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29 July 2017

There’s no wisdom in searching MPs homes without prior notice – MP

MP for South Dayi, Rockson Dafeamekpor says he sees no wisdom in police officers turning up in the homes of former ministers for surprised searches.

He said the security officials would be given any information they desire if they simply ask the officers involved.

He was commenting on the raging debate about the propriety of searches conducted by CID officers on the homes former government appointees believed to have played various roles in the controversial AMERI power deal.

Minority MPs have angry, with some of them threatening chaos over the searches for documents relating to the transaction which government contends was inflated by more than 150 million dollars.

Speaking on Newsfile, the MP said the immunity of MPs must be respected. 

Vice-President of policy think tank, IMANI, Kofi Bentil says the parliamentary immunity being touted by MPs recently has outlived its usefulness and must be amended.

He said the law, contained in Article 117 of the Constitution, has its roots in medieval times and cannot be justified as having much practical application in modern times.

The Constitution says, “Civil or criminal process coming from any court or place out of Parliament shall not be served on, or executed in relation to, the Speaker or a member or the clerk to Parliament while he is on his way to, attending at or returning from, any proceedings of Parliament.”

Kofi Bentil, however, said, the circumstances that obtained which made the immunity of Members of Parliament critical abated a long time ago and should have extinguished the provision which he said is simply a cloak for MPs.

He latched on to a comment made by NDC MP, Rockson Dafiamekpor, who whilst justifying the law, said it was a medieval system which had merits.

House Speaker Professor Aaron Mike Ocquaye, Friday said he would haul before him heads of security agencies investigating the controversial AMERI power deal.

Two MPs – Dr Kwabena Donkor, a former Power Minister, and John Jinapor, a former Deputy Power Minister – had their homes searched by men from the Criminal Investigations Department of the Ghana Police Service.

The investigators turned up at the homes of the MPs wielding search warrants but the Minority MPs were irked by the situation.

Minority Chief Whip, Mohammed Muntaka Mubarak Friday prayed the Speaker to intervene to “stop the harassment of our members.”

He argued the searches were frustrating the work of the MPs involved.

He had the support of the Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, who read Article 117 and the Standing Orders of Parliament to back the argument that the Speaker ought to be requested to release MPs to submit to criminal investigations.

Speaking on the issue of Joy FM/MultiTV’s news analysis show Newsfile, Mr Kofi Bentil said the MPs are relying on an archaic law to give themselves protection.

He said if the MPs believe that the conduct of the investigators is improper, they should exercise their powers and change the law.  

But “The people who are to change the law find it very useful and convenient, it serves their interest.”

Senior journalist, Abdul Malik Kweku Baako, disagreed with any proposal to amend or change the law in a manner that removes the immunity of MPs.

He said if the immunity was removed, an unruly executive could, in furtherance of political motives, arrest and detain some MPs when urgent matters come before the House.

He catalogued the history complaints about the treatment of MPs dating back to 1975 and wondered why the process of dealing with MPs has not been refined.

“What is it that makes us unable to deal with these things with finesse? He asked.

Kweku Baako believes the law is a good one but its implementation must be refined to reflect the times.

Mr Bentil said he was not opposed to some protection for MPs, but the maintained the manner MPs have flaunted the current law appears a determination on their part to exempt themselves from submitting to the law. 

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