The Second Deputy Speaker of the Parliament of Ghana, Hon. Alban Bagbin has said that Speakers should submit to the will of the House that they preside over.
Hon. Bagbin said that historically, Speakers are only servants and a mouthpiece of the House.
“This culture of having speakers in that capacity must be established if we must have a democratic parliament,” Bagbin said.
Bagbin was speaking, at a Seminar on ‘Strengthening the Role of the Opposition in Parliament for Effective Governance and Oversight’, currently taking place in Accra, Ghana.
The Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Hon. Winfred Kiiza, is leading a delegation from the Parliament of Uganda to the seminar.
Bagbin, who has served as Leader of both the Minority and Majority parties in the Parliament of Ghana, added that the Speaker must always be on the side of the Minority. He said that Speaker must be used as a punching bag if the Opposition is to achieve its objectives.
“Speakers all over the world are called on to be on the side of the Minority. It is not easy but the Minority must not leave it to the Speaker; you must fight for it,” he added. He also urged the Opposition to create a good working relationship with the media and civil society organisations and to let them in on the ills of the ruling governments.
“The media is always on the side of the Opposition; it assists to hold government to account and to also subject government programmes to scrutiny,” Bagbin said.
He however, warned that, “Government easily buys off some media houses, and has also opened its own media outlets.”
Bagbin called on the Opposition to practice the highest level of integrity and to be seen as very credible by the masses by offering better alternatives to the governments in power.
“Africans still believe in integrity. If the people get you wrong, please admit it and try to correct it; be truthful and right at all times,” he said.
The current Leader of the Majority and Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Hon. Osei Kyei-Mensah Bonsu, advised the Opposition to be relevant and ensure that the citizens have value for money through the oversight function.
“You need to expose the weaknesses of the system. Attend to major issues to give yourselves relevance. Be resolute, principled and attack major policy issues,” he said.
He also said that the Opposition must be grounded with relevant information adding that, “you in the Minority should avoid being a nuisance and position yourselves as people who criticize objectively.”
Hon. Winfred Kiiza said that the issue of Speakers siding with the minority is unique for each country depending on the political systems.
“Even when we are the minority in the House, Parliament with over 400 MPs with just 57 members of the Opposition. Even if you are a great Speaker and want to protect the Minority, it may be impossible” she said.
She added that many reforms that the Opposition have proposed have been frustrated, citing the work with civil society to change the electoral laws.
“In all the proposals that we made, we achieved only one thing; changing the name of the Electoral Commission to the Independent Electoral Commission. Ironically, the independent electoral commission is still appointed by the sitting president,” she said.
Hon. Julius Ochen (Kaplebyong County) said that working with media and civil society calls for empowering institutions within the country so that there is no interference from state institutions.
“When the civil society is acting, there should be no blackmail; they should be left to operate freely because it is a constitutional mandate they are trying to exercise,” he said.
The delegation accompanying the Leader of Opposition to the Seminar which closes on Friday 10th March 2017 also includes, Hon. Muwanga Kivumbi, Anna Adeke Ebaju, Santa Alum and Angelline Osegge.