“There shall be freedom of speech, debate and proceedings in Parliament and that freedom shall not be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament”, the provision reads.
A private legal practitioner has called the bluff of Parliament, arguing MPs’ interpretation of a constitutional provision on parliamentary immunity and privileges is “completely ignorant.”
Professor Stephen Kwaku Asare says using Article 115 of the 1992 constitution as a basis to cite people for contempt of Parliament couldn’t be anything other than ignorance.
The US-based Accounting Professor told Joy News that the “caliber of reasoning” in Parliament exhibited is embarrassing and branded Thursday’s proceedings at the Privileges Committee as “Ghana’s day of political shame”.
Parliament has attracted public scorn on social media after what many believe is a waste of time grilling a WHO scientist over comments deemed contemptuous.
Prof Alex Dodoo ate back his words at Thursday’s proceedings after telling MPs previously in a TV3 interview to “shut up” if they knew nothing about an Ebola vaccine trial in the Volta region.
But the televised ‘sincere’ apology rendered by the WHO scientist has not tempered the resolve of the lead complainant Ho West MP Emmanuel Bedzrah who believes it is time parliament gets some much-needed public respect.
“I’m holding my fire until we get to the plenary session,” the MP told Joy News’ Elton John Brobbey Thursday at the end of the second day of proceedings of Parliament’s Privilege Committee.
But a scandalized lawyer and Accounting Professor, Professor Kwaku Asare is “shocked” that parliament could spend Tuesday and Thursday subjecting the “poor” scientist to its prowess.
The US-based lawyer explained that the basis of the charge against Professor Alex Dodoo which is Article 115 of the constitution has nothing to do with the professor’s comment.
“There shall be freedom of speech, debate and proceedings in Parliament and that freedom shall not be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament”, the provision reads. This provision, Mr. Bedzrah contends clothes MPs with the power to punish for contempt.
Professor Kwaku Asare says the law is rather a protection of parliamentarians from prosecution in court for comments made on the floor of the House.
He suggested that the pharmacologist, Alex Dodoo being a citizen, is free to tell MPs to shut up if they exhibited ignorance.
He went ahead to dish out his own description of MPs in the matter of the Ebola vaccine trial. The MPs, he stressed are “ignorant” and dared parliament to invite him.
But Chairman of the Volta regional caucus in parliament and North Dayi MP, George Loh, maintained the constitution is not to be interpreted by “people on the street”. He dismissed the lawyer as “loud mouthed” and challenged him to go to the Supreme Court to seek an interpretation.
“We are masters of our own laws,” George Loh stressed.
In reaction, Prof. Kwaku Asare suggested that his experience in going to the Supreme Court for interpretation is evident. But he has only gone to court on more serious matters, he observed.
This case of contempt cannot be one of them, he noted and asked Parliament to concentrate on its core mandate such as checking the Executive.