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22.06.2004 Regional News

Police Officers undertake lectures on electoral laws

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Accra, June 22, GNA - Fifty-five Senior Police Officers from Volta and Greater Accra Regions on Tuesday began studies on electoral laws and procedures to enable them to perform efficiently during Election 2004. The training is aimed at building on the capabilities and understanding of police personnel in electoral laws, regulations, procedures and processes as well as exposing them to the mechanism for electoral conflict resolution.

Opening the day's lecture, under the theme: "The Role of Police Towards the Attainment of a Peaceful and Successful General Election," the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Nana Owusu-Nsiah, said the maintenance of Law and Order in Election 2004 was of paramount concern to the Police Administration.

Nana Owusu-Nsiah said in view of these, the training would afford the officers - District, Divisional and Unit Commanders the opportunity to impart the knowledge acquired to their subordinates through formal lectures, welfare meetings, durbars and duty parades.

He said: "The peace and tranquillity that our country is enjoying now must be sustained and jealously protected at all cost."

The IGP, therefore, urged the Officers to accept the challenge and exhibit professionalism before, during and after the polls "as free and fair election promotes peace, which is a pre-requisite to progress and development.

"The Ghana Police Service has two flags on its shoulders - the flag of Ghana and the flag of the Service. These are two major flags we cannot afford to let down come this December.

"Let us arm ourselves with knowledge and display professionalism. Let us go out there well prepared to exhibit to Ghanaians that the Police Service has come of age," he emphasised.

Mr David Kangah Deputy Chairman of the Electoral Commission in Charge of Finance and Administration, in a lecture said one of the cornerstones of democracy was the right of all adult citizens to participate in the affairs of their government.

He explained that the most fundamental form of participation was the right to vote in free and fair elections. The ability to exercise this basic democratic right to vote was, however, premised on the existence of a comprehensive and inclusive electoral list.

"Electoral list are a fundamental component of any voting system. Voters Register constitute the official list of electors and are prima facie evidence of the electors right to vote."

Mr Kangah, who was the main facilitator, said the enrolment procedures, therefore, needed to strike the right balance between the need to be rigorous to ensure integrity of the rolls, and the need for flexibility to ensure that people's right to enrol and vote are protected.

"While voter registration and the production of a voters list is a central component of Election Administration, it is important to note that it is also the most costly activity often accounting for more than 50 per cent of the overall cost of administering elections", he said. The EC Deputy Chairman explained that the right to vote as enshrined in Article 42 of the 1992 Constitution was only a discretionary right and not an obligation.

Therefore, the exercise of that democratic right by every qualified citizen was solely at the citizen's own discretion, he said. "It follows, therefore, that voter registration, on which voting right is premised, is also at the citizen's discretion. Registration as a voter is also, therefore, not obligatory."

Mr Kangah stressed that every citizen wishing to exercise his/her constitutional right to vote could only declare that intention by registering as a voter in line with the rules and regulations defined by the Commission.

He also explained that the compilation of credible voter registration was a shared responsibility between the State (represented by the Electoral Commission) and the individual citizen as well as political parties and civil society.

"The State has the responsibility to ensure that the opportunity to register is accessible (comprehensive, convenient, fair and non-discriminatory) to every qualified citizen."

It is then the responsibility of the citizen to present himself or herself to initiate registration.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the National Governance Programme are jointly funding the lectures, which would be held throughout the country.

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