On Wednesday, July 12, the Minority in Parliament voiced its displeasure with the Table Office’s recording of its boycotts on Thursday, July 6, and Tuesday, July 11, as absences from the House.
Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, a member of parliament for the North Tongu Constituency, asked the Speaker of Parliament for advice, noting instances in which boycotts and walkouts had been properly reported and documented.
“Mr Speaker, we have indicated that anytime our colleagues appear before the courts, we will boycott proceedings and [Tuesday’s] absence was a boycott. So, I thought that that will be captured for the record, so it is not as though we just absented ourselves.
“Because I recall that the votes and proceedings has captured previously walkouts and boycotts, so I rise to seek your guidance on this matter.”Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa
However, Speaker Alban Bagbin claimed that as he had not received formal permission, the Table Office was correct to record the Minority MPs’ absences.
“A member if he wants not to attend but wants to be recorded as being absent because a permission has been granted, that permission has to be granted by the Speaker in writing. That is what guides attendance to the house.
“So, you can choose to attend and you can choose not to attend. When you choose not to attend depending on your own action, you could be marked as absent and that means without permission or absent with permission.”Alban Bagbin
Boycott A Breach OF Parliamentary Standing Orders
According to Speaker of the House Alban Bagbin, the Minority Caucus’ boycott of parliamentary business without a formal statement to that effect is a violation of the house’s standing rules.
The Standing Orders of Parliament state that a Member of Parliament must vacate his or her seat after missing 15 sittings without the Speaker’s approval and being unable to give a valid justification.
The Speaker determined that the gesture is not appropriate, in response to concerns expressed by Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, the member of parliament for North Tongu, over the representation of the Minority being absent without authorization in the Votes and Proceedings of Parliament.
“Some MPs have been captured for being absent without permission, some concerns have been raised on the definition of walk-out and boycott. The deputy Minority Whip has raised a very serious matter on the fact that from his knowledge, some members were not present yesterday, but they have been captured as present, as it’s an indictment on the officers of Parliament.
“On the issue of attendance, Article 97 (1C) is very clear and that is what guides attendance of the house.”Alban Bagbin
The Speaker further stated that the burden now falls on the minority to show evidence that he has granted them permission to absent themselves in writing, not verbally; that any time a colleague of theirs wants to attend court proceedings, they will solidarize with that colleague and that the caucus will be absent and that the official report will capture that.
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