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General News | Jul 2, 2004

Press Conference By Prof. Atta-Mills: Full Text

NDC

PRESS CONFERENCE BY NDC FLAGBEARER PROFESSOR JOHN EVANS ATTA-MILLS ON NATIONAL CONCERNS ABOUT PREPARATIONS TOWARDS THE DECEMBER 2004 ELECTIONS

THURSDAY 01 JULY 2004

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media,

Welcome to this Press Conference.

Today is our Republic Day, and I have taken the unusual step of addressing this Press Conference on this public holiday. I have done so deliberately because I believe that in the midst of the festivities marking the day, we must devote some time to reflect on the way forward for our dear country. This is particularly important in this election year when we must manage the electoral process in a way that would guarantee the stability of the Republic.

I would therefore like to congratulate all Ghanaians for the part each of us has played in bringing our country this far. I would further like on behalf of the NDC to congratulate our senior citizens, especially the generation that struggled for independence to whom this day has been dedicated since 1996, for blazing the trail for the younger generation to follow.

The leadership of the NDC would like to renew our commitment to work for the unity and stability of our nation. We will continue to do all we can to ensure peaceful elections but I hasten to add that only transparent and free and fair elections can guarantee that. And that is largely in the hands of the NPP.

In 1992, 1996 and 2000, the NDC demonstrated beyond doubt that it is possible to conduct transparent and free and fair elections. We also exhibited a high level of political tolerance even in the face of the most provocative utterances from the then NPP opposition. Conceding defeat in December 2000 was for me an eloquent testimony of our democratic credentials.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media, The management of the electoral process under the NPP Government has been fraught with suspicion, confusion and manipulation. The patience of the rank and file of the NDC has been tested to the breaking point and we in leadership cannot guarantee to hold the anger and frustration of our people in check forever.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media,

Introduction

Voters in the Greater Accra Region have just gone through a harrowing and nightmarish experience in wanting to have their pictures taken so that they can vote during the December Presidential and Parliamentary elections. We will be failing in our duty as political leaders if we did not comment on the failings and shortcomings of this important national exercise.

I propose to do just that today, and to also draw attention to other important developments that impact on the December elections.

First of all, I would like, on behalf of the Party that I lead, the National Democratic Congress, to express our sympathies to all those voters in the Greater Accra, Volta, Western and Central Regions in particular. Indeed voters in the other regions went through sheer trauma attempting to get their photographs taken for the new voters register.

It is revealing to note however that in the Ashanti Region, special arrangements were made for constituencies outside the Kumasi Metropolis to enable all available photo-taking and registration material to be mobilised for a near 100% coverage. As part of this special arrangement, Kumasi Metropolis was given an exclusive eight (8) days for their own photo taking exercise.

On the contrary, Greater Accra Region, which has the highest number of registered voters, was not given any such dispensation except for an additional one day extension that was reluctantly granted in response to public pressure.

When the photo-taking exercise started from the Upper West and Upper East Regions, and when the complaints started coming in that the cameras were insufficient; that there were shortages of films and laminators, that the rate of spoilage of the photographic films was very high, that the camera men and women were most amateurish, and that the pictures were in black and white, the EC and the Government should have taken the matter more seriously.

The seeds of the problem and the confusion had however been sown long before the photo-taking exercise. There were acts of commission and omission on the part of both the Government and the EC that were responsible for both the problem and the confusion.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media,

The Manipulation of the Electoral Process “The Manipulation of the Electoral Process” as we have labelled it, has included but has not been restricted to the following matters:

(i) The initial attempt of the NPP Government to take over the issuance of the Voters' Identification Card under the pretext of subsuming it under a National Identification Card system. That was all so unnecessary and showed the hand of the Government too early as wanting to directly affect the electoral process and indirectly the electoral outcome.

(ii) The second false step on the part of the Government was its attempt to impose a Procurement Committee on the EC. Public outcry compelled the Government to abandon the idea, but quite apart from the acrimony it generated between the Government and the EC, it also exposed the Government's hidden agenda of trying to influence the outcome of the elections by all means and at all costs.

(iii) Having failed in their two attempts at manipulation, the Government then embarked on the most offensive and ridiculous of all its arsenal of tricks. The NPP Government can protest its innocence all it can, but nobody believes that it was not the Government that unleashed the Auditor-General on the Chairman of the EC and gave him the ridiculous and embarrassing assignment of subjecting the Chairman of the EC to an audit of the Association of African Election Authorities (AAEA) accounts, an Association of which the EC Chairman is the Executive Secretary, for the simple reason that a one-time foreign currency payment due to the EC had been paid into that account, a matter that was quite convincingly explained by the EC Chairman. In the process, it became obvious that the NPP Government had targeted the Chairman of the EC and were looking for an excuse for his removal. What was this, if not a crude attempt to pressurise the Chairman?

(iv) Fourth, the NPP Government deliberately delayed in the release of the financial resources required by the Commission and therefore disabled the Commission from being able to plan and execute its plans timeously. For example, by the EC's own programme, the registration and photo-taking exercise should have taken place last year. Indeed many of the problems the Commission is encountering today can be laid squarely at the doorsteps of the Government on account of the delayed release of the needed finances.

(v) The fifth of the manipulative steps on the part of the NPP Government was the retirement on grounds of age of two very experienced members of the EC on the eve of the registration exercise and the appointment of four “brand new” members with absolutely no experience in election administration and election management. Even the EC's advice for the “experienced hands” to be retained till after the elections was rejected by the President, even though we understand the Chief Director of the EC who has also attained the age of sixty and who has long been suspected of having pro-NPP sympathies, has been retained on contract by the President.

(vi) Another attempt at manipulation that again showed the hand of the Government in its desperation to affect the outcome of the elections was its effort to railroad Parliament to approvethe 'Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill' under which Ghanaians resident abroad would have been enabled to register and vote in the December elections without any preparations by the EC and with Ambassadors appointed by the NPP Government in those countries acting as the Electoral Officers. That this single act was able to galvanise all but one of the opposition political parties into forming a united front to resist the move shows the extent to which people have grown to believe that the NPP Government has an agenda to rig the elections.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media,

These attempts by the NPP Government to influence the electoral process and determine the electoral outcome have been accompanied by rumours of other developments that give cause for concern that the electoral playing field will not be even, that there is a clear attempt to rig the elections, and that the ruling party is planning violence to intimidate our supporters to prevent them from going to cast their vote on election date and for possible deployment in case of an electoral defeat.

In this connection, we were alarmed when rumours of the recruitment and establishment of a “Party Police” metamorphosed into fact when both the Government and the IGP were compelled to admit that a special unit had indeed been formed for VIP protection, not using the regular police but with personnel newly recruited by the NPP Government. We have reports that the members of the unit themselves have been boasting to their friends that they have been trained for “special election duties”.

We remember only too well the recent event in which persons unknown illegally imported large quantities of weapons including silencer-equipped guns, weapons used only by assassins and murderers, ostensibly for use by the newly established and newly-trained “Party Police” whose existence is unconvincingly denied.

We are also investigating reports that foreign nationals, mostly rebel soldiers from war-torn West African countries, are being trained in secret camps in some parts of the country for sinister purposes.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media,

Acts of Omission of the Electoral Commission The EC itself has not helped matters much. It has kept quiet when it ought to have spoken, and it has spoken when it ought to have kept quiet.

When the EC was accused by the media of appointing a card-bearing Ward Chairman of the NPP as its Head of Security, it kept an ominous silence, even though the gentleman was identified by name. That gentleman is still at post. Yet when a low-level registration assistant was recently accused of predicting a win for Professor Atta-Mills at his polling station, he (the registration assistant) was promptly dismissed.

When a high-ranking official of the EC Headquarters was accused of deliberately communicating the wrong dates for the photo-taking exercise in the Volta Region, EC officials were quick to come to his defence that it was a human error, though that official has long been suspected of being a closet NPP sympathiser, if not a closet NPP member.

What has shaken the faith of many Ghanaians in the electoral process, however, is the extreme sloppiness and amateurism with which the registration and photo-taking exercises have been conducted. We ask ourselves whether this is the same Electoral Commission that has conducted three highly successful elections in the period of the Fourth Republic and won world-wide acclaim, or whether the changes in the composition of the Commission and the partisan conduct of certain of its key personnel is undermining its efficiency.

From all over the country, there were numerous complaints about the two exercises – the data capturing exercise and the photo-taking exercise.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media,

The Data Capturing Exercise

During the data capturing exercise, our party was inundated with reports of the disenfranchisement of many eligible voters through no fault of theirs

From the Krachi constituency of the Volta Region alone, the NDC compiled a list of over 700 eligible voters who for one reason or another were not registered, complete with their details, and submitted this in a petition to the EC. The EC promised to investigate and rectify the situation on the basis of the outcome of the investigations. So far, we have not been informed of the outcome of our petition.

Yet when a group of about 480 NPP supporters from Kantamanto demonstrating against alleged disenfranchisement were bussed to the EC premises last week, Chief Director Damuah-Agyeman without any investigation whatsoever, promptly pronounced “judgement” in their favour and ordered their instant registration and photo taking.

The complaints about the data capturing exercise were countrywide, but we noted the following in particular:

(i) In the Upper East Region, a general shortage of registration forms precluded many people from registering;

(ii) In the Northern Region, there were reports of intermittent shortages of registration materials in the Tamale metropolis which so frustrated potential voters that many of them ended up not registering at all;

(iii) In the Volta Region, shortages of registration materials were reported from the Buem, Akan and Krachi constituencies;

(iv) In the Eastern Region, reports were received of registration officials in the Upper Manya constituency padding the registers with names of persons from outside the constituency supplied to them by an NPP-organised gang, a deal which we are informed was organised on a country-wide basis;

(v) In the Western Region, a number of people in the Sekondi-Takoradi metropolis were not able to register by the time registration closed in the region;

(vi) The Ashanti Region did not experience any serious shortage of registration material. When registration forms ran out, they were generally replaced within 15 minutes.

But by far what has caused the greatest concern about the data-capturing exercise has been the document released by the EC itself, called “Replacement of the Voters' Register, 2004: Provisional Figures Recorded as at 29th March 2004”.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media,

Our analysis of those figures reveals numerous anomalies and discrepancies, which we have catalogued for distribution in a separate document. On the basis of that analysis, we want to ask the EC to answer just three simple questions:

(i) How come some constituencies registered more people than the number of registration forms allocated for the exercise;

(ii) How come some of the forms which were released for the exercise have not been accounted for;

(iii) How come there were no returns or incomplete returns from some of the major NPP-held constituencies such as Atwima Nwabiagya, Atwima Mponua, Asokwa, Subin, Kwabre, New Juaben North, Abuakwa, Mpraeso, Akim Swedru, Tema East and Tema West?

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media, The Photo -Taking Exercise From our monitoring of the photo-taking exercise, we have concluded that the entire operation must have been deliberately planned to cause the maximum of discomfort in perceived NDC strongholds and to achieve perfection in perceived NPP strongholds.

The fundamental problem however arose from the decision to split the photo-taking exercise from the data-capturing exercise, a decision occasioned by the NPP Government's inability, failure or refusal to make sufficient resources available at all or timeously for the two exercises to be conducted simultaneously.

The following problems that were identified with the exercise can therefore only be considered symptoms of this fundamental problem:

(i) Some centres were either poorly manned or understaffed;

(ii) Registration officials and camera men arrived late at the registration centres;

(iii) Quite a number of the cameras were faulty and in some cases it took days to replace them;

(iv) At some registration centres there were laminating cards without cameras and vice versa;

(v) Some centres consistently ran out of films and other registration material.

These and other observed shortcomings resulted in many data-captured voters not having their photographs taken. Significant problem areas were identified and again, these have been catalogued and will be distributed to you separately.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media,

Our Concerns

At the Joint Opposition Press Conference held on Wednesday, April 7, 2004, against the background of protests by our supporters, we indicated that we preferred to conclude our review of the data-capturing exercise before taking a definitive position on the exercise. We also expressed the hope that the EC would assist our efforts by making its provisional returns available to us.

We now have those provisional returns. The photo-taking exercise has ended. And we have concluded an aspect of our review of the data-capturing exercise. These three assignments have thrown up some very serious concerns that are of grave worry:

(i) The discrepancies revealed in the analysis of the provisional figures make the EC appear to be inept and incompetent. That the EC did not spot these anomalies and discrepancies itself, and that the EC has not attempted any explanations since they were brought to its attention, suggests that the EC has no answers to the questions being posed, and that raises a big question mark against the credibility of the register; (ii) That the exercise appears to have gone on smoothly and flawlessly in the Ashanti Region and other strongholds of the NPP, whilst major problems arose in the Northern, Upper East, Upper West, Volta and Greater Accra Regions where the NDC is perceived to be more popular seem to confirm the widely-held belief of the existence of a deliberate plan by forces mostly outside the EC to lower registration in areas where support for the ruling NPP is weak;

(iii) That there were no returns at all or only incomplete returns from the data-capturing exercise from many of the NPP strongholds and especially in constituencies of perceived NPP “strongmen” suggests an attempt to conceal the figures in those constituencies in order to make an accurate analysis of what went on in those constituencies impossible;

(iv) To the extent that there are still large numbers of people who were not registered in the data-capturing exercise, as well as a large number of people whose data was captured but who were not photographed in the photo-taking exercise, the EC still has some unfinished business on hand; (v) With all its previous attempts to influence the electoral process to its advantage, we wonder what else the NPP Government has up its sleeve by way of attempting to rig the elections.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media,

Conclusion For all these reasons, we call on the EC to take its announced mopping-up exercise very seriously. The exercise should cover all those whose data was captured but whose photographs could not be taken for whatever reason, and must take place at the polling stations and not the district offices of the EC.

We again call on the EC to offer some factual, credible explanation for the discrepancies discovered in the provisional figures it issued on the data capturing exercise.

At the very least, the officials involved in the affected constituencies should be made to explain how people were able to register without registration forms as well as the whereabouts of the unaccounted for registration forms. These explanations should be made public.

We wish to caution the Government that we are monitoring closely what appears to be their grand design to ensure that the NPP wins the 2004 elections by any means, fair or foul. We will not play to that grand design. As leader of the NDC, I have been in the forefront of the crusade for peaceful elections. It has even earned me a name, “Asomdweehen”. I am making sure that my Party members take a cue from my stance.

Unfortunately, what we see and hear on the part of the NPP is a party preaching peace in public but preparing to unleash violence and mayhem in secret. That must stop.

· The language of violence must also stop.

· The intimidation of NDC supporters must stop.

· The intimidation of the supporters of the other opposition parties must stop.

· The para-military activities of the so-called “Peace Seekers International” must stop.

· The political intolerance of the NPP Government must stop.

· The manipulation and censorship of the state owned media must stop.

· The “Party Police” must be abolished.

These are obligations expected of any decent government with a commitment to democratic principles and values.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media,

Let me be honest with you. I will continue to insist on peaceful elections, but I must warn the NPP Government that they cannot and must not take the patience and diplomacy of the leadership of the NDC, and indeed of the entire opposition for granted.

President Kufuor cannot pretend to be unaware of all that is going on. He must call his people to order.

I appeal to President Kufuor to create the atmosphere and the environment for free, fair, peaceful and transparent elections, and enable the EC through a policy of both non-interference in its activities and the timeous and adequate provision of resources to conduct the elections.

There is growing evidence of anger, dissatisfaction and frustration among our supporters, and as a leader I cannot ignore their justified concerns as they see clear attempts to manipulate the elections. If we do not take care, there may come a time when we will not be able to contain the anger and frustration of our people.

May we all play our part to ensure that the new democracy, built on the solid rock of sacrifice of the people of this country, survives till eternity.

I thank you for your attention.

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