As the fight against illegal mining activities (galamsey) and its effects of the country intensifies, Parliament-the representation of the people must not stand aloof but seen to be playing active roles to fight the menace. This was the thoughts of Dr. Franklin Oduro, of the Center for Democratic Governance (CDD), when he reviewed the first Meeting of the first session of the Seventh Parliament of Ghana under Speaker Prof Aaron Mike Oquaye.
This was at the second edition of the Crystal Ball Series organized by the Parliamentary News Africa in collaboration the CDD and the Parliament of Ghana. It was to offer a platform for the legislature, civil society and the media to analyze each Meeting of Parliament, its impact on the people as well as to review the next Meeting, among others.
According to Dr. Oduro, the fight against galamsey is a welcoming initiative considering the impact of the activity on the environment. He said it is important that all stakeholders including the representatives of the people contribute to its success.
“Parliament must be able to hold some public discussions on this. It will make the public feel Parliament is involved and that this is not just the government’s fight. It is important for Parliament to be heard on how galamsey activities can be stopped in the identified communities and then together with the Executives we can all fight this to the end,” Dr. oduro stated.
He was of the view that some aspects of the current hybrid system of parliamentary democracy being practiced in Ghana must be reviewed with changing trends so that its full benefits can be enhanced. He believes aspects such as the provision that allows the President to pick majority of his Ministers from Parliament is not the best “especially the process of vetting of nominees by Parliament before approval. It is not the best,” he stated, adding that some of the countries we are copying in this democratic process don’t use that process anymore.
Deputy Majority Leader and the Honorable Member of Parliament (MP) for the Dome Kwabenya Constituency, Sarah Adwoa Safo, shared some of the concerns under discussions but said Parliament is not acting in isolation but on its constitutional mandate. She said the national constitution is clear on how the legislature should perform and such is being followed. She agrees however, that, there are issues with some aspects of the Standing Orders of the House which needs correction.
“There are a lot of issues that we are correcting, the Majority Leader Hon Kyei-Mensa-Bonsu and Hon Bagbin have done extensive work on our Standing Orders and we are continuing to work on it. You must know that everything we do in Parliament is guided by the Standing Orders,” she stated. She said a Committee is reviewing the Standing Orders.
The deputy leader said she is aware that the sittings of some of the Committees are going to be made public as part of the process of running an open Parliament. She said also that the media is going to have more access to information than before.
On the suggestion for Parliament to join the fight against galamsey activities in the country, Adwoa Safo indicated that at the latter end of the last Meeting, Speaker Oquaye received a petition from Citi FM to that effect and that such has been referred to the joint Parliamentary Committee on Environment, Lands and Natural Resources. She expects that the Committee’s report would be presented to the House soon with recommendations for action.
She is certain that Parliament will act on whatever recommendations that would be contained in the Committee report.
Dr Francis Dakora, the MP for Jirapa who represented the Minority Leader agrees that a review of the standing orders of the House is long overdue. He pledged his side’s commitment to ensuring that all relevant Bills introduced by the Executives are passed accordingly.
“The President has told us that he is in a hurry and we shall definitely help him to succeed,” he stated.
The acting Director of Public Affairs, Kate Addo, told the gathering that a lot of programmes have been designed and would soon be implemented to enable Parliament open up more to the public. These according to her include Town Hall meetings to be held in the regions. She said the leadership of the House is expected to use such platforms to interact with the people.
She also hinted that her department will soon come out loud on Social Media as they are in the process of opening a Facebook and Youtube Accounts and set up a Twitter Handle for public interactions, among others.
Editor-in-Chief of the Parliamentary News Africa, Samuel Obeng said between January 7, and April 7, 2017, Parliament sat for approximately 51 sitting days with an average daily sitting of 4 hours. Accumulatetively, 81% of MPs absented themselves from sittings mostly without permission. There were Six questions filed on the floor and 61 Statements made.
He said the speaker ruled on some of the Statements by giving specific directives, however not much was heard of such the implementation of the directives as it was not clear that MPs who made the statements actually followed up. Ten Bills were taken through the various stages and passed accordingly.
The Managing Editor of Parliamentary News Africa, Gilbert Boyefio, said the first edition of the Cristal Ball Series was held in 2015 and that about four more are expected to be held before the end of this year.
“The focus is to share the agenda of Parliament with the general public and review each Meeting to ensure that Parliament is working in the interest of the voting public. It is also to clear the perception that Parliament is not opened to the public,” he stated.
He said following the success of previous events they would soon take the Crystal Ball Series to other African countries.
Source: Jeorge Wilson Kingson