Chairman of the Privileges Committee, Joseph Osei-Owusu, has been compelled to indefinitely suspend the public hearing on alleged contemptuous utterances by the Assin Central MP, Kennedy Agyapong, following an objection raised by his defence counsel.
At a public hearing on Tuesday, July 3, Counsel for the Respondent, Alexander Kwamina Afenyo-Markin and K. T. Hammond raised four objections for the committee’s consideration.
Mr. Afenyo further, drew the attention of the Committee to a publication by the Daily Graphic, dated 27th June, 2018, at page 16 which, indicated that some members of the Privileges Committee had made prejudicial comments. He argued that since such members mentioned in the publication had not questioned the publication of the newspaper, it would be appropriate for them to recuse themselves from the hearing.
Mr. Afenyo-Markin again objected that the motion on the matter was not carried and was not seconded at the plenary by any member. “When a motion is moved, same must be carried. Nowhere was the motion carried. The motion was also not seconded. A motion is seconded before it is supported,” he explained.
On his third count of objection, Mr. Afeny-Markin put before the committee that the evidence upon which the complaint is mounted has not been made available to the Respondent. He further added that the rules of natural justice demand that a Respondent be given ample opportunity to prepare his defence and if evidence has been laid before the committee, notice should be given to him.
The lead Counsel for the Respondent, Mr. K. T Hammond drew the Committee’s attention to a letter signed by three Members of the Committee who had willingly expressed their intent to recuse themselves from the ongoing hearing. The letter made reference to Order 164(4) of the Standing Orders of Parliament.
The three members of the committee, Cynthia Morrison, MP for Agona West, Naana Eyiah, MP for Gomoa Central and Samuel Nsowa-Djan, MP for Upper Denkyira-West stated in their signed letter that the Respondent is the Caucus Chairman for the Central Region and all of them have a close relationship with him. Therefore, they are unable to discharge their duties without bias.
According to Order 164(4) of the Standing Orders of Parliament, “A Member of the Committee may disqualify himself from participating in any investigations of the conduct of a Member, officer or employee of the House upon a declaration in writing that he cannot render an impartial and unbiased decision in the case which he seeks to disqualify himself.
If the Committee approves and accepts such disqualification, the Chairman shall so notify the Speaker who shall request the Leader of the same political party as the disqualifying Member to designate a Member from his party to act as a Member of the Committee in any proceedings relating to such investigation”.
After listening to the arguments advanced by the Counsel for the respondent, Chairman of the Committee, Joseph Osei-Owusu granted their request and suspended the public hearing indefinitely, while the committee continued in a closed door session.
The Chairman had earlier overruled an objection on the purported signed letter on grounds that the Committee had not received a copy of the said letter signed by the three MPs.
However, upon the insistence of the lead counsel for Kennedy Agyapong on the grounds that the chairman’s refusal to accept the letter defies the rules of natural justice, Mr. Osei Owusu was left with no option than to grant the request by the three MPs.