The Minority in Parliament has rejected the proposal that the legislative body sit from Monday to Saturday to deal with urgent bills pending before it.
It said at a time efforts were being made to reduce social contact to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the inclusion of Saturdays among the sitting days would subject lawmakers to unbearable fatigue and expose them to infections.
“Like any other institution or person, we must take adequate precautions to protect ourselves and provide leadership, flatten the curve and break the tide on the COVID-19,” it stated.
Contributing to a business statement presented by the Majority Leader, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, to the House last Friday, the Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, said: “In this age of the outbreak of the coronavirus, we cannot add Saturday and we will not cooperate.”
“Mr Speaker, we have no difficulty adding Mondays to get government business running, but we have profound difficulty with its extension to Saturday,” he added.
The Majority Leader had tabled the business statement before the House and reminded the House of the recommendation by the Business Committee for sittings to be held from to Monday and Saturday to consider and dispose of a tall list of pending parliamentary business, especially bills which were time bound.
But in a strong response to the proposal, the Minority Leader said while members of the Minority favoured sitting from Monday to Friday, they could not afford sitting on Saturdays on health grounds.
“It is not for us to bring business late and expect that members will work late, get tired and break down our immune system. Mr Speaker, we should respect the President’s directives, even as an institution and individuals. So I have a difficulty accepting the Majority Leader’s insistence that Saturday, March 28, may be added,” he said.
Mr Iddrisu requested the Speaker to direct the Majority Leader to prevail on ministers of state to demonstrate diligence in the business of presenting bills to the House for consideration.
“You do not rush and do a second reading of a bill one week before the House rises and expect that we proceed further for consideration. That is why, per our rules, the Majority Leader engages ministers prior to the opening sessions to give us a calendar of what they consider priorities of the government. You just cannot bring in business at any time and expect that we should comply,” he argued.
Responding to the concerns, Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said the Saturday sitting would be confined to dealing with three bills which were time-bound, including the Corporate Insolvency Bill, which is currently under consideration.
Questioning MPs who said the House did not need 25 members to sit, he said Article 104 of the Constitution required that decisions taken in the House must be supported by “at least one-half of us sitting in the chamber”.
“So, we need at least 138 of us to be in the chamber to take a decision. That is constitutional. Unfortunately, that provision in the Constitution is entrenched and so there is nothing that we can do about it,” he said.