The General Secretary of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Johnson Asiedu Nketia, has called for a total shutdown of Parliament, following reports of 15 COVID-19 cases recorded in the House, led by Speaker Aaron Mike Oquaye.
According to Asiedu Nketia, it is surprising that institutions that recorded cases of COVID-19 in the country, were closed down to avoid the further spread of the disease, but Parliament continues to operate, despite recording such cases.
Speaking at the 41st Anniversary Celebration of the June 4th uprising on the theme ‘Strengthening the spirit of patriotism, resilience and integrity in difficult times’, Asiedu Nketia, could not fathom why COVID-19 “cases have been detected in Parliament and Parliament is still sitting. What are they telling us?”
“Why is Parliament not closing down? Is Parliament above the law they themselves make? Is that the democracy we are making for ourselves? Everybody has a responsibility to protect this democracy, and the only way we can do it is to insist on the rule of law. There is nobody independent in this country of the law. The only people who are independent are the masses who are at the repository of the sovereignty of Ghana,” he added.
Following mass testing of Members of Parliament and Parliamentary staff on May 20, 2020, it emerged that some of them had contracted the virus.
Parliament denied the claim but Minority Chief Whip, Mubarak Mohammed Muntaka, insisted that two of his colleagues and 13 parliamentary staff, have tested positive for the virus.
“What happened in Parliament and what you heard [about MPs testing positive for COVID-19] is the fact. It is the truth,” Mr. Muntaka insisted.
Muntaka said, after health officials were done picking samples in the House last Wednesday, they realised that “one MP and one staff tested positive and on Thursday, one MP and 12 staff tested positive for COVID-19.”
The Deputy Majority Whip, Matthew Nyindam, has already rubbished suggestions that Parliament will have to shut down because of the novel coronavirus.
“The House will not shut down. Business will have to continue,” Mr Nyindam insisted to the media.
He suggested that observing the safety protocols would be enough to ensure MPs and staffers are safe.
Addressing the media, the Kpandai MP said: “The protocols that they have given us are protocols that we all must observe. Members of Parliament, we are not superhuman.”
At the same event, former Defense Minister, Dr. Benjamin Kumbour, also added his voice to calls on the Electoral Commission (EC) to abort its decision to compile a new voters’ register for the 2020 general elections.
Dr. Kumbuor who is also a former MP for Lawra-Nandom, said the EC must consider the risk involved to gathering Ghanaians to register for the new roll in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.
“It is in this context that the controversy surrounding a new voters register should be situated. This is the time when we talk of integrity and patriotism, it is with the challenges of COVID-19 that we have made the decision to mass our people unnecessarily in a risk to actually re-register especially when there is no scientific evidence whatsoever that the existing register cannot be used for that purpose regardless of the minor imperfections it might contain. We normally say a bird in hand is more than ten in the bush. What happens when we take the entire country through this risk only to end up with a register that is worse than what we have?”
“We of the June 4th use this opportunity to join many of the voices of reason that have spoken of this topic and say that we’re indeed in a new normal and it calls for new conditions. If the idea of a new register was conceived at normal times, the circumstances have radically changed and we need to use the standards of a new normal in our judgement,” he said.
The EC, has rejected such advice and has scheduled to begin the registration exercise in the last week of June 2020. This has forced the NDC, to sue the Commission over attempts to compile a new register.
The NDC argues in its suit that the EC lacks the power to go ahead with its plans because it can only “compile a register of voters only once, and thereafter revise it periodically, as may be determined by law.”
According to the writ invoking the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, the opposition NDC among other things demanded a “declaration that upon a true and proper interpretation of Article 45(a) of the 1992 Constitution, 2nd Defendant [the EC] has the constitutional power to, and can, compile a register of voters only once, and thereafter revise it periodically, as may be determined by law. Accordingly, 2nd Defendant can only revise the existing register of voters, and lacks the power to prepare a fresh register of voters, for the conduct of the December 2020 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections.”
The NDC in its case is also praying the court to declare as illegal the decision of the EC not to use the old voter ID cards as registration proof in the compilation of the new register.
The NDC claimed that the decision which is without any justification is arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable and contrary to article 296 of the 1992 Constitution.
“Upon a true and proper interpretation of the Constitution, specifically, Article 42, the EC’s purported amendment of Regulation 1 sub-regulation 3 of the Public Elections (Registration of Voters) Regulations, 2016 (C.I 91) through the Public Elections (Registration of Voters)(Amendment) Regulations, 2020 to exclude existing voter identification cards as proof of identification to enable a person apply for registration as a voter according to the NDC is “unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect whatsoever.”
On the back of this, the Supreme Court, has directed the EC to explain why the old voter ID card, has been removed from the list of identification particulars for the yet to be compiled new voters’ register.