Speaker of Parliament, Alban S.K. Bagbin has warned members to beware the privileges and immunities of free speech that they enjoy do not extend from the legislature to the ‘Village Square.’
Parliamentary immunity, he said, only applies in plenary and committee sections and not when MPs step outside debating issues on radio or TV.
“You don’t have that right; that privilege to just say anything because you are a Member of Parliament, not at all.”
“We are not above the law but it is for a good reason because you represent a large number of people. You should be given the full immunity to be able to say what the people say they want you to say. That is why you say it here and you are covered.”
“That immunity does not extend to the market square or anywhere and just say anything because you think you are a Member of Parliament. It doesn’t apply at all,” he warned.
The Rt. Hon. Speaker issued these terse warnings on Wednesday when the member for Tamale North, Alhassan Suhuyini tabled a motion for Kennedy Agyapong, member for Assin Central to be referred to the privileges committee.
According to the Tamale North MP, Mr. Agyapong’s utterance on radio, which has compelled Joy FM to make a formal complaint to the
Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service, is an abuse of the privileges and immunities granted by the House.
He, therefore, prayed the Speaker to refer the colleague to the Privileges Committee for bringing the name of the legislature into disrepute.
Hon. Alban Bagbin referred the matter to the Committee to go into it and submit a report but stressed it is the House that will make a decision on the report and not the Speaker.
“That will be your collective wisdom that will come to the conclusion whether what is alleged is just a mere allegation or whatever facts, whether these facts really do constitute contempt of the House and abuse of a privilege of members,” he said.
The Speaker charged members to deal with the matter as a House because it is an issue that affects the entire image of Parliament.
He warned that when a matter affects the image, the majesty and the reputation of the House he has an interest.
He expressed confidence in the Chairman of the Privileges Committee, 1st Deputy Speaker Joseph Osei-Owusu to ensure the right is done.