Accra, June 1, GNA - Since 1966, when the Council of State made its first appearance in the Second Republic of Ghana's Constitution, it had held all its meetings, workshops and seminars in camera, until Tuesday, June 1, 2004, when it came public with a consultative seminar on the forthcoming general election.
The Council, led by its chairman, Professor Alex Kwarpong, in collaboration with the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD), for the first time held a seminar, which was geared at interacting with stakeholders in the forthcoming elections, thereby gathering information on the process so as to play its constitutionally mandated presidential advisory role effectively.
Under the 1992 constitution, the Council of State is required to meet at least four times a year and the constitutions also requires the Council to hold its meetings in camera, unless it thought it fit to open its meeting to the public.
Prof. Kwarpong said the restriction in holding Council meetings in camera was in order, given the complex, delicate and often sensitive nature of many of the issues on which it was required to offer its independent advice to the President an others.
"This seminar today is the first of the Council's deliberations to be opened to the public and it couldn't have come at a more appropriate time than in an election year."
The theme for the seminar; " Towards Peaceful, Free and Fair Election 2004; Consultations with Political Parties and other Stakeholders, was an expression of the Council's commitment to a peaceful, free, fair and violent-free elections this year.
Chapter nine of the 1992 constitutions, which talks about the Council of State, clearly states its role as " to counsel the President in the performance of his functions" and also "to consider and advise the President or any other authority in respect of any appointment, which is required by the constitution or any other law to be made in accordance with the advice of, or in consultation with the Council of State".
Prof. Kwarpong said "In addressing our responsibilities, we have taken the view that to be able to fulfil our constitutional mandate and role effectively, we must do our homework well so as to be fully informed on the various issues and matters on which we either choose or are requested to offer such advice."
He told the seminar participants that, though the Council was generally required to meet at least for times a year and mainly in camera, it had considered the nature of its work carefully and thought that four meetings a year was not enough so it meets fives time a months, which came to at least 60 meeting a year.
Prof. Kwarpong related the somewhat checked history of the Council of State to participants at the seminar, including politicians, journalists, police officers, civil society representatives, students and others, saying that after its first appearance in 1969, the Council was abolished in 1972 and came back again in a renewed form in the 1979 Third Republican Constitution.
He said in the wake of the 1981 military take-over, the Council of State was yet again abolished along with the constitution and the government in power, until 1992 when it re-appeared in the Fourth Republican Constitution and had remained till date.
Prof. Kwarpong said the Council had since its inception been made up of 25 members, comprising four ex-officio members, 10 regional representations and 11 presidential appointees.
He said the four ex-officio members were a former Chief Justice, a former Inspector General of Police, a former Chief of Defence Staff and the President of National House of Chiefs.
The Chairman said it was note worthy that, the role of the Council of State was strictly advisory and that the constitution did not empower the it to compel the President and members of government or other organs of state to act in accordance with any recommendation made by the Council of State.
He said for the purposes of judging the Council within the context of its strictly advisory role, it was imperative to emphasized for public appreciation, the fact that the Council of State was not a super executive body, nor did it have any powers of enforcement of its advices or sanctions.