Members of Parliament who held placards with the inscription of “bloody widow” before the swearing-in ceremony of newly elected MP for Ayawaso West Wougon, Miss Lydia Seyram Alhassan on Tuesday, February 5, 2019, are likely to appear before the Privileges Committee.
This came to light when the First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr. Joseph Osei Owusu, directed the Clerk of Parliament to go for the video proceedings of Tuesday, February 5, 2019 and identify Members of Parliament with the placards of “bloody widow” after the Minority refused to apologise to the House over their conduct.
He stated that the matter would be referred to the Parliamentary Committee on Privileges to determine the matter and subsequently advice the House on the issue.
Presiding over proceedings at the Plenary, Mr. Osei Owusu, in his ruling instructed the Minority to apologise to the newly sworn-in Member of Parliament for ridiculing her.
Referring to Order 28 of the Standing Orders of Parliament, he explained that the caption on the placards displayed by the Minority is “unparliamentary” and affronts the dignity of the new member.
Order 28 of the Parliamentary Standing Orders states that “an act or omission which obstructs or impedes Parliament in the performance of its functions or obstructs or impedes a member or office of Parliament in the discharge of his duties or affronts the dignity of Parliament or which tends either directly or indirectly to produce such a result shall be contempt of Parliament”.
Mr. Osei Owusu reiterated that nobody has alleged that Miss Seyram Alhassan did anything untoward herself, and that it was wrong to make her a target of their anger, and embarrass her in the Chamber.
He however indicated that he does not necessarily share the view that the use of placards is wrong, but when it is used in a manner which berates a member unjustifiably, such act is “unparliamentary”.
He added that he was trying to bring the matter back quietly by making the leadership apologise but the Minority seemed not ready, to render any apology to Miss Seyram Alhassan.
The Majority in Parliament stated that the conduct of the Minority before the swearing-in ceremony was a sign of disrespect, and affronts the dignity of womanhood.
The Majority explained that the status of a widow is not a matter of choice, and that the display of “bloody widow” placards is an insult to the women caucus and widows.
Deputy Majority Leader and Member of Parliament for Dome-Kwabenya, Miss Sara Adwoa Safo, added that the Minority’s action discriminate against women.
Quoting Article 12(2) of the 1992 Constitution, Miss Adwoa Safo pointed out that the Minority should be ashamed for calling Miss Seyram Alhassan a “bloody widow”.
Article 12(2) of the 1992 Constitution states that “every person in Ghana, whatever his race, place of origin, political opinion, colour, religion, creed or gender shall be entitled to the fundamental human right and freedoms of the individual contained in this chapter but subject to respect for the right and freedoms of others and for the public interest”.
The Minority’s position
The Minority in Parliament refused to apologise to the House and Miss Seyram Alhassan over their conduct of raising placards in the Chamber.
In challenging the ruling of the Speaker under Order 98 of the Standing Orders by a substantive motion, the leadership of the Minority argued that members from the Minority side were registering their displeasure over the electoral violence at the La-Bawaleshie Presbyterian School in the Ayawaso West Wougon Constituency.
Order 98 states that “Mr. Speaker shall be responsible for the observance of order in the House and of the rules of debate, and his decision upon any point of order shall not be open to appeal and shall not be reviewed by the House, except upon a substantive motion made after notice”.
The Deputy Minority Leader and Member of Parliament for Ketu North, Mr. James Klutse Avedzi, pointed out that placards have been used in the Chamber on countless times, and that several harsh words on placards were used in the Chamber during the previous administration.