The Minority in Parliament has called for the immediate suspension of Parliament as the surest way to stop a potential spread of the coronavirus among members and staff of Parliament, as well as reporters.
It said while there were urgent bills pending before the House, Parliament must take a break and require members to be on a standby to respond to emergency bills that needed urgent considerations.
“As a country, we do not have much to lose if we shut down Parliament now. We are capable of suspending and notifying members not to move out of Accra to be able to assemble and deal with urgent matters,” it stated.
However, the Majority Leader, Mr Osei Kyei -Mensah-Bonsu says Parliament did not need to shutdown due to the critical role it played.
He said while MPs needed to protect themselves against COVID-19 infections, Parliament, as an arm of government, was different from other public institutions and must remain open with the necessary measures.
“Whatever the government wants to do, Parliament must lend credence to it by the laws and resolution that we make to support the government’s effort. Without that, the government cannot act,” he said.
He cited the recent passage of the Imposition Restrictions Bill, 2020 to give legal backing to the President’s directive to deal with the spread of COVID-19
“Parliament needed to reinforce those directives and Parliament can only reinforce if our own decisions are backed by the requisite numbers that we have. So it cannot be that Parliament can have 25 members sitting to take decision on behalf of the House,” he said.
Let’s not be pretending
Throwing more light on the minority’s position in an interview with the Daily Graphic in Parliament last Tuesday, the Minority Chief Whip, Alhaji Mohammed-Mubarak Muntaka, said “Currently, we are pretending the disease is far away from us but we must be careful at the alarming rate the infection is spreading in Ghana.”
Given the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country, Parliament had instituted a number of measures to combat the spread of the disease including installation of sanitisers at vantage points, mandatory wearing of face masks, taking of daily temperatures and sending home non-essential staff to depopulate Parliament.
Notwithstanding those measures, Mr Muntaka said he strongly believed that it was critical for the legislative body to suspend immediately due to the alarming rate at which the viral disease was being recorded in Ghana.
Best way to stop spread is to stay home
In his view, while the House had scheduled to rise on April 3, 2020, the trend of the spread of viral disease had necessitated the need for Parliament to suspend.
He indicated that the nature of the House was such that there were many staff, including service personnel who shared the same facilities with legislators such as the coffee shop, washrooms and elevators.
“If you ask all the experts, they keep saying that yes we can wash our hands, use sanitisers but the best way to break the spread of the virus is to stay at home,” he said.
We are no different
According to him, institutions such as banks and companies for which the legislature was handling the various urgent bills were today shutting down, saying that “I do not think we have the reason to continue to be staying here.”
“I can bet you that if one MP tests positive, contact tracing will be very difficult. People from all backgrounds are coming to Parliament each day and we have been meeting at committees so if one person becomes infected, how do we track those who came into contact with him or her,” he asked.