Parliament was sharply divided over the expungement of James Gyakye Quayson’s name from the records of the House yesterday as agitated lawmakers from both sides debated the Supreme Court order, leaving the Speaker at the centre.
In sheer defiance, the MP for Bawku Central, Mahama Ayariga, contended that per the recent ruling of the Supreme Court, it was only the name of the former Member of Parliament (MP) for Assin North which was to be expunged from the records and not all records or whatever contributions he had made to Parliament.
The heated debate was born out of a detection in the Votes and Proceedings for yesterday’s business by the MP for North Tongu, Okudzeto Ablakwa, that Mr Quayson’s name had been removed.
Mr Ayariga maintained that since the Speaker, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, had directed the leadership of the House to devise a process to expunge the former MP’s name, it was wrong for the Table Office to delete his name when such exercise had not taken place yet.
The views of Mr Ayariga were strongly affirmed by the MP for Zebilla, Cletus Avoka, who said the Constitution was a living document and must be interpreted to reflect the current situation.
Mr Avoka said it was unwise and impracticable for Parliament to go back to January 7, 2021, to remove all the records of Mr Quayson.
However, the Speaker insisted that since that was a novelty not captured by the Standing Orders, it was still important for both sides of the House to take a decision on it.
"I don't want to assume powers that is not backed by law. The ruling said Parliament should expunge and not the Speaker. The Speaker is not Parliament," the Speaker stated.
The former Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, quoting Article 2 (1a), and the Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, also relying on Article 94, both gave varied interpretations to the ruling.
Following their separate views, the Speaker insisted that the House should stick to its earlier directive for the leadership of both sides of the House to design the modality for expunging Mr Quayson’s name.
The Supreme Court in its ruling on May 17, 2023, declared the election of James Gyakye Quayson as unconstitutional by holding that by law, the former MP was not qualified to contest the Assin North seat in 2020.
“Parliament is ordered to expunge the name of first defendant (James Gyakye Quayson) as Member of Parliament for Assin North Constituency,” the court ruled.
It was the considered view of the court that Article 94(2) (a) of the 1992 Constitution, which bars a person who owes allegiance to another country from becoming an MP takes effect at the time the Electoral Commission (EC) opens nomination and not during the election or the swearing-in of MPs in Parliament.
In view of that, the court held that Mr Quayson was constitutionally barred from contesting the Assin North seat because in October 2020 when the EC opened nominations for persons to file to contest, he failed to renounce his Canadian citizenship before filing to contest.
“We state without any equivocation that Article 94(2) (a) means that to be qualified to be a Member of Parliament, a citizen of Ghana must not hold any other citizenship at the time when nominations are opened by the Electoral Commission for registration of candidates for election as Members of Parliament,” the court held.
The unanimous decision of the seven-member panel was authored by Justice Nene Amegatcher, with Justice Jones Dotse presiding and Justices Mariama Owusu, Gertrude Araba Esaaba Sackey Torkornoo, Prof. Henrietta Mensa-Bonsu, Emmanuel Yonny Kulendi and Barbara Ackah-Yensu, as members.
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