Friday, December 28, 2012

Our MPs are part of our national crisis…


Friday, December 28, 2012
Who would have thought that MPs vested with the power to make laws will not know that there is a Constitution whose provisions must not conflict with the laws that they pass?
Jones Kugblenu, the Public Affairs Director of Parliament, has revealed that there is a “legal discrepancy” which has created a conflict between the Transition Act and the 1992 Constitution concerning the inauguration of the new Legislature.
The result? Unless that conflict is resolved to bring that “legal discrepancy” in the new Transition Act in line with the Constitutional provision, the new Parliament cannot be inaugurated. In short, the provision in the new Transition Act has to be amended to resolve that conflict.

And it is now that the conflict has been detected and brought to the attention of the Attorney General for a remedy to be fashioned out before January 3.
We note that Parliament will reconvene on that date. Unless it tackles that problem, we can only imagine the negative consequences. This situation is very volatile, especially when viewed within the context of the ongoing flexing of muscles by the leaders of the NPP as they pursue their grievances against the Electoral Commission over the 2012 elections.
Already the NPP Minority Parliament has given us a sneak peek into what the party can do to disrupt normal government business in protest against what it alleges is the rigging of the Presidential elections to favour the incumbent John Mahama.
As the case goes to court, there is the likelihood that the NPP will mobilize forces to distance itself from anything that will give legitimacy to the Mahama administration. Obviously, boycotting the inauguration of the President on January 7, 2013, is a likelihood. Apparently, the NPP Minority in Parliament has already set the tone by boycotting the inauguration in Parliament last Friday of the three-member Advisory Council of the Presidential Transition Team, hiding behind the intent not to support illegality.
So, now that the fertile ground is being nursed in the corridors of Parliament itself to forestall the inauguration of the 6th Parliament of the 4th Republic, we can only imagine the implications. I have no doubt that unless this conflict is resolved expeditiously, it will give the NPP the launching pad that it needs to intensify its manouevres against the status quo.
As Kugblenu explained, it is a challenge which Parliament is trying to overcome before the inauguration is due:
“The Transition Act indicates that the new parliament should be inaugurated 2 days before the 7th of January. The 1992 Constitution also states that the first meeting of the new parliament should see the election of deputy Speakers and that should take place after dissolution,” he stated.
He said the lawyers are examining the conflict to ensure that there are no constitutional bottlenecks before the inauguration can go ahead, adding “we’ve asked the Attorney General to look at it and advise the clerk who will chair the first meeting accordingly.”
“As soon as we able to thrash these things out, maybe the law could be amended between now and the 3rd of January 2013.” The law amended at such short notice?
His statement that Parliament does not want to do engage in any illegal procedures that contradict the Constitution of Ghana is useless. Was it not this same Parliament that failed to reconcile the particular “illegal” aspect of the Transition Act with the 1992 Constitution either because of gross negligence or calculated mischief?
From how they handle law-making assignments, they easily arouse suspicion and detract from their calling because the public would certainly not respect them for the fits-and-starts that eventually create problems of the sort that Kugblenu is complaining about.
Didn’t the lawmakers know that the Constitutional provision had to be considered before passing that aspect of the new Transition Act? At the time that efforts were being made to pass the Transition Act, didn’t any MP (or the Parliamentary Public Affairs Directorate itself) know of the Constitutional provision to draw attention to and prevent this conflict?
The hiccups raised by the EC’s creation of 45 new constituencies and the conflicts resulting from all those Constitutional Instruments that passed through Parliament don’t speak well of the acumen with which our MPs tackle serious national assignments—tasks that fall within their own purview and which one would expect them to be well-cut-out to perform without any hitch.
But from what transpired, we were given to know their inadequacies. We were given to see how incompetent they were as they made false and faulty starts only to get stuck midway. Do our MPs not know what law-making entails and, therefore, discharge their duties without leaving ugly traces behind?
Certainly, this display of negligence is criminal and must be condemned to the hilt. Those responsible for this conflict don’t deserve our substance to be Parliamentarians. They have confirmed fears that they lack the skills to function as law makers. Mediocrity is their lot. Shame unto them!
It is within this context that we continue to be apprehensive of the calibre of people we elect as our law makers. If the makers of the law are not as meticulous as expected and will create serious conflicts of this sort, how certain can we be that they will help us solve our national problems.
We have unfortunately blessed the wrong people to be at the helm of affairs, I daresay. There are good ones though; but the lackadaisical performance of many of them overshadows them and neutralizes their worth.
As we wait for this impasse to be resolved, we are apprehensive that our Parliament continues to be noted for incompetence. Even as a new batch of MPs will be added, we are all the more worried at what lies ahead to turn the august house into an avenue for unrelenting political farce.
Already, something quizzical has begun emerging. Nii Lante Vanderpuiye, NDC MP-elect for Odododiodio, has said “with the kind of people who would be in the next parliament, the house would be full of excitement and expectation” (Myjoyonline, Dec. 27, 2012).
Will somebody tell this loudmouth that business in Parliament is expected to be SERIOUS and go beyond the unconscionable display of emotions that won’t solve anybody’s problems—what he uncritically labelled as “excitement and expectation”?
Even before he and others considered as the hatchet men of the government (the youthful government functionaries like Okudjeto Ablakwa, Richard Quashigah, Nii Afotey-Agbo, and Fiifi Kwetey) were elected, many tongues had wagged that they would be in Parliament to checkmate the aggressiveness of those NPP MPs known for head-butting in Parliament over issues not favourable to their party’s cause.
Many people had tipped them to pose serious challenges to those NPP MPs with the view to countermanding anything that they might do to overturn the table against the government. With their election, then, apprehensions abound; and for him to come out so early to make such an utterance gives cause for concern that Parliamentary sessions risk turning ugly in the pursuit of stated political goals and not the efforts to provide input for solving national problems.
Even as we wait for them to be inaugurated into office, we think that the earlier we express concern about what we suspect will be the norm, the better chances are that they will be wary of how they do things so as not to incur our anger.
Unlike what legislators do in other systems to enhance national development, what our Parliamentarians do in Ghana leaves room for much to be desired.
We have already found them to be guilty of using their status to serve their own interests instead of performing competently to help us solve problems. Many of them have been more invested in pursuing their private business interests at the expense of Parliamentary work even though they are quick to ask for more from the poor tax payers to sustain their profligate lifestyles.
As the 5th Parliament completes its term—with many of the “old” MPs losing their seat in the just-ended elections—there is no indication that the 50,000 Dollar car loans that the late Mills gave each of them has been repaid in full or that there is a programme in place to retrieve whatever is left from them.
In addition, those of them who misconducted themselves by committing felonies are still off the hook while ordinary hungry Ghanaians who couldn’t control the urge to steal bunches of plantains to stem hunger are languishing in jail. Or why President Mahama would single out the former Bawku Central MP, Dramani Sakande, for his Presidential mercy while many others in worse circumstances who are behind bars for negligible offences beyond their control are left to their fate.
There is too much injustice in our system that we expect our law makers to be cognizant of and take prompt action to enact the relevant laws to tackle. But their performance over the years has left a sour taste in our mouths because they have been grossly unable to fulfill our expectations.
Sometimes, I wonder if the voters aren’t to blame for putting in such a House those who have little or not competence about law-making. Or even no idea about how laws are formulated, debated, and enacted for enforcement.
It seems Parliament has become a mere magnet to attract those looking for the means to make a living from their calling, not necessarily using that calling to improve living conditions in the country. There is evidence of lethargy on the part of our MPs, much of which is reflected in the rejection by many by their constituents.
We expect that those elected into Parliament should be people who have the aptitude to enact laws, not hangers-on who behave as if their being in Parliament is a means to self-acquisitiveness and the signing of useless political slogans.
If that is the end in itself, Parliamentary business won’t be relevant any more. It is not, and must not be reduced to that depth of hopelessness.
As we look for ways to refine our democracy, we expect our public office holders who work with the Constitution to refine their conduct too. We expect them to eschew uncouth behaviour and act to improve living standards.
We don’t expect street hooliganism to be elevated to a whole new level where any “koborlor” at all will now be clothed in three-piece suits to enter Parliament and pollute the environment with politically motivated uncouth behaviour. Parliament should be reserved for only those who know what to do to help us move our country forward. We will continue to monitor the situation and make our voices heard as soon as necessary.
I shall return…
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