The Privileges Committee hearing the contempt cases against Assin Central Member of Parliament (MP), Kennedy Agyapong, yesterday adjourned its sitting indefinitely following an objection raised by counsel for the embattled legislator.
Counsel for the Assin Central MP, Alexander Afenyo-Markin, and K.T. Hammond, drew the committee’s attention to a letter signed by three members of the Committee, who have expressed their intention to recuse themselves owing to their special relationship with the contemnor ,Mr Agyapong.
The three MPs from the Central Region, Cynthia Morrison, MP for Agona West; Naana Eyiah, MP for Gomoa Central and Samuel Nsowa-Djan, MP for Upper Denkyira West, argued based on Order 164(4) of the Standing Orders of Parliament that the “respondent contemnor is the caucus chairman for Central Region and all of us have a close relationship with. We are unable therefore to discharge our duties without bias.”
The issue of the three members of Privileges Committee, who officially wrote to the committee, became contentious, leading to the adjournment of the proceedings.
According to the three NPP MPs, they cannot take part in proceedings because their judgement may be affected by their relationship with the respondent, who is the chairman of Central Regional Caucus.
Initially, one of the lawyers of Mr Agyapong, Alex Afenyo-Markin, who is also the MP for Effutu, had argued strongly for the contempt case against his client to be quashed because the motion, which was moved by the Minority Chief Whip and National Democratic Congress (NDC) for Asawase, Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka, on June 6 was unfounded.
He said the motion on quasi criminal case moved by the Minority Chief Whip should have been seconded, but none of the MPs who commented on the motion did so and therefore the motion was defective.
Mr Afenyo-Markin also pleaded with members of the committee not to entertain any testimony from witness, Mubarak Muntaka, because he had made prejudicial comments on the matter in the media even before the committee began its proceedings.
The pleas of the lawyers about the defect in the motion and prejudicial comments by the witness and some members of the committee were overruled by the Chairman of the Committee, Joseph Osei-Owusu, who is also the First Deputy Speaker.
One of the lawyers for the respondent, K.T. Hammond, who is also the MP for Adansi/Asokwa, said that it was important for the chairman of the committee to critically consider the letter written by the three MPs from the Central Region.
“The Standing Orders give them the authority to recuse themselves and when that is officially communicated to the chairman of the committee, he or she has to also communicate that to the Speaker of Parliament who will also in turn inform the Majority Leader for new people to be appointed to replace them on the committee.”
The chairman of the committee initially objected to the reconstitution of the committee because of the decision of the three members, saying that the clerk of the committee did not inform them about the letter.
However, when copies of the letter were produced by the said members of the committee and the counsel of the respondent, the chairman consulted with his vice, Andrew Mercer, and decided to further study the letter and make the appropriate recommendations.
The chairman of the Privileges Committee subsequently adjourned proceedings indefinitely.