Now I don’t have a job the harmattan is hard-biting so I’m in a vocation of Facebooking and tv watching. Yesterday, I took the time to watch Prof. Foh Amoaning on GEG.
I love him for his forthright and freedom of thought. He was at his characteristic best yesterday when he dismissed a screen touch analysis of the host which faulted the constitution and called for a proportional representation government. Events in parliament are throwing up all manner of things. I just hope we see beyond our noses. I was however shocked at the learned professor’s interpretation of Article 104 that a deputy speaker presiding can still vote. His argument was that the right to represent a constituency in decision-making in parliament cannot be extinguished under any circumstance. And I disagree.
I disagree so because every right under our democratic experiment is guaranteed and moderated by the constitution including the right to represent a constituency in parliament. The constitution which grants you the right to be in parliament says if you accept to be a deputy speaker, you lose the right to vote. You either take it or leave as the position comes as a package – privileges and restraints. If a majority leader is on a parliamentary assignment in such a capacity outside parliament, parliamentary work would not wait for him. The right of the president to any work of choice is extinguished upon the assumption of the presidency. That is the price you pay for being in an authoritative position. The Adansi seats of Obuasi and Fomena are not different from any other seat in the house so their representatives can’t decide from both ends.
We don’t send people to parliament to only vote on bills. The principal reason for a representation in parliament is to participate in the national legislative process. Voting is just one of the process. The speaker participates in that legislative process from a privileged position. He moderates the debate, can accept or reject motions and even fail to catch the eye of an equally elected member. So, to suggest that the constitutional bar to voting by the deputy speaker sitting as a speaker is unfair is to be unfair to the spirit of fair play. If the speaker votes on a motion, where then lies the titular principle of his neutrality?
What Joe Owusu did the other time not an attempt to exercise his right to vote. It was an attempt to participate in a voting in absentia. He didn’t take part in the voice vote which was the basis of the call for division. How then did he want to participate in the division? Had the second deputy speaker taken over from him after voting, the second deputy speaker would have voted in a motion he presided over. This would be unconstitutional because the spirit of article 104 is to prevent any speaker from participating in a decision of a motion he presides over. He would have exercised his original vote. The argument by Ambrose Derry that the prohibition applies only when the speaker is sitting is absurd because the decision-making process is on a motion is not divisible. This would result in the sordid attempt to swap positions to defeat the spirit of the constitution. It can also lead to the absurd situation of a deputy speaker deciding to chair or sit in a plenary as the situation suits him.
A deputy speaker does not have a casting vote. A casting vote only arises if there is a tie on a motion. The constitution has provided a resolution for a tie vote. That is, the motion is lost. So, where would a casting vote arise? This is so clear that I don’t know why the skirting.
The current parliament we have is exposing the wisdom of the framers of our constitution. They don’t want a rubber stamp parliament hence the imposition of a threshold of presence for decision making. They don’t want a speaker who is both a referee and a player. They don’t want a constituency that has both the benefits of leadership and fellowship. And all that is playing out in this parliament. The antidote to the deadlock is not legal gymnastics. It lies in ego taming and reasonable behaviour.
The majority can accuse the minority of scheming to frustrate government business into high heavens. It would not confer any legal right on the majority to have its way. For your information, frustrating government business is the principal character of multi-party democracy. It’s a zero-sum game. You can only succeed when you opponent fails. The current majority knows that very well because it was in that position just five years ago. Tell me if the unwarranted delays, the strange adjournments, the flying in of nursing mothers, the desertion of a decision on your own budget were not part of scheming to ensure that decisions go your favour. Look into the mirror and tell me with Mike Oquoye as speaker, parliament would sit to take a decision if the NPP doesn’t have the numbers. So, this victim playing is dishonesty to self.
Once again, my wish is that in all these, we see beyond our noses. Have a nice day