The Privileges Committee of Parliament on Tuesday suspended its hearing of the matter on whether Mr Kennedy Agyapong can be held in contempt of Parliament for his alleged contemptuous remarks against Parliament and the Majority Leader, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu.
The committee’s public hearing was suspended because some members applied to recuse themselves from the hearing. The Chairman of the committee, Mr Joseph Osei Owusu explained that the public meeting had to be suspended for the committee to meet privately to make a determination on the way forward. This was after Mr Agyapong’s lawyers raised objections over the processes and the nature of the hearing.
“My attention has been drawn to some members of the committee applying to be excused. Standing orders say that the Committee will determine, whether we accept or not. Indeed, we cannot do that determination in public. To that extent, we will bring proceedings to a close,” Mr Osei Owusu before suspending proceedings after listening to the opening arguments said. He assured that the Committee will deliberate on the application after the public hearing has been closed.
Before the hearing was postponed, the counsel of Mr Agyapong who is Member of Parliament for Assin Central, Alexander Afenyo-Markin, argued that committee members who granted interviews on the matter have injured the reputation of Mr Agyapong and as such must recuse themselves from the proceedings.
Mr Afenyo-Markin said: “A friend of the committee is also quoted with respect as having said a prima facie case has been established against the honourable Kennedy Agyapong.
“And I read, after a meeting a member of the Committee Mr Samson Ahi told journalists that the Committee had determined that there was merit in the complaint. Mr Speaker, when you bring a matter before a Committee for determination, you do not go outside the Committee’s remit to broadcast to the world that you have found evidence prima facie to indict the respondent.
“Mr Speaker as we speak, there is no report properly laid before the house for the plenary to determine whether or not a prima facie case has been determined. Therefore, we contend that these members including the complainant having granted interview to the press have injured the reputation of the Honourable Kennedy Agyapong and have further prejudiced the outcome of the hearing which is before you today.
“We accordingly submit that considering all these the said members since they have not had reason to question the publication by Graphic (Daily Graphic newspaper), they should recuse themselves from the proceedings else the likelihood of bias becomes of grave concern to us. Because they have already predetermined what they think is meritorious and that they have already gotten the media to think in one way or the other against the respondent.”
He added that the motion that has invoked the jurisdiction of the Privileges Committee to invite Kennedy Agyapong was not seconded which made it defective.
Mr Markin contended that proceedings cannot go on until the evidence that was presented against the respondent is made available to the defence team for analysis.
It will be recalled that last month Mr Agyapong reportedly described Parliament as “useless” for having Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu as its Majority leader. The comments compelled the Minority Chief whip, Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka, to file a motion that led to Kennedy Agyapong being referred to the Privileges Committee.