Stadia even in the midst of our challenges as a Nation? According to them it is virtually impossible to tackle all our problems before considering the new chamber. Others are of the view that, the poor will always be with us.
Mr. Speaker, these assertions are also true. But, what, we as Ghanaians, the people in whom the sovereignty of Ghana resides are saying and asking are;
1. Inspite of the numerous challenges we face as a nation, what direct economic impact has the new chamber towards reducing our basic challenges?
2. In comparing our 275-seater parliament to other parliaments–we can simply retool and redesign the chamber to accommodate more members.
3. We cannot solve all our problems before building the new chamber but at least let’s prioritize our needs and wants.
4. On the average $200million can build 3 stadium and a improve upon much immotorable and impassable cocoa roads.
5. Is a new chamber really needed when parliamentarians do not go to Parliament except on special days? As shown below;
a. Speaker Chides MPs for Poor Attendance
b. Only 15 MPs showed up in Parliament
6. Some people will have their names written on the edifice whereas others want to be remembered for building a new Parliament house. A legacy they are pushing for.
7. Others are of the view that we rather channel the cost involved into more advanced, life threatening and pressing issues that we can do without. These include; provision of hospital beds, toilet facilities, ambulances, hospital incubators, and boreholes (water).
8. New Parliament building not a priority-ACEPA
9. OccupyGhana and CDD kick against new Parliament
10. Charismatic Churches kick against new Parliament
11. NPP MP Patrick Boamah kicks against new Parliament
12. A section of Ghanaians kick against new Parliament
Mr. Speaker, we are made to understand that, the new chamber is an initiative of the Parliamentary Service Board. And the constitution clearly, in Article 124 (1)(2)(3)(4) spells out the formation and duties of the board. This is a 6-man board that governs parliamentary service.
1. Speaker of Parliament- Chairman
2. 4- other members
3. The Clerk to Parliament
The head of Parliamentary service shall be the Clerk to Parliament who is on the Parliamentary Service Board which governs Parliamentary Service. But, the appointment of the Clerk and his/her staff shall be made by the board in consultation with the Public Services Commission. Sir, the aforestated clause indicates and affirms that whatever that goes round in the constitution comes around the People (public). And according to the people this initiative is palpable wrong and out of place. Not now not tomorrow.
Mr. Speaker, ordinarily, Parliament meets three times a year in (January to March), (May to July) and (October to December). So, is it on purpose that Parliament wants to quickly push in this proposal of a new building before going on recess from August to September?
Mr. Speaker, the people (Ghanaians) in whom sovereignty resides have spoken. Some out of emotions and some out of facts. Others have also threatened to stage a demonstration to drum home their dissenting views. To me, I think, this demonstration is neither here nor there.
However, history has taught us a whole lot about the power of the people and what they are capable of doing. Must we invite the anger of the people upon ourselves at this crucial moment when the President is doing everything possible to make Ghana a place worthy to be called home?
We may proceed with the chamber but let us consider Article 1(1) and clause (2). And consider also the unseen chaos we are likely to invite upon ourselves should we pay deaf ears to the people and nicodemously proceed with the new chamber. This we can easily avoid if what happened in 2012 under Ex. President John Mahama does not repeat itself.
In conclusion, Prof, I must once again admit, that, the poor will always be with us (Mark 26:11) and there is no way we can solve all our problems before building a new Parliament. The idea to build a new chamber for Parliamentarians to help provide the needed comfort and security in order to expedite parliamentary proceedings to achieve social, economic and geo-political prudence for and to enrichen our democracy is relevant, excellent and spot on.
But, is that the most pressing necessity we need for now that we can do without? Certainly not. Rather, let us manage what we have. And in managing what we have, let us drop the chamber for now and have it reconsidered in the shortest possible time.
Now, let us retool and redesign the current chamber. Until then, Mr. Speaker, once I reiterate my favourite quote; ‘let the kite perch and let the eagle perch too. If on says no to the other, let its wings break.- Chinua Achebe
Welbeck Ato Sefah
Dome Kwabenya Constituency, NPP