The Speaker of Parliament, Prof Mike Oquaye, yesterday refused to admit a statement by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, on Ghanaian migrants dying or being maltreated while embarking on dangerous voyages across the Sahara desert through Libya to Europe.
The Speaker said he was not admitting the statement because even before presenting the statement to the Office of the Speaker for it to be admitted to allow Parliament to take action on it, the North Tongu MP, who is the ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of Parliament had disrespected Parliament by jumping from one radio station to the other to make all sorts of comments on an alleged sensitive issue, which he wanted Parliament to deal with.
The refusal of the Speaker to admit the statement of the ranking member prompted strong protestations from members of the Minority, led by the Minority Chief Whip, Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka, resulting in a near boycott by the Minority members.
The Speaker rather asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who was represented by one of her deputies, Habib Tijani Mohammad, to read a statement in response to the issues as raised in the media by the ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
The ranking member had alleged that about 200 Ghanaians travelling from Techiman in the Brong Ahafo Region to Europe through Libya had either been shot dead by terrorist groups along the Sahara desert or died through maltreatment, leaving just 29 Ghanaians, who were part of the migrants caught up in diplomatic row between Italy and Malta.
The migrants were caught up in the diplomatic row while onboard a vessel ‘Acquarius’ trying to get entry into Italy until the Spanish government offered them a safe haven in Valencia as stranded migrants.
He said he had made a fact-finding trip to Valencia recently after information got to the Minority that some Ghanaians were among the stranded migrants, who had been temporarily given shelter by the Spanish government after going through ‘hell’ in their bid to travel to Europe.
He said for the Speaker to refuse to admit his statement without any justifiable reason based on the Standing Orders of the House is turning Parliament into a monarchy where he can decide to gag any member at his own will.
“This is a parliamentary democracy and not a monarchy where the Speaker can say members ought not to comment on any issue before it’s introduced in Parliament.”
He said the speaker has rather turned the Standing Orders of Parliament upside down for condemning members who speak their mind on any subject matter even before it is introduced in the House.
“Members of Parliament can decide to raise any matter of public concern, which is dominating the airwaves on the floor of the House so when does it become unparliamentary for any member of Parliament to talk about an issue that becomes a subject matter in Parliament,” he queried, adding that he would challenge the ruling of the Speaker by filing for a motion in that direction.
The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Frank Annoh-Dompreh, who is the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament for Nsawam/Adoagyiri, in a sharp reaction, said his ranking member must respect the Speaker of Parliament because he is the final authority in Parliament.
According to the chairman of the committee, Mr Okudzeto Ablakwa has specialized in rumour mongering and was last time warned by Parliament for raising false alarm that there were some Ghanaian nationals recruited to fight for ISIS.
He said being in opposition does not mean one has to be reckless in levelling all sorts of allegations, adding that he (Okudzeto) should know the right place to send the information he claimed is true and not to go on radio to make comments that may affect diplomatic relations between Ghana and the countries being mentioned.
He said the ranking member should understand the importance of diplomatic and bilateral relations in the diplomatic circles and not just make wild allegations which turn to damage the image of other countries internationally.
“Hon Ablakwa is a ranking member of Foreign Affairs Committee so what stops him from getting in touch with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the security agencies over such matters, if indeed, they are true with evidence for the ministry to follow it up and verify the truth and take the necessary actions,” the chairman of the Foreign Committee said.
The Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Habib Tijani Mohammad, who is also the NPP MP for Yendi, said that government is very much concerned about such dangerous migrations and has decided to open consular services in Niamey in Niger, Tripoli in Libya, Valletta and Spain to assist Ghanaian migrants on that route, who face difficulties to be repatriated home.
“We have been working closely with institutions such as the International Organisation for Migration to evacuate our nationals back to their homeland whenever the need arises,” he said.
Source: Daily Guide
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