March 1, 2011

Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, Minority Leader, on Tuesday rejected the Majority’s request of an apology for not joining a procession to usher out the President after delivering the state of the nation address in Parliament on February 17.

“I owe no apology to Parliament”, he said as he rebuffed attempts by the Majority talk him into submission.

The Minority Leader after the state of the nation address recently delivered by President John Mills described the address as divisive and refused to join the recession to see off the President-a time honoured parliamentary convention.

The Minority Leader said he took that decision because the President failed to recognise the Former President John Kufuor, Chief Justice Georgina Wood and other elderly personalities of the state who had assembled in the House to listen to the yearly address.

The issue was triggered by Alhaji Mohammed-Mubarak Muntaka NDC member for Asawase, when he took his turn to debate the motion tabled on the President’s state of the nation address.

He had called on the Minority Leader to apologise to the House for not accompanying the President out of the chamber as parliamentary culture demanded.

He advised politicians to control their temper and their utterances, adding that a lot of people looked up to them. He said holding high public offices of that calibre was a privilege that should not be abused since there were others who could perform such functions with better. The Speaker Mrs Joyce Bamford- Addo said she thought the matter was put to rest after the President apologised as did the Minority Leader. She however said since the matter was lingering, she would give the opportunity to the Minority Leader to make his comments to put the matter to rest.

Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said he broke no Standing Order but only criticised the President for his omission and the insinuations he cast during his submissions.

He said the President agreed to the criticisms and apologised. “Our conduct was not meant to affront the President, we respect the President”, he said.

He said those who hailed the President as having given a very good statement were shamed when the President apologised. “Those who are hailing the President for the state of the nation address are leading him to the path of unrighteousness”, he said. The Minority Leader said when the President realised his fault and apologised he had no difficulty to also apologise which according to him,” I directed to the people of Ghana”.

Mr Rashid Pelpuo, Deputy Majority Leader, who vehemently disagreed with the Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said the conduct of the Minority Leader violated the conventions of the House and treated the President contemptuously. “He holds it a duty to apologise to enhance his own dignity”, he said.

“The matter will not be put to rest until the wrong is righted”, he said Dr Joseph Annan, Deputy Minister for Trade and Industry, said the Minority Leader’s apology was a conditional one based on the fact that the President also apologised.

“We want the Minority Leader to have some level of respect and humility, we have students among us listening, if he cannot show humility to us he must show humility to the constitution, we demand an apology”, he said adding, if not he would be dragged to the Privileges Committee. The Speaker Justice Bamford- Addo, taking the entrenched position of the two sides, adjourned the House for about 30 minutes to allow the leadership to confer on the matter.

She said her intention was to allow the House to settle the matter once and for all since President had apologised and he (Minority Leader) also apologised.

The House reconvened at about 1230 hours with the ruling of the Speaker that no member would be allowed to stray into matters of convention concerning the President’s State of the Nation Address. All members, she said, must stick to the speech delivered and nothing else. The Majority Leader, Mr Cletus Avoka, said the issue of whether President recognised some one or not during his the state of the nation address should not be discussed but the substance of the address. Protocol and procedural matters must not be discussed in the review of the President’s address, according to Mr Avoka.

Mr Ambrose Dery, Deputy Minority Leader, said the issue of whether the President recognised any dignitary or not must be an issue of no go area for all members who would thank the President for his address. The Speaker referred matter to the leadership of the house for redress.