President J. A. Kufuor has called on Ghanaians to work to ensure genuine reconciliation.
He has, accordingly, called on all to make a conscious effort to minimise tension within the society, especially as the country celebrates its Jubilee Year.
The President made the call in his opening remarks at the Sixth People's Assembly, dubbed the Jubilee People's Assembly, held at the Christ the King Catholic Parish Hall in Sunyani, the capital of the Brong Ahafo Region, yesterday.
In that regard, the President appealed to the various factions in the Yendi crisis in the Northern Region in particular to see themselves as brothers sisters and urged Ghanaians to lend support to that effort.
“The time-tested institution of chieftaincy is, unfortunately, being exploited by a few over-ambitious individuals to generate tension, which is sad. We should allow this institution to continue to be a rallying point for development and progress,” he stressed.
The function, which was attended by Ministers of State, Members of Parliament (MPs), members of the Council of State, members of the Diplomatic Corps, the clergy, traditional rulers, as well as New Patriotic Party (NPP) functionaries, was on the theme, “Ghana at 50: Past, Present and Future”.
President Kufuor declared, “Let me appeal to our chiefs to let the noble attributes of the institution to come forth to enrich the government of the nation at the local and traditional levels and let us at times endeavour to rise above our differences and behave ourselves.”
President Kufuor observed that last year Ghana played in the World Cup finals for the first time, where the Black Stars became the toast, not only of Ghanaians but the world at large.
He noted that during the past five decades of national sovereignty the country had experienced its fair share of breakthroughs and reversals, pointing out that independence brought a great prize and hope for the nation and that it was joy to state everywhere that "I am a Ghanaian".
He stressed that the national economy was strong, particularly in the area of agriculture, where cocoa was doing very well and the rich virgin vegetation was supporting a host of other economic activities.
The President emphasised that the policy of accelerated development was launched after independence and led to the construction of second-cycle schools, some road infrastructure, clinics and health centres, as well as potable water systems, among other projects.
He said the difficult problems of the Cold War era, which were beyond the nation's control, and the subsequent single party system, the controlled economy and the various interventions of the military not only weakened institutional structures but also impoverished the citizens and robbed them of their self confidence and dignity.
The President said viewed against that chequered past of the country and its current attempts at recovery, there could not be a better time than the Jubilee Year to pause and reflect on the national vision and objectives of independence.
"This should help us to clarify parts of the vision which are blurred, discard objectives which are no longer valued and together co-operate to achieve the goals we have set for the next half century to accelerate our nation into the ranks of the advancing and, indeed, the advanced countries," he stressed.
In line with this, the President said, "We must shed all doubts and misgivings about the celebration. We must see the Jubilee as something not only for the government and the NPP and, indeed, I am using this platform to invite all Ghanaians, public and private institutions and organisations, the different political parties, schools, churches, traditional authorities and even families and social clubs to participate actively in the celebrations."
"When Parliament reconvenes, we expect that the House will become actively involved in the process and spread the Jubilee spirit to their respective constituencies," he said.
President Kufuor noted that on assumption of office, the government promised to arrest the decline in the economy, expand the level of infrastructural development and modernise agriculture and also pledged to build the capacity of Ghanaian institutions and the citizens in order to mainstream them into globalisation.
"At the moment the name Ghana rings positive bells world-wide. For me, this is positive. The people's will for freedom ultimately prevails and the Jubilee Year has found our nation back under a multi-party democracy and a liberal economy, with a government which is committed to the rule of law, freedom and justice, equality of all before the law, freedom of speech, association and respect for gender rights," he emphasised.
President Kufuor indicated that the government had kept faith with the people and that it was delivering on those promises, while the economy was on the path of fast recovery.
He said all indicators were positive, such as reduced inflation, a stable currency, low interest rates, the availability of credit for business, among others.
President Kufuor observed that there had been an increased investor confidence in the economy and added that as a result of such confidence, remittances from Ghanaians abroad totalled an impressive US$4 billion.
He said the government had taken a bold step to shift the paradigm of the salaries paid to teachers from very low levels to what would motivate staff across board, saying, "This is just the beginning and the Fair Wages Commission is expected to rationalise salaries within the public sector to ensure fairness and the payment of equal salaries for work of equal value."
President Kufuor expressed surprise at the increasing incidence of guinea worm infestation in the Brong Ahafo Region, disclosing that since 2001 the delivery of potable water to the region had increased from 19 per cent coverage to 51 per cent, which he said should normally have reduced any incidence of the disease significantly.
"So it is amazing that this disease is said to be rising. Perhaps past data must be reviewed to establish its genuineness. I have directed the Minister of Health to submit a report on this to my office," he said.
The Brong Ahafo Regional Minister, Mr Ignatius Baffour-Awuah, in a welcoming address, noted with satisfaction that the government had made a mark in upgrading the Asuogyaman, Hwidiem, Bechem and Drobo Secondary schools into first- class institutions.
He acknowledged the government's efforts at getting investment inflow into the region, such as the sinking of close to $450 million by Newmont Ghana Gold Limited in the Ahafo Mine site, as well as attempts to construct the Bui Dam.
The Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mr Kwamena Bartels, said the annual function offered the opportunity to Ghanaians to interact freely with the President and ask the questions bothering them.
Story By Nehemia Owusu Achiaw,
& Samuel Duodu, Sunyani