It was a near brawl between the Majority and Minority members in Parliament on Thursday evening following the release of the report of the Joe Ghartey committee that investigated bribery allegation made against the chairman and some members of the Appointments Committee of Parliament.
Some young Members of Parliament (MPs) from both sides moved to the centre of the chamber trying to punch their colleagues for their disagreements.
But it took the intervention of some of the senior MPs to separate the two sides from attacking each other.
But they were seen throwing out words at one another and making some gestures.
The confusion followed an apology that Mr Mahama Ayariga, MP for Bawku Central rendered per the recommendation of the Joe Ghartey committee, that the MPs on the majority side felt it was not appropriate.
Earlier, the Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, asked Mr Ayariga to come to the bar to render an unqualified apology but that decision was changed for him to apologise from his sitting place after the intervention of the Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, and the Second Deputy Speaker, Mr Alban Bagbin.
But Mr Ayariga used the opportunity to explain his point and raise some legal issues.
He started by referring to the a prayer said by the Speaker in the morning to the effect that: “We humbly beseech thee to look in favour upon this House with discernment…”
Mr Ayariga said he rose up to make a comment before the Speaker put the question for the adoption of the report, but he could not catch the eye of the Speaker.
He referred to an earlier sitting during which Mr Osei-Owusu told the House that he (Mr Ayariga) had said in a conclave that the allegation was for equalisation, and indicated that he did not rise to challenge that claim it was used against him in the report.
Truth or closure
Mr Ayariga said he did not know whether the primary concern of the investigation was to get the truth or bring a closure to the issue.
He said the public had an eye on what pertained in Parliament, regarding the bribery case, saying “They are discerning minds and listening to us how we conduct ourselves.”
Challenges jurisdiction of the committee
Mr Ayariga, who is a lawyer, was reminded by the Speaker to restrict himself to the apology on two occasions, but he said he would do himself great disservice if he did not raise the legal issues for the consideration of the Speaker.
He questioned whether the committee had the power to draw conclusion on the matter of contempt.
He said issues of contempt were clearly defined in the Standing Orders of Parliament.
Mr Ayariga again asked why the committee used criminal standards to determine the burden of truth in the matter.
He said if the criminal standards were used, then he should have also been given the opportunity to cross examine the other members.
Mr Ayariga concluded by rendering an apology in the following words: “If you say I apologise, I apologise.”
The apology created shouts and banging of tables from the Majority side.
The Majority Leader, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, rose to his feet and the Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, also rose to his, both trying to catch the eye of the Speaker.
The Speaker asked both leaders to resume their seats for his ruling.
He said the committee was unanimous in its findings that there was no bribery or attempted bribery.
Therefore, the Speaker said “In view of the development, I will give a few ruling and directive tomorrow [Friday].”
Mr Iddrisu said the bribery allegation had affected the dignity of Parliament.
He said the outcome of the committee’s investigation marked a new beginning for MPs regarding what they said about their colleagues.
Mr Iddrisu said the issue could have raised a political crisis if it were true, and asked members to study the report and be guided by it.
Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu described the report as an “excellent surgery that has been performed on a tumor that afflicted this House.”
“I am happy that the committee had come to a conclusion that the allegation against Joe Osei-Owusu, Muntaka and Agyarko remained unproven”, he said.
Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said if it was proven that Mr Agyarko had given bribe or attempted to give bribe to the members of the ACP, it could have constituted a contempt of Parliament.
Supporting the motion, Mr Magnus Kofi Amoatey said “he who alleged bribery against members of the ACP in the issue of bribery was unable to prove same.”