Former President John Mahama has described the recently-passed ‘Imposition of Restrictions Bill’ as boding ill for Ghana’s democracy.
The country has recorded twenty-one cases of the virus so far, with one death.
Ghana’s Minority in Parliament, also, recently, said that the Bill which is part of efforts by the President to fight the spread of the coronavirus, was premature and unnecessary.
The bill gives legal backing to powers that can be exercised by the President to impose restrictions on citizens in times of public emergencies like the coronavirus pandemic for purposes of public safety and protection.
The House considered the bill throughout Friday.
Attorney General Gloria Akuffo, who moved the motion for the third and final reading of the bill, explained to the House the reason for the broad nature of the legislation.
“The emphasis is creating a piece of legislation that will deal not only with the risk that our country has been exposed to presently, but also in the future,” she said.
In a memo to the Speaker, however, the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, said his caucus is of the conviction that “the introduction of the proposed Imposition of Restrictions Bill by the Presidency is premature and unnecessary”.
“A single draconian measure of this kind is limited in its utility and myopic in its constitutional considerations”, he argued, adding: “It fails the test of the moment in its lack of comprehensiveness and specificity with respect to the COVID-19 threat and its multi-sectoral impacts, while assigning the Executive broad authorities that undermine the most basic principles of democratic jurisprudence”.
“It is our view that the 2012 Public Health Act (Act 851) already delineates – upon the requisite declarations by the Honorable Minister of Health – all the necessary powers to manage the present crisis. In view of that, we remain open to discussing whatever supplementary legislation may be required to support those critical elements of an effective national response plan that are not adequately provided for in Act 851.
“For Parliament to move forward on a bipartisan basis it will be necessary to debate a comprehensive, multi-sectoral, national response plan. The moment in which Ghana finds itself calls for a proactive plan that goes beyond occasional lists of reactionary measures. We will need to review the underlying epidemiological and statistical analyses that inform the proposed interventions, and the same applies to the strategic plan for executing those interventions.
“We need to understand what financial and human resources are available for this campaign, as well as the applicable legal and institutional frameworks. We need clarity on the constraints to planning and implementing this national response, and we need a mechanism for monitoring and evaluation that will allow for informed adjustments as the situation evolves. Only the Executive Branch can provide such details of any plan. To date, the Executive has shared no such a plan with Parliament and, regrettably, does not as yet appear to have one”, the MP said.
Speaking at the end of a three-day fasting and prayer session on Sunday, Mr Mahama, who is also the flag bearer of the NDC, said: “I commend the Minority in Parliament for standing on principle in opposing the passage of the Imposition of Restrictions Bill, which does not address the needs of the moment and portends danger for our democracy”.
“It is my earnest prayer that at a time such as this, the public welfare will triumph over personal and partisan interest”, he added.