The Member of Parliament for Assin Central and Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Defense and Interior, Kennedy Ohene Agyapong, has been directed by the Speaker of Parliament, Rt. Hon. Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, to appear before the Privileges Committee.
He is to face the Joseph Osei Owusu-led committee to respond to his alleged verbal attack on Joy FM journalist, Erastus Asare-Donkor, which in the view of the MP for Tamale North, Alhassan Suhuyini, is an affront to the dignity of Parliament.
Suhuyini, at a sitting on Wednesday, July 14, 2021, prayed to the Speaker to exercise his powers under Order 27 of the Standing Orders of Parliament and drag the Assin Central lawmaker to the privileges committee over his utterances against the Joy FM journalist.
Order 27 of the Standing Orders of Parliament states that “Notwithstanding anything contained in these Orders, Mr. Speaker may refer any questions of privileges to the Committee of Privileges for examination, investigation and report.
The Tamale North legislator referring to Order 30(2) of the Standing Orders, had contended that the conduct of Hon. Agyapong following Erastus Asare-Donkor’s appearance at the Committee probing the disturbances that occurred at Ejura was uncalled for, an act he said affronts the dignity of the House.
Order 30(2) of the Standing Orders of Parliament states that “Any act or omission which affronts the dignity of Parliament or which tends either directly, or indirectly to bring the name of Parliament into disrepute”.
“Mr. Speaker, my basis is on the conduct of the said member on his own television network which has caused another network of Joy FM to refer him to the CID for investigations.
Mr. Speaker, the letter from Multimedia dated July 13, 2021, to the CID quotes what he said on his show.
For the Chairman of the Committee on Defense and the Interior to go public and urge that the President and the Commander-In-Chie of the Ghana Armed Forces beats people, physically assault people and I quote that “If I were the President of Ghana, I would have ensured that the said journalist, Erastus Asare-Donkor is beaten mercilessly” Mr. Speaker, he says that in fact, Erastus Asare-Donkor should be beaten. In fact this comes in the wake of another such utterances he made in relation to Ahmed Suale which led, in the view of some people, to the identity of Ahmed Suale being compromised and eventually murdered”, he noted.
He added “Mr. Speaker, I think that as a former journalists, I feel obliged to draw the House’s attention to this Hon colleague of this House which in my view brings this House into disrepute. So, Mr. Speaker, I urge you to exercise your powers under Order 27 and refer this conduct of the Hon. Member which is becoming unacceptable to the Privileges Committee to ascertain the veracity of the comments that were made and recommend sanctions if possible that will act as deterrent for future outings of the Hon. Member and other members who may be tempted to act like him”.
The Speaker, having listened to his plea, directed that Hon. Kennedy Agyapong appear before the Privileges Committee and reminded Members that their privileges and immunities of free speech apply in the full force at plenary sessions and in committee sessions not when Members are outside debating issue on radio and on Television.
“You don’t have that right, that privilege, that immunity to just say anything because you are a Member of Parliament. Not at all. You are not above the law. It is for good reason because you represent a large number of people that you should be given the full immunity to be able to say what the people want you to say. That is why you say it here and you are covered. That immunity does not extend to you in the market square or just anywhere to just say anything because you are a Member of Parliament. It doesn’t apply at all. So, please the committee should go into the matter, submit their report and I want to urge the House to do this as a House because it is something that affects the House including all members and I as Speaker, a representative of the House, when it deals with the image, the majesty, the reputation of the House, I have an interest. So, please I am happy that the Committee is chaired by no less a person than the First Deputy Speaker and I have confidence in him and I know he will do the right thing”, he directed.
The Speaker’s directive brings to two Hon. Agyapong’s appearance at the Committee on Privileges, the first being “Parliament is cheap” comments.
The Speaker’s ruling however, attracted a sharp comment from the deputy Majority Leader, Hon. Alexander Afenyo-Markin.
He drew the Speaker’s attention to the practice and rules of the House, stating in that in matters of such nature, a prima facie case ought to have been established with the applicant mounting a contempt case against Member, procuring and making available the substance of what he is alleging.
“Mr. Speaker, the Member is mounting his contempt application which application you have and rightly ruled only referred to a supposedly letter from of Joy FM to the CID or whatever. Mr. Speaker, I am not questioning but all I am saying is that if care is not taking, we may end up sacrificing the rule of procedure which will amount to we creating a new path which if we are supposed to go back to it, it will be a problem. Mr. Speaker, I am expressing these concerns and I am not going to attempt to ask for a recession”, he noted.