Parliament will not pass Affirmative Action Bill under certificate of urgency – Speaker Bagbin

By Iddi Yire

Accra, Nov 20, GNA – Speaker Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin on Monday reiterated that the House will not pass the Affirmative Action (Gender Equality) Bill under a certificate of urgency.

He noted that the Affirmative Action Bill was a critical one, which required input from all stakeholders to enable the House to come out with a good law for the country.

Speaker Bagbin made the remarks in his address at the Speaker’s Breakfast Forum in Accra, on the theme “Thirty Years of Parliamentary Democracy under the Fourth Republic: Reflections on Citizens’ Engagement and the Way Forward”.

The Forum, which was organised by Parliament and the Office of the Speaker in collaboration with STAR Ghana, seeks to consolidate the relationship between Parliament and civil society organisations (CSOs) and to explore new ways of working together for accountable governance.

It was also to mark the fifth Anniversary of STAR Ghana.

The Speaker indicated that in the 2024 Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the Government, which was presented to the House on November 15, one could see the arms of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in a lot of decisions in the budget.

“And a critical Bill like the Affirmative Action (Gender Equality) Bill has come to Parliament under the certificate of urgency, please it won’t happen. We won’t pass it under a certificate of urgency,” he stated.

“There are critical stakeholders we must consult and make sure we go together, we will not be dictated to, by the IMF. That one, you can be sure, not this Bill”.

He said the Bill was a critical Bill, which the IMF itself should know that Parliament needed the inputs of stakeholders to be able to implement it.

“The IMF should know that the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) has fixed 2040 for all Parliaments in the world to reach gender parity.

The IPU calls for embedding gender parity in constitutions and legal frameworks and setting out in the legal framework a 50 per cent women’s representation in parliament and government as an objective to be attained by member States.

He said the 50 per cent women representation was not only for Parliament but outside Parliament as well; adding that “and we need to deliberately focus on this, and this must be legitimised in our laws”.

“We cannot under a certificate of urgency go through this one and get it properly positioned.”

He noted that the resolution they passed at the IPU was that any Parliament that fails to get gender parity by 2040, would not be a member of the IPU but be an observer.

The Speaker reiterated that Ghana could not afford be left behind.

He said Ghana’s Parliament had a long way to go; stating that “from 14.5 per cent (women Members of Parliament) to get to 50 and we will be passing laws under certificate of urgency and be getting the blame, not IMF”.

Speaker Bagbin said sometimes when a Bill was done in a hurried manner, when it gets to the Supreme Court, the Court strikes out the law and the House would then be blamed for not having done a decent job.

“…. Please not under my watch. If only members decide that I leave my seat, I will thank you and go home to rest. I believe enough is enough. I know it is difficult to swallow but please the Speaker will not give in to pressure,” Speaker Bagbin said.

“But I am saying all this because this gives you the opportunity as Members of Parliament to show how relevant you are to your constituents for them to be able to value you, when you reach out to them, listen to them, get their concerns and factor it into laws and programmes of government”.

Adding that when Members of the House consult their constituents in law making and policy formulation, their constituents would see their importance.

Dr Esther Ofei-Aboagye, Chair, Governing Council of STAR-Ghana Foundation, said Ghana had a robust Constitution, which gives Ghanaians confidence on the way forward.

“Parliament of Ghana has played a critical role in the evolution of STAR-Ghana Foundation and we value the relationship,” she said.

“We look forward to working with Parliament more vigorously, beyond the engagement with civil society to promote an active relationship with the citizenry.”

Madam Lydia Seyram Alhassan, First Deputy Majority Whip and New Patriotic Party (NPP) MP for Ayawaso West Wuogon, hailed the role of CSOs in the consolidation of Ghana’s democracy; stating that citizens’ engagement was the cornerstone of the country’s democracy.

Mr Emmanuel Armah-Kofi Buah, the Deputy Minority Leader and National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament (MP) for Ellembele, said Ghana’s Parliament had evolved over the years and that they had moved from the period where MPs were operating from the boots of their cars and that now they were operating from their offices.

Mr Cyril Kwabena Oteng Nsiah, the Clerk to Parliament, said the Parliamentary Service Board had restructured the Public Affairs Division of Parliament into three new Departments – Media Relations, Public Engagement and Broadcasting; with the goal of greater citizens’ engagement in the decision-making process of the nation’s Legislature.