22.02.2006 Feature Article

Letter From The President: ROPAB Brouhaha II

Letter From The President: ROPAB Brouhaha II
22.02.2006 LISTEN

Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents,

I am getting tired of the on-going debate over whether or not Sikaman citizens abroad should vote. It seems to be the one most pressing issue confronting our country today. But clearly it's not. I know you have also had enough of the arguments for and against the law and you'd rather that I drop the subject and write about something else. But I can't! The minority people are still making such a fuss about it and I am getting increasingly annoyed – so annoyed to the point that I am thinking about the possibility of shelving the whole idea. Perhaps, I could even make a decision before this letter gets to you.

I have not yet taken any decision to shelve the bill for just one reason: I don't want to set a precedent whereby my plans and programmes will be thwarted by the whining of the opposition. If that happens the opposition will be ruling this country by proxy and I will only be a “Simpa panyin” – a mere figurehead and an utterly useless leader. This, I will not allow to happen. I am the one with the mandate to rule and propose laws. Binbag and his people also have a mandate to oppose and offer sensible alternatives. I am doing my bit but they are shirking their responsibilities, choosing rather to engage in scare-mongering and pointless arguments.

Have you seen how they've put the whole nation on edge with their pronouncements that this country will become another Cote d'Ivoire or Rwanda if we go ahead and pass the representation of the people's amendment bill? This is the height of irresponsibility. To counter their claims, I'd like to just pass on some information.

The situation in Cote d'Ivoire was caused by a despot's decision to strip his opponents of their citizenship. By so doing, he sought to take away their rights to vote and run for elected office. That's not what the government is seeking to do with the representation of the people's amendment bill. By deciding to make it possible for our citizens abroad to vote, we are rather seeking to grant them their right to vote and run for office – a right that consolidates their citizenship.

Secondly, I think that what happened in Rwanda a little over a decade ago cannot in any way be compared to what is happening in our country now. In Rwanda an ethnic majority decided to “cleanse” the country of an ethnic minority group. No one in Sikaman is contemplating that. So Binbag and his people should stop wasting our ears with their veiled threats. We will not allow ourselves to be forced into a dictatorship of a minority.

Having said all that, I don't think there is any gain denying the fact that the attempt to pass the representation of the people's amendment bill has needlessly increased the wedge between the government and the opposition. In my last letter on this subject, I asked why a law which is supposed to unite us (and make out brethren in abroad participate in governance) should divide us so much. I don't like the current state of affairs at all. I have said time and again that the bill is now in parliament and we should allow the house to decide whether or not to pass it. I thought that the NDC minority would participate in the debates and at the very least make their objections known. Unfortunately, they have decided to boycott proceedings of the legislature “until further notice”. I know that even with the minority members, parliament is essentially a “rubber stamp” and most of the time, as they say, “the minority has its say and the majority has it way”. Staying in the house to “have their say” is an important contribution by the minority to the democratic process. With their decision to indefinitely boycott parliamentary proceedings, the NDC minority are doing this country a big disservice. They better go back to have their voices heard.

But if they choose to continue with their boycott of parliamentary proceedings, I hope they will be willing to forego all their parliamentary privileges and refrain from collecting salaries for work they have not done. They were voted into parliament to stay in the chamber to get their voices heard (with occasional walkouts allowed). Once they decide to stop working, they will not be entitled to any salary.

Meanwhile, I think we have all had enough of this ROPAB brouhaha. Can we talk about something else – something more pressing and relevant to the welfare of the people? There are still millions of abused, hungry, homeless, ill-educated and sick people in Sikaman, you know. Government officials are still “chopping” monies and taking foolish decisions. CHRAJ is hearing Anena's case of abuse of office and corruption but we are not discussing it. A recent report by Transparency International indicated that there is widespread corruption in our hospitals. We didn't take much notice of that report because we were busily arguing about ROPAB. It's important that we allow our brothers and sisters abroad to vote but it's not a pressing need. Let's get this issue over and done with as quickly as possible and get back to securing the welfare of the citizens. At the end of the day, one may ask, “what is ROPAB anyway”? Will it put bread in the hands of hungry citizens? Will it promote increased access to food, water and good health? No! It's a law worth having and I support it. But it is not worth the acrimony and the tensions. For once, I am thinking that the minority should have its way. Just this once, perhaps. Whatever I decide, you will know.

Excellently yours,

J. A. Fukuor

[email protected]