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17.02.2006 Feature Article

The People’s Representation Bill (ROPA) a ticking Bomb

The People’s Representation Bill (ROPA) a ticking Bomb
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TITLE - My Turn: The People's Representation Bill (ROPA) a ticking Bomb: Another view from abroad.

It has become necessary to revisit the issue of Diasporean voting since the boycott of parliament by the NDC led minority party and the impending mammoth “Love for Ghana” rally on Valentine's Day. In this article, I discuss the points supporters of ROPAB perennially make to support their position especially citing some countries that allowed Diasporean voting. I argue and cite specific examples about conditions that allowed for Diasporean voting in those countries. I further discuss the onerous challenges that the EC will face in implementing the program in terms of financial and material constraints. I propose under the caption “What is to be Done” what our nation should begin to do to ensure future Diasporean voting so that the results can be acceptable to all. A. Countries like Senegal, Mali, USA, Canada, Indonesia etc allow their citizens to vote so Ghana should also do it. What the proponents of ROPAB conveniently fail to tell us is the available structures in those countries that make it possible for them to vote. What are those structures? Do we have these structures in Ghana? The answer is a “NO”. If the structures are not in place in Ghana, how do we trust the results based on the voting? Here are some of the structures these countries have in place.

i. A near perfect Births and Deaths registration system

In the French-speaking West African countries they have managed to establish a near perfect Births and Deaths registration system. With such a system in place, a these countries are able to tell how many citizens they have and how many are abroad with near certainty. In western European countries and in the USA and Canada apart from the births and deaths registration system each individual has a unique ID number. When you die it is taken out of the system. Thus the unique identity of an American casting a vote during a US election can be ascertained.

ii. In the developed and some of the developing countries cited a holder of the country's passport is with almost certainty a citizen of that country. About three weeks or so ago did an NPP Minister not complain about citizens of other countries holding Ghanaian passports? How do you use an illegal document or illegitimate document to establish legal document?

iii. In the countries used as examples, we have a proper addressing system…home address and NOT P. O. Box or “get down near the neem tree, cross the street walk until you see a yellow painted kiosk and ask for the house of Jonathan Mensah and you will see me” directions. There is an addressing system stating where the citizen resides and the individual can always provide her last residential address before going abroad. We have that lacking in Ghana. A good residential system ensures that there is minimum room for fraud in those countries implementing overseas voting but in our case opportunities for fraud abound. It is therefore imperative we minimize the potential for fraud before allowing Diasporeans to vote.

iv. In the United States, a country we look up to as the citadel of democracy there are checks and balances built in the system to check the powers of one branch of government. It is simply called separation of powers where the President (Executive), the Congress (our parliament) and the judiciary (our judges) all have powers and are restrained. We do not have that in our country. Our MPs are simply not independent from the Executive.

Instead of the supporters telling us these countries allow their citizens living abroad to vote, they should show us whether Ghana has the structures in place to minimize voter fraud. Can the proponents allay our fears by providing us with evidence that the elections will be fair and my votes will not be diluted by fraudulent votes from abroad? So far the EC is still correcting the bottlenecks in the system (e.g. The Pru constituency where almost 10,000 votes were reversed giving NDC a win) and I applaud the EC for that. B. Pass the bill first then let us discuss the implementation problems later stand It is also interesting to note that the very Diasporeans who make a career of castigating Ghanaian officials on rushing policies or legislation through parliament without adequate thought processes such as, research to identify and addressing bottlenecks before implementation are now clamouring for passage of a bill. This bill has problems without even taking a second to discuss how those problems will be addressed. As a country we should not have a public policy or pass a law without adequate research. It is a prescription for disaster. If this bill were any other bill on education, taxes, etc it can be understandable.

However, this bill goes to the foundation of our nurturing democracy…the sacrosanct nature and confidence in the electoral system. One may ask why the rush? The daily activities of the NPP supporters for this bill and financing of a delegation of NPP members to Ghana confirm one's suspicion that there is something up the sleeve of the wit, the blatant opportunity to steal votes abroad. The NPP is scared they will lose power and they are just using Diasporean voting as cannon fodder to perpetrate fraud. This puts a question mark on the motive behind pushing the legislation in spite of its inherent flaws. Why the haste?

We have the propensity to put the cart before the horse. We need to perfect the current system (evaluate and analyze the bottlenecks) before adding other responsibilities. The motivation for this rush runs counter to nation building. Let us all endeavour to leave Ghana better than we have found it.

I am in the Diaspora but will not insist on VOTING simply for voting sake. The key is voter/citizen confidence in the electoral system. If I vote I want to have the confidence that my vote represents 1/ 5 million votes cast assuming the total genuine votes cast is 5 million. Why should I say I want to vote when the structures that should be in place to ensure that my 1 /5 million votes are not there and there is the possibility that my vote can get diluted by 300,000 or more fraudulent votes.

Thus instead of my vote constituting a fraction of 1/5 million it may get diluted and become a new fraction 1 /5.3 million. For sure reasonable people will prefer the first fraction to the second. If my vote is going to be diluted then it is not worth voting at all.

In Ghana we have some structures in place to check the system to a degree. We can use demography to compute population projection by what is known as the Growth Rate Method. With the census population at a base year and we can compute the projection. For example if we had the last census in 1980 we can estimate with near certainty what the population can be in 2006. The total cannot go above a certain number because we know the maximum rate a population can grow in a year. In the Diasporean community we do not even know the population at the base year to allow us to make a reasonable computation. We cannot rely on Ghanaian passports as the primary source of document to use as the starting point because as the Honorable NPP minister himself has questioned it legitimacy. C. The Diasporean votes abroad are in minority hence cannot really change the outcome of an election Assuming that this ROPAB is rushed through and in 2008 Ghanaians who live in Ghana overwhelmingly reject the NPP government. Later after adding overseas votes, that is the votes of those who don't live in Ghana, those votes which cannot be authenticated with absolute certainty because they could be ghost votes, the NPP which has been rejected by resident Ghanaians all of a sudden wins. A Ghanaian resident abroad who is for ROPAB wondered how this scenario could be possible because Ghanaians resident abroad are in the minority and their votes could not tilt the balance. Here's an illustration of that possibility: Step 1 a. Total votes for NDC from Ghana: 4,671,600 (51.0 %) b. Total Votes for NPP from Ghana: 4,488,400 (49.0 %) Conclusion: NDC wins on first ballot. Now bring in ROPAB without the structures to prevent fraud in place and there is fraud by NPP and we have the following additional votes Step 2 a. NDC votes from Diaspora Ghanaians 590,000 ( 31.6%) b. NPP votes from Diasporean Ghanaians as a result of voter fraud 1,280,000 (68.4%) Conclusion: NPP wins Diasporean vote as a result of gargantuan fraud Step 3: Computation of overall votes a. NDC (home and abroad) = 4,671,600 + 590,000 = 5,261,000 (47 %) votes b. NPP (home and abroad) = 4,488,400 + 1,280,000 = 5,768,400 (52 %) votes NPP is declared the winner. It is important to note that even though the Diasporean vote is a MINORITY vote (17% of the total votes cast 1,870,000/11,030,000) it has made NPP the winner. So it is very possible that the Diasporean vote, even though it is a minority, can determine the outcome of an election in Ghana.

Imagine the consequences in Ghana especially if there is a cloud over the authenticity of the overseas voters. Hence the need to take a deep breath and put the needed structures in place before Diasporean voting since voter confidence is a necessary prerequisite for the sustenance of our infant democracy D. We transfer money to Ghana and we are citizens of Ghana so we need to vote i. Proponents argue that even though the Diasporeans do not pay income taxes to the Ghana government do pay taxes one way or the other. For example the taxes paid on airline ticket while coming to Ghana some may end up going to the government.

ii. Ghanaians abroad transfer money to their relatives in Ghana who use it to pay school fees for their children, build houses, and also set up business and hence Diasporeans have been contributing to the economic development of Ghana.

What an “excellent and superb” argument to advance for the right to vote !!!!!

It is becoming a perpetual bore to hear this litany of economic salvation for Ghana by Diasporeans transferring money to Ghana. There is no doubt that the transfers generate some economic activity but let it not be lost on us that the transfers are mainly to our relatives and NOT to the consolidated fund which can be used by the government to meet its obligations to the citizens. Thus it cannot be used as a bargaining chip, blackmail or a threat to call for special dispensation or treatment.

Our transfers to our relatives fuels consumption and even though they may be beneficial its effect is only minimal. The impact on the economy would have been greater if Diasporeans in Europe, Asia, and Americas provide a minimum of $500 US per head a year towards the Consolidated Fund and their counterparts in Africa provide $300 US a year. After all were we not educated free of charge by the Ghana government: from elementary school through secondary and college?

How much will the exercise cost? Why don't the supporters tell us the cost of implementing the ROPAB in all the countries Ghanaians reside abroad? This will enable us to be sure we have the money. Considering the money involved Ghana cannot do it in all the countries its citizens reside. We cannot disenfranchise Ghanaians living in India, Togo, Nigeria, Namibia, and Afghanistan and say those in USA, Canada, and Western Europe should vote because they are ready. It is all or none…”from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe” should be the clarion call to effect overseas resident voting. E. No elections have ever led to massive violence in Ghana since 1992 Some supporters of ROPAB have asked when Ghanaian elections have led to violence. My answer to these individuals is that the first step in violence comes when there is a loss of confidence in the electoral system. When citizens have confidence in the electoral system the winners and losers will accept the outcome. This ensures stability in the long run. Stability generally may lead to confidence in the economy, strengthening of political and civil institutions all leading to economic development and social stability.

Do I as a concerned citizen have to wait until it has degenerated into it before I caution about it? No I have to speak now. But for timely interventions after the late Ferdinand Marcos rigged the elections in the early 80s, the Philippines would have exploded.

Did the same thing not happen recently in Ukraine and the elections were held again with the opposition candidate winning? What about our next door neighbour, Togo? The rigged election led to violence and a recent UN report indicated that over 500 people were killed by forces loyal to the dictator and strongman, Faure Gnassingbe Eyadema. Ghana is an oasis in West Africa and the recent past of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Togo and Ivory Coast should be a learning avenue for us. If you see your neighbour's house on fire and you know what caused the fire you don't play Russian Roulette simply because you hope that your house may never be on fire, no matter what. F. It is morally right to give Diasporeans the right to vote One contributor, Mr. K. A Kwarteng, writing in the Ghanaian Chronicle of October 28, 2005 under the caption, “People's Representation Politics” argued among other things that this vote should be given on moral grounds because Diasporeans have been invited for Home Coming, called to invest in Ghana, etc.

Mr. Kwarteng seems to be equating the right to vote on moral grounds. If allowing citizens to vote in the Diasporea were to be grounded solely in morality Diasporean voting would not have been extended to US citizens in 1975, almost 200 years after independence even though US has foolproof ID system years earlier. I do not contend Ghana should wait for 200 years but it is academically bankrupt to pick and choose situations that favour us and ignore those that run counter to our position. G. NPP has the majority in parliament so the Bill should be pushed through whether the opposition likes it or not Mr Kwarteng in his call on the NDC to support the law resorted to a bit of arm twisting or to say it mildly, “fait accompli”: He wrote “The way this Kukrudu people are determined to allow Ghanaians abroad to vote in the next elections, no amount of u-turns and calculated arguments could change their minds. It should be obvious to any discerning observer that the proposed amendments will become law. It is also obvious that the law will be implemented in the next general election…….. This is where the NDC should be smart. They should cut the resistance and support the Majority. The traditional perception that the NDC party is anti-diasporian is unhelpful... “.

One thing Mr. Kwarteng is probably not aware of is that tyranny of the majority does not work in the long run in any society. Even after military conquests there is a political or negotiated settlement between the vanquished and the victor other wise the victor will have fratricidal war on its hands. Many examples abound in this regard. NDC should be committing suicide if it should take its political advice from Mr. Kwarteng et al.

On February 6th 2006, the Ghana High Commissioner to the UK, Mr. Isaac Osei was reported to have said “Even though the Minority would have their say in the ongoing parliamentary debate and in subsequent vote on the Bill, the Majority would have their way…and that was the essence of democracy”. If this attitude does not smack of tyranny of the majority what else can? One wonders whether the NPP appointed ambassador would have uttered these words if the NDC had used its majority in parliament from 1996-2000 to pass draconian and unconstitutional laws which favoured the NDC !!!!!!! I bet we would have had an earful and mouthful from the NPP officials, their party apparatchiks, Ambassador Isaac Osei et al lecturing us on the tenets democracy. Let me ask His Excellency, Ambassador Isaac Osei whether the preventive detention Act of 1958 was not passed in parliament by a CPP government which had two-thirds majority in Parliament in spite of this, has the UP/NPP tradition not hated Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah and his CPP till today? I await your response to this apparent double standard.

Mr. Kwarteng also contended the following: ”As for arguments about the senior people working in our missions abroad being appointees of the ruling party, let nobody mention it. To accept it is to say that Ghanaians abroad should never be allowed to vote in our elections because senior officers at our missions will always be appointed by one ruling party or the other. By all means, let the Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill be passed.”

What Mr. Kwarteng seems to be missing is that these shortcomings should form the basis of the discussion and how to ensure that there is free and fair elections and how best to allay all the fears about voter fraud. That is the crust of the matter….having confidence in the electoral system by all. That is why some of us are calling for suspension of ROPAB until we have prepared a balance sheet….the advantages and disadvantages and what should be done to mitigate the Pandora's box that will be opened.

It looks like Mr. Kwarteng does not know the operations of foreign missions such as USA vis a vis Ghana's embassies. In the United States embassy in Ghana we may have the following personnel: State Department Officials (consular officials), Homeland security, USAIAD officials) who report to the Secretary of State, Marines who report to the Pentagon, intelligence officers who report to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia; army intelligence officers (Department of Defence/ Pentagon), Cultural Affairs officers (US Information Services) etc. Thus the US ambassador in Ghana cannot ORDER the consul officer to issue a Ghanaian a visa if he/she is denied a visa. He does not control anything …visa, immigration, etc. Do we have these arrangements abroad with our foreign missions? The answer is NO. The High Commissioner or Ambassador is the King, the Supreme authority and can make or break your career even though he or she may not necessarily be an employee of Ministry of Foreign Affairs. What will a career foreign officer do if the ambassador interferes with electoral process in the missions abroad? He can do NOTHING, ZILCH, ZERO. If he refuses, his career will be brought to immediate demise. Thus is insisting on passing ROPAB and bringing in our career foreign service employees is that do we have to politicize our civil service and for that matter our career diplomats. WHAT IS TO BE DONE? In my previous article some castigated me for only drawing attention to the problem and refusing to offer solutions. Let us remember that the first element to problem solving is the recognition or identification of the problem. I have identified the problem. Secondly, it is not in my place to offer the solutions because prior to bringing in this bad bill, proponents should have fully analyzed it and identified the problems and allayed the fears of citizens as to how these problems would be addressed. Avoiding or refusal to discuss them makes their motives in rushing to push this legislation suspect. It is impossible to implement without chaos Diasporean voting in 2 years. At any rate, as a citizen of Ghana I will propose some solutions which can form the basis of discussion as to how these issues can be resolved so that we begin to put structures in place to make it possible for Diasporeans to vote by 2024 or 2028. Let me take this opportunity to outline some basic actions we need to take 1. Births and deaths registration When demography started hundreds of years ago it started by simply using parish baptisms, birth registrations, and death registrations. In Ghana, at present we have made great strides in the decentralization system…we have district assemblies, district chief executives etc. For a start, let us divide Ghana into 3 major zones and start with 1 district in each zone. Officials of the Births and deaths registration system should pilot Births and Deaths in these 3 districts. All births and deaths should be recorded not necessarily by these officials.

Some chiefs can be trained and later authorised to issue permits before all burials. A simple form should be filled recording name, age, residence and other pertinent data. The citizens should be educated on the need so that even in the remotest of all villages deaths and births are recorded. In my student days of Demography I knew about a similar project under the auspices of the Navrongo Research Center taking place in the Kassena-Nankana District, Upper East Region, of Ghana. We can learn for their experience and use that as a framework. Officials of the District offices of the Births and deaths registration should make bimonthly trips to these villages to collect the data data which have been collected to be recorded at the District level.

By the 10th of every month, all the records should be sent to regional headquarters and then to national office. There must be monitoring and evaluation and lessons learned used to improve on the system with inbuilt security such as audit trails in order to provide data integrity.

After 3 years of pilot testing, in these districts the exercise can be extended to 10 districts for a year. With this approach in 10 -15 years Ghana might have a near reliable births and deaths registration. It is then that we can talk about National ID cards for our citizens.

I believe this approach is more scientific and will have the confidence of Ghanaians at home and abroad rather than the NPP's rush in passing the Electoral Commission (Amendment) Act 2003, (Act 655) which took away the power from the EC to issue ID cards except preparation of voters ID cards. My question is does the NPP think by giving citizenship ID cards to citizens whose births and deaths are in question makes the exercise wholesome? It does not, because it is a typical “garbage in, garbage out” situation. Or is it that the NPP by taking this power from the EC is watering the ground to give such a lucrative contract to its cronies and use the kickback (with all apologies to NPP former Chairman Mr. Haruna Aesseku) to finance the next election. 2. Financing the Diasporean voting venture At present 40% of our election budget is financed by donor countries. This is interesting to note after more than 40 years of independence. Since the proponents of the Diasporean voting have failed to inform us about “who will pay for extending the vote to the Diasporeans” Ghana can embark on what all the advanced countries do to their citizens who live abroad. They are required yearly to file their income taxes with the Internal Revenue Service. The Diasporeans should assist the government in financing the cost of this exercise since we really want to vote no matter what.

After all did a substantial majority of educated Diasporeans not have at the minimum secondary education from Ghana without paying tuition fees? These were paid by the government of Ghana. Now that we are working outside Ghana but end up paying taxes to the advanced countries we reside in, it will not be demanding too much of us to pay taxes to the government. A tax of US $500 a year on those resident in North America and Europe, those in Europe and Australia $300 a year and elsewhere $200. That money can be used in a special FUND to construct dual carriage roads from Accra to Bawku, Accra to Kumasi, and Accra-Ivorian border can be used to finance projects in Ghana as well as pay for the Diasporean voting. It may even reduce our dependency on donor financed elections. !!!!

It is phony to insist on the right to vote like it is done in USA and Canada without addressing the fact that citizens of these countries perpetually pay their taxes to their home country irrespective of where they live in the corner of this globe. My recommendation is that Parliament should suspend the ROPA bill and pass legislation providing the modalities for this taxation. The country needs money for immediate alleviation of poverty in Ghana. Our brothers and sisters are eking subsistence living and if those of us resident overseas want to vote there is nothing wrong asking us to finance it and also contribute towards maintaining the roads, providing education, health care to those living in Ghana. The overseas residents of the countries we cite as voting do provide money to their respective governments. We should not do less and demand more and this goes with the adage in America, “putting your money where your mouth is”.

It will be selfish of Diasporeans asking to vote when it may cost hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars to implement when we do not pay taxes. At present there are critical developmental issues affecting Ghana and our elected officials should turn their attention to them while we begin to put in structures that will allow free elections in 20 years for the Diasporeans. For now, can't the money be used to provide access to health (primary health or update our health infrastructure so that we don't send out sick politicians to USA, UK or South Africa for treatment on the public purse), food, education and portable water, safety from armed robbers, as well as consolidating our democracy through accountability in all spheres of national life? 3. Let us answer the question “Who is a Ghanaian? During NDC administration, the Citizenship Act, 2000 (Act 591), allowing for dual citizenship was passed and on July 19th 2001, the NPP Minister of Interior signed the Citizenship Regulations, 2001, L.I. 1690 which enables Ghanaians who wish to obtain dual nationality to do so.

The proponents of the ROPA bill want all Diasporean Ghanaians to vote. The question of who is a Ghanaian and who can vote is not being addressed by the proponents. Let us say we have a total 1 million Ghanaians living in Western Europe, Oceania, Canada and the United States. Let us assume for the moment that 50% of them have acquired the citizenship of their host countries prior to 2001. By the definition of the Dual Citizenship Act, these 500,000 are ineligible to vote in any election in Ghana because the Act was not retroactive or has what is generally called the grandfather clause. Thus these 500,000 should be identified and not allowed to register and vote. Of the other 500,000 eligible there are interesting and complicated issues to look at country by country.

The issue then becomes how do we ensure that of more than 500,000 people who are ineligible to vote even is ROPAB is passed do not end up voting. It definitely will take more than 10 years to do it. 4. Strengthening our political system i. Checks and balances: Strengthen parliament's role, the role of the judiciary and make them more independent. At present this system does not exist. Our MPs are simply not independent from the Executive. How can they be when the President appoints them as Ministers? If they were independent we would not have had the IFC loan, the Chinese Hair salon loan, the $30 million loan from India in order to build a Presidential palace in spite of opposition from opposition MPs and now ROPAB. The president should not pack the Supreme Court at will simply because he wants favorable rulings. There must be a law that puts in the ceiling…9. So far in 5 years President Kufour has appointed 15 SC justices. What for? The United States has 280 million people with 15 SC judges. Ghana has 20 million citizens with 15 SC judges and there is no end in sight.

ii. There is a need to reinvent the civil / diplomatic service and protect our civil servant so that our diplomats don't serve at the whims and caprices of our ambassadors.

5. Which electoral rules will be used in the event of a challenge from abroad? In the USA electoral petitions start from the state level. If a Ghanaian resident in Oregon wants to challenge an election irregularity, which court should this be addressed to: Ghanaian courts or Oregon courts? What about the Ghanaian in Nigeria, India, or Thailand who also had a problem with the election? It is imperative to have this clear before we proceed with the passage of bill. Conclusion As I stated earlier in my previous article, the ROPAB has to be killed or withdrawn. With all the political instability West Africans have faced we cannot play Russian roulette with our political system. It is like ticking on a time bomb and we Ghanaians cannot gamble with it. It is refreshing that Ghanaians have now decided to embark on a mammoth demonstration in 3 days (Valentine Day) against the bill. It is a welcome relief.

If NPP in spite of the massive opposition to the bill from both in and out of Ghana pushes this bill, it's MPs in addition to the CPP MPs s who vote for this bill should be prepared that posterity will hold them responsible for acts and omissions that result in putting our infant democracy to jeopardy.

Do I need to wait and find out the subsequent events that may unfold especially since the overseas vote cannot be authenticated? I don't want to, hence my call for TOTAL REJECTION of the ROPAB until all structures are in place and it becomes a bipartisan or tri partisan issue. I call on the NPP parliamentarians, after sober reflection on this issue to subordinate partisan issues to the common good of the country by either voting against the ROPAB on tell their leadership they should withdraw the bill from the House. National interests should surely override narrow partisan interests because in the long run the former helps in nation building. By doing so the citizen can be convinced that Parliament is not a Tyranny of the majority but work for all.

In the short term the NDC as a political party should compile a list of the countries that provide the 40% of our electoral budgets. They should call on their High Commissioners, Ambassadors and country representatives to advise the government to withdraw the Bill and cease forthwith to push this amendment down the throats of the people. Only then can we be convinced that the NPP tyranny of the majority does not work anywhere in the long run. In the tyranny of the majority if the majority blocks avenues for fair elections and they can rule forever, then that becomes a prescription for disaster. Or is there a hidden agenda for a one party state? One wonders where Ivory Coast will be if the Ivorian government had allowed Quattara to contest the elections which ushered in Laurent Gbagbo's administration.

ROPAB will eliminate direct voter participation and oversight in Ghanaian elections. It ushers in concealment to a process that must not only be transparent but must be seen to be transparent. Ghanaians abroad can surely be allowed to vote when all the stakeholders are content that the arrangements are acceptable. I don't see the need to rush to do it in 2008. We need about 20 years to do it so let us start the work now by putting the structures in place as well as financial arrangements to pay for it. There can be no rights without responsibilities !!!

It will be selfish of Diasporeans asking to vote when it may cost hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars to implement when we do not pay taxes. At present there are critical developmental issues affecting Ghana and our elected officials should turn their attention to them while we begin to put in structures that will allow free elections in 20 years for the Diasporeans. For now, can't the money be used to provide access to health (primary health or update our health infrastructure so that we don't send out sick politicians to USA, UK or South Africa for treatment on the public dough), food, education and portable water, safety from armed robbers, as well as consolidating our democracy through accountability in all spheres of national life?

Let me begin by saying that what most Diasporeans see is a system which is not working such as poor economy effecting more people, poverty, lack of education due to high tuition, not adequate/safe school infrastructure, high cost of text books, “watered down” education for some urban children and nil at most the rural areas. In addition poor infrastructure with no adequate housing for disfranchised percentage of the population abounds. Public health issues such as lack of toilet facilities, good drinking water, endemic malaria with its high morbidity and mortality, high infant mortality, lack of hospitals, health clinics, affordable drugs, electricity, and good roads are lacking. Is there a readily available public transportation for those who trip daily to work compared to the upper echelon who ride in their trendy cars? Overall how to leave peacefully in Ghana and not be scared of thieves and armed robbers, how to protect the citizens with efficient policing are the pressing needs for the Ghanaians at home.

To conclude, Ghanaians abroad can surely be allowed to vote when all the stakeholders are content that the arrangements are acceptable. I don't see the need to rush to do it in 2008. We are about 20 years behind and let us start the work now by putting the structures in place as well as financial arrangements to pay for it. There can be no rights without responsibilities!!! By Dr. Anthony Mawuli Sallar, USA The writer has a doctorate in epidemiology and is a faculty member and researcher in public health and research methods. He has other interests in politics, economics and political economy. He can be reached via email on [email protected] Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.