Presidential military guards’ leader acted on his own in Parliament invasion - Kan-Dapaah

Colonel Joe Punamane, Head of Presidential Military Colonel Joe Punamane, Head of Presidential Military

The President's nominee for the Minister of National Security, Albert Kan-Dapaah has said he was alarmed when armed military men invaded chamber during the election of the Leadership of the 8th Parliament.

He told the Parliament's Appointment Committee he took the step to find out who ordered the military invasion as the incident shocked everyone including his colleagues in government.

The Commander of the military contingent has been identified as Colonel Joe Punamane. He is said to be at the Presidency and head of the Presidential Military Guard. Until that appointment, he was the Director of Port Security at Tema.

His answer comes after James Agalga sought to find out what briefing the Minister-designate got with respect to who authorized the deployment of the troops in the parliamentary chamber.

On January 7, the election of the Leadership of the 8th Parliament degenerated into a full-blown crisis with armed military personnel storming the chamber of Parliament to restore order.

In a very dramatic low-point for Ghana's democracy, the MPs-elect who had argued all night over the secret ballot protocol were visited in the chamber by about two dozen heavily-armed soldiers in addition to a similar number of armed police personnel.

However, in responding to these actions by the military men, Kan Dapaah told the committee "…It is a strange thing when you have a military team invade the parliamentary chamber. For whatever reason when I saw it, I was also alarmed and my colleagues in government was alarmed that it had happened. So, I did take the trouble to find out how it happened. It was that simple, somebody, a commander in his opinion thought that things were getting out of hand in the chamber and that he needed to go there to try to restore order." he revealed

… So, I asked why? And what was his motivation for going there? I can only say this is something that shouldn't have happened but no harm was caused to any member of parliament and let me agree with you that going forward this is not something we should encourage and hope that it doesn't happen again." He added.

He adds that investigation into the matter has begun awaiting a report.

Civil society organizations, ordinary citizens, as well as MPs, mainly from NDC side of the House had questioned the presence of Colonel Joe Punamane and his armed soldiers to the chamber of the Parliament, but it does not look like the Colonel or his superiors at the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) will respond to accusation of trying to stage a Parliamentary mutiny.

There was no Parliament and there was no President at the time. The Chief Justice, Kwasi Anin Yeboah, who was in the premises of Parliament to swear in the Speaker at the time, fled when the military started advancing towards the Chamber.

It is not clear, who prompted him to leave. He later returned to swear in the Speaker-elect, Alban Bagbin, albeit hurriedly failing to even sit for the Speaker's inaugural address.

The Standing Orders of Parliament, prohibits weapons in the Chamber of Parliament, and it is unclear whether the military invasion and other chaotic incidents witnessed in Parliament on the day will be investigated by a by-partisan committee of parliament when the House resumes for business.

The MP for Damango, Samuel Abu Jinapor, who until recently was a Deputy Chief of Staff at the Presidency and said to have been seen together with the ongoing Minister of Defense, Dominic Nitiwul leading the soldiers into the Chamber, has denied doing so.

Defence Minister, Dominic Nitiwul, the MP for Bimbilla in the Northern Region, has also denied allegations by Tamale Central MP, Murtala Mohammed, that he ordered the military invasion into Parliament.

Although, Murtala Mohammed had insisted on seeing and hearing his counterpart from the Northern Region, Nitiwul making the phone call, and had warned him against the move.

The Chief Marshall of Parliament, Col. John Buntugu Rtd., also denied ever inviting the military personnel into the Parliamentary chamber on Thursday dawn during the inauguration of the 8th Parliament.

The denials, leave the outgoing Interior Minister Ambrose Dery, MP for Nandom Constituency in Upper West Region, Francis Asenso-Boakye, the MP for Bantama in the Ashanti Region and former Deputy Chief of Staff at the Presidency in-charge of Operations and Daniel Kweku Botwe MP for Okere in the Eastern Region, who have all been mentioned as part of the decision to send the military into the chamber. But they are yet to confirm or deny the claim against them.

The presence of the armed military, has since attracted condemnation from the MPs and other relevant bodies with some holding the marshal of parliament responsible, since he is in charge of the general security of the House.

But denying the claims, Col. John Buntugu Rtd., said: "We have a police station in the Parliament House, but it is under the Marshal of Parliament. We don't have soldiers. The soldiers were not under my instruction. I don't know what actually happened [but] I saw them in the Chamber and I spoke with their commanders when I realized that it was counterproductive, and they left".

Dominic Nitiwul, reacting to the allegation that he ordered for the military, the MP denied the claims, saying "It got to a point that Members of Parliament themselves were a danger to themselves. A danger to Ghana. Any Member of Parliament could have used a knife or an offensive weapon on another".

He indicated that the Soldiers were on the premises for the inauguration of the President and sensing danger had to come in to protect the MPs, who were engaged in near fisticuffs.

"In any case, if you need them or they sense that at a point the MPs are a danger to themselves, at least they will come and protect us, and … that was exactly what happened. Nobody called them," Nitiwul said.

The lawmaker further indicated that he told Murtala of the presence of the military.

"I gave him the information, and anybody who cares to know, I think one or two MPs were standing by the Majority when I told them that, 'Look, there are soldiers and police all around to protect you, to protect me and to protect the state tomorrow."

The only MP who has publicly appreciated the professionalism of Colonel Joe Punamane and his men, has been Alhaji A.B.A Fuseini of the Sagnarigu Constituency, Northern Region.

He said after storming the House, when issues were explained to the soldiers, they orderly matched out.

Source: The Herald