Former Senior United Nations Governance Advisor, Prof Baffour Agyeman-Duah has cautioned against the threat of opening the flood gates to petitions from non-Members of Parliament to be admitted by the Speaker.
According to him, the act, as stressed by the Minority Chief Whip, Muntaka Mubarak could be dangerous to Parliament as an institution.
He rather advised that what petitions should be admitted by the Speaker should be gatekept by encouraging persons with interests to file their petitions through Members of Parliament or any other avenue provided by the House.
Speaking on JoyNews’ PM Express, he said, “Because you see if we are not careful, and like you rightly said, if you get a Speaker is different in attitude and approach to things, and who is going to tolerate any kind of petition, then we can have a situation where anybody for all kinds of reasons could throw in a petition just to disorganize the institution.
“So I think we have to guard against that. And I think if the thing comes from a Member of Parliament then I think the person stands on a very solid ground in terms of the procedures and all.”
“So if for instance, I have a case that I want to bring to the attention of the Speaker why can’t I go to my Parliamentarian? That’s why they represent us so the MP from my area should be able to stand in and make that kind of presentation on my behalf.
“I think that’s a better, a neater way rather than opening the doors for anyone having a grievance to kind of throw it in, the parliament may be deluded with all kinds of petitions, I don’t think they can cope with that. So I think there must be control and the control mechanism should be to have it coming from Members of Parliament,” he added.
However, the Member of Parliament for North Tongu disagreed with his explanation.
According to Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, gatekeeping the process of filing a petition in Parliament is counterproductive as it would only allow the bad behavior of some MPs to fester.
He rather proposed that Ghana’s Parliament like other progressive Parliaments around the world should institute an open Parliament system where citizens with grievances can start online campaigns and gather a necessary amount of signatures in order to trigger an automatic deliberation on said concern on the floor of the Hosue.
He said, “All over the world they are moving towards what they call open parliaments. And in other jurisdictions now on very important matters which parliaments do not want to even pay attention to they are able to start online. And in the House of Commons, it’s very popular now.
“They start an online campaign and the law is clear, if they are able to garner 10,000 signatures, 30,000 signatures, 50,000 signatures this is how urgent Parliament must respond. You don’t have a choice. The Speaker, all of you, you must respond. Because you see we are the people’s representatives.
“If the people feel strongly about a matter, the principles of an open Parliament you must act. So I even want a situation where our sanding Orders will be amended where this business of petition should always come through a Member of Parliament,” he explained.