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PARLIAMENT WILL SHELVE NEW CHAMBER IF PUBLIC OUTCRY MOUNTS

Politics

Following uproar about the decision by Parliament’s leadership to build a new chamber, the Majority Leader and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, has said that the House will give up its plans if Ghanaians continue to oppose the project.

Following uproar about the decision by Parliament’s leadership to build a new chamber, the Majority Leader and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, has said that the House will give up its plans if Ghanaians continue to oppose the project.

Granting an interview to the media, both Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu and the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, defended the need for a new chamber, but said that the House will remain sensitive to Ghanaians’ opinions.

Views on priorities

“We will try to explain to them why we need this edifice, but if after that people are still not in favour, we will then have no choice but to shelve it,” the Majority Leader said.

Reacting to public comments suggesting a new chamber is not a priority, the Majority Leader said it would not be practical to expect all problems in Ghana to be fixed before provision is made for an important institution such as Parliament.

He insisted that the chamber is not for luxury, but intended to create an environment more conducive to parliamentary work.

Backlash

The executive director of the African Centre for Parliamentary Affairs (ACEPA), Rasheed Draman, argued that building a new chamber for Parliament should not be a priority for Ghana.

There are many problems the country needs to address, Dr Draman said, and the need for a new building for Parliament is not one of them.

“I think we have a number of burning priorities as a nation. Especially given that this is coming on the back of the hue and cry that characterised the cost of the refurbishment and renovations that took place in the current chamber when Right Honourable Doe Adjaho was Speaker of the Sixth Parliament,” Dr Draman said on Joy FM’s Newsnite.

Using the hashtag “DropThatChamber”, many Ghanaians have taken to social media to express their resentment about the recent announcement.

Sheeda Adams wrote, “Chinese Embassy spent $20m to construct 1,000 boreholes for Ghanaians. It means $200m can provide 10,000 boreholes. Many of our MPs represent people who share drinking water with animals. #DropThatChamber.”

Obidihyie Kwaku Atiemo also wrote, “Students building their own classroom in modern Ghana and our MPs thinking about new chamber for $200m. #DropThatChamber.”

New chamber

Construction work on the new chamber is expected to begin before the end of 2019.

The renowned Ghanaian architect Sir David Adjaye designed the structure and showed members of the House a model of the new building last Friday.

He told members of the press that the project will be completed in three years if work commences before the end of this year.

It will be a multipurpose building, with a chapel, mosque, eateries and a museum.

Confusion

Meanwhile, some members of the House have broken ranks over the building project.

The MP for Okaikwei Central, Patrick Yaw Boamah, said a chamber for Parliament to seat 450 is not a priority and should not be considered by MPs or the government at this point in time.

The government has many commitments towards which it needs to channel resources. Building a new chamber now will impose another financial burden on the state, Mr Boamah said.

The government is already committing resources to the National Health Insurance Scheme, the School Feeding Programme, Free Senior High School, One Village, One Dam, Planting for Food and Jobs, Planting for Export and Rural Development, One District, One Factory as well as other social interventions, he said, and it would not be wise to set aside public money to build a new debating chamber for MPs.

Mr Boamah made these comments at a briefing with the Parliamentary Press Corps at Parliament House in Accra yesterday.