MPs immunity from arrest mantra is medieval- Kofi Bentil

MPs immunity from arrest mantra is medieval- Kofi Bentil
Source: Ghana||Nathan Gadugah
Date: 29-07-2017 Time: 10:07:46:am
Kofi Bentil

Vice President of IMANI Africa Kofi Bentil says the immunity of Members of Parliament from arrest is medieval.  

He said the MPs will only be extricating themselves from the common realities if say they cannot be searched or arrested by the police under the element of surprise.

While he does not think that the procedures of Parliament must be interfered with, he does not believe a court warrant to search the house of an MP is an interference of their duties.

He said if the MPs think this law is unfair and its wrong they should amend, laws change the rules so that all of us can be protected accordingly and not just MPs.

He was speaking to the invasion of the homes of three ex-government officials who were key in in negotiating the controversial $510 million AMERI Power agreement in 2015.

On Tuesday, Dr Donkor had his laptops and pen drives seized by the officers when they went to his residence with a search warrant.

He resisted attempts to seize his phones. Francis Dzata also had his laptops seized.

 The latest was the Ex-Deputy Power Minister John Jinapor whose house was also invaded on Friday. His phones were also seized.

 The invasion has been condemned in unison by both the Majority and Minority members of Parliament.

 The Speaker Prof Mike Ocquaye said by law and by Parliament's Standing Orders, MPs must be treated with some level of decorum even when they are deemed to have committed any offence.

 Quoting portions of the Standing Orders he said MPs are not to be arrested on their way to Parliament, whilst in Parliament or on their way out of Parliament. 

While he will not exclude anyone from being invited to assist with any investigation, he will not sit by and watch MPs treated with scant regard.

Unscrupulous Executive

Editor In Chief of the Crusading Guide newspaper Kweku Baako Jnr however disagrees with the view that Parliamentary privileges are medieval.

Quoting from a book written by one of the authorities in Parliamentary democracy, Kweku Baako said the law of parliamentary privileges is to protect the sanctity of Parliament.

While it may appear crude, he said it is entirely possible for an "unscrupulous executive" to arrest MPs at critical periods of a debate.

They can choose to arrest key members of minority who will be leading a debate on an issue, he suggested.

He was however sad that after decades of our Parliamentary democracy, the country has still not been able to find a better way to solving this issue of arrest.

Citing arrest of ET Mensah and other public officers in the past, he said the country ought to have learnt its lessons and wondered why the country seem to be wobbling under this phenomenon.

He said the state loses nothing if it follows due process by informing the Speaker before these arrests are made.

"We should fine tune some of these things," he said.



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