The Majority Leader in Parliament, Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, has justified plans for the construction of a proposed new 450-seater parliamentary chamber despite heavy criticisms and fierce opposition to the project.
Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu explained that the current chamber makes it extremely difficult for most of the Members of Parliament to get the attention of the Speaker to contribute to discussions on the Floor of the House, hence the need for the new chamber.
He said some of the MPs sit behind the pillars of the chamber thus unable to attract the Speaker’s attention where necessary.
Speaking to Bernard Koku Avle on Citi TV’s The Point of View on Wednesday, the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs said the activities of the House are being impeded as a result of the discomforting circumstances.
“Parliament since independence is that one arm of government that has not had a purpose fit built facility for it so this is not a decision we are making today. The reason the Board is considering this is because of the myriad of challenges confronting the current chamber. When this chamber was increased to 275 seats, it exposed then columns in the chamber with many members sitting behind these columns such that they are not able to attract the eye of the Speaker. We have just indicated in the research findings that some constituents are saying that, they are not able to hear their MPs talk or even identified by the Speaker even when they rise up,” he said.
When host, Bernard Avle asked if Parliament needs an expansion of the existing chamber rather than an entirely new one, Mr. Kyei-Mensah Bonsu explained that expansion works will lead to a collapse of the historic building.
“It is easy to talk about it, the way people talk about it but when you go into the design, you realize that there are pillars which when removed now will make the whole edifice collapse because of the original configuration of the structure. Even in the recent threats of terrorism, it came up for discussion but the overwhelming majority said that we have been in this ‘game’ for more than 300 years and so we want to conserve and preserve this facility and we don’t want any expansion.”
The Majority Leader further made a case for the development of a new chamber saying “even with this chamber, if there is an emergency, it will be difficult for people to run out.”
Public opinion will guide us better – Haruna
The Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu who was also on The Point of View said Parliament will not be insensitive and take for granted the agitations raised by the general public.
For him, whatever decision to be taken by the House will be guided by stakeholders input.
“Every political office holder who is impervious to public opinions does so at his own peril. I think it is important for us to establish some material facts and one of such is that there are no proposal to increase the number of MPs from 275 to 450; that is not the case. I’m also aware that the matter of the new chamber was discussed at the Board and subject to value for money audit and procurement processes that in my view remains inconclusive. But it appears that public opinion is not necessarily in favour of it and we will be better guided by it. Parliament remains the citadel of democracy and so we will not be insensitive to the concerns the public have raised.”
Some MPs mainly on the Minority side are also against the proposal which will see Ghana sinking not less than $200 million into the construction of a new chamber for Parliament.
The NPP MP for Okaikwei Central, Patrick Yaw Boamah also kicked against the construction of because he believes it is a misplaced priority.
But, Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin has assured that the decision has not been finalised by the Parliamentary Service Board.
He said the move is not etched in stone and it will only take parliamentary debates for the right decision to be taken.
Alban Bagbin further advised his colleagues and the general public to stop making comments that could put the name of the House into disrepute.
“Let’s stay off that issue and focus on the statement so we can bring every information to bear. It is important for me to add that, given the earlier issue, about the purchase of furniture for this chamber, it was not a decision by Members of Parliament or the house. So, the public should stop blaming and castigating members. It is uneasy to educate the public on these matters and so we should be careful of how we talk about parliament as an institution.”
The government was considering the construction of a new chamber because the existing one lacked structural integrity and does not intend to spend more than $200 million on it.
But a number of Ghanaians are not happy over the decision. Some groups have already started gathering signatures to an online petition with the view of stopping the construction of the new chamber.