The Speaker of Parliament is to rule on a motion requesting him to refer the National Communications Officer of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Mr Sammy Gyamfi, to the Privileges Committee over comments he allegedly made against the leadership of Parliament.
The Second Deputy Speaker, Mr Andrew Asiamah Amoako, who was presiding over proceedings on Thursday, deferred to rule on the matter.
The Second Deputy Majority Whip, Mr Habib Iddrisu, had moved the motion to draw the attention of the House to comments purportedly made by Sammy Gyamfi on his Facebook page five months ago.
He read an excerpt of the comment which said “Comrades the betrayal we have suffered in the hands of the Speaker, Mr. Alban S.K. Bagbin, the leadership of parliamentary group particularly honourable Haruna Iddrisu, Muntaka Mohammed and some of our MPs is what strengthens me to work for the great NDC to regain power.
“They blatantly defied the leadership of the party and betrayed for their collective good and their selfish interest and we must not let them succeed in this particular order,” he quoted Mr Gyamfi as saying.
Attack on leadership
The Tolon MP said such a comment was an attack on the Speakership and the leadership of the House.
Standing on Order 27, he moved that Mr Gyamfi should be referred to the Committee of Privileges in line with the precedent which was set by Parliament before when the New Patriotic Party (NPP) MP for Assin Central, Mr Kennedy Agyapong, was referred to the committee.
He said Order 27 which stated, inter alia, that notwithstanding anything contained in that Order, Mr Speaker may refer any questions of privilege to the Committee on Privileges for examination, investigation report.
He added that the comment was in contempt of Parliament under Order 30 (h) which spelt out acts that constituted a breach of privilege or contempt of Parliament, namely “publication of false, perverted, misleading, distorted, fabricated or scandalous reports, books or libels reflecting on the proceedings in Parliament.”
“Mr Speaker, I so move that by this was an attack on Mr Speaker and the leadership and this matter should be referred to the Committee of Privileges,” he moved.
Failure to notify Speaker on motion
Countering the motion, the First Deputy Minority Whip, Mr Ibrahim Ahmed, said the mover of the motion never sought the prior approval of the Speaker on the matter during their engagement with the Second Deputy Speaker in Parliament Thursday morning.
He quoted Order 73 (1) which states that “A member may, at the time appointed for complaint of contempt of Parliament under the provisions of Order 53 (Order of business) bring to the House any complaint of contempt of Parliament, provided he has previously notified Mr Speaker.
Seeking the guidance of the Speaker on whether the Mr Iddrisu had already sought his leave or notified him on the matter, Mr Ahmed argued that it would be wrong for the Speaker to entertain the motion.
Contempt of Parliament
Lending support to the mover of the motion, the Deputy Majority Leader, Mr Alexander Afenyo-Markin, rose to draw the Speaker’s attention to a similar motion that was moved Thursday under Order 91 (b) by the NDC MP for Tamale North, Mr Alhassan Suhuyini.
He said the Speaker, Mr Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin took judicial notice of the matter which was moved without any seconding contrary to provisions in the Standing Order that required a motion on contempt of Parliament to be seconded.
He pointed out that the Speaker’s ruling on the motion moved for the Assin Central MP to be referred to the Committee of Privileges centred on the substance.
In line with that, he justified that Mr Sammy Gyamfi had used certain words on the Speaker and members of the House that amounted to contempt and undermined “our work and authority.”
Don’t be a judge
Also quoting Order 30 (h), Mr Afenyo-Markin said the issues that fell under such an Order bordered either on privilege or contempt, and therefore argued that the contention by the Second Deputy Majority Whip was that the “behaviour, utterances and writings” of Mr Gyamfi was in contempt of Parliament as it affronted proceedings in the House.
“What proceedings was Mr Sammy Gyamfi referring to? The Appointments Committee’s report which report approved of certain members and he had the occasion to question Mr Speaker.
“So, all that our colleague is saying is that Mr Speaker do not be a judge in this matter. Simply refer it to the appropriate committee to look at the merit or otherwise as it was done in the case of Mr Kennedy Agyapong,” he said.
He added that the matter should be referred to the Privileges Committee for Mr. Sammy Gyamfi to have the privilege to be heard, have a counsel of his own and for the mover of the motion to also present the said Facebook post by Sammy Gyamfi.