Accra, July 24, GNA - Ms. Kim Campbell, former Prime Minister of Canada on Saturday noted that Ghana has the capacity to play a leadership role in Africa's development because of its stability and democracy.
She noted that the atmosphere that had been created by the improved civil/military relations has not only led to a stable and secure country but also made it a beacon of leadership and democracy throughout the continent.
Ms. Campbell said this at a seminar organized by the Ghana Armed Forces Command and Staff College (GAFCSC) for Parliamentarians as part of the three-week Ghana Security Sector Governance and Management Course for the various security agencies and civil organizations at the Ghana Armed Forces Command and Staff College (GAFCSC) at Teshie near Accra.
The seminar is to enlighten the MPs, particularly its Select Committee on Defence and Interior, on their role in the control and monitoring of the affairs of the agencies and their contribution to the country's security sector reforms.
Ms. Campbell told the Parliamentarians that issues regarding the military should be seen as important, especially the way civilians embraced the challenges of working with the military.
She said the task of rethinking the approach to military issues by the MPs could only be achieved by the participation of all stakeholders and would require education for them to understand their role and the extent to which they could divulge state security matters to the public. "Parliamentarians should acquire knowledge on issues of national secrets and intelligence to better understand and deal with security institutions like the armed forces.
The former Canadian Premier who was talking on the relation between Parliament and government told them that the current nature of information technology made it easy for issues bothering on national security to be made an "open secret".
She noted that the capacity to monitor such information that bothered on security issues was very strong, particularly with the advent of the Internet and other high-tech communications gadgets.
Ms. Campbell stated that the notion of what used to be considered, as a national secret was now problematic, adding that, every government should have a mechanism to keep national secrets.
However, secrecy should not deny information to the public if it were not secret.
Governments, she said, reserved the right to withhold or disclose information, but were it wouldn't it should say why. "Government is entitled to keep some information secret but the powers that government have should be used to help the people but not oppress them."
Ms. Campbell suggested that to acquire more knowledge on security to deal with the issue, Parliament should look at the approach of other countries in dealing with the issue and adopt a module that would suit Ghana.
Dr. Laura Cleary, a resource person from the Cranfield University in the UK, said that Parliament had a critical role in the security sector, especially legislating, controlling the budgets of security agencies and providing an oversight on what they were doing.
Additionally, Parliament should identify problems on security issues and suggest recommendations to tackle them.
She said the Parliament's defence committee should provide direction to government as well as highlight the weaknesses of the security system.
Parliament, she said, should be more proactive, check security policies, subject them to deliberations and consideration and influence its processes, adding that, it was important to have a constitutional legal framework that would allow MPs to take action on issues bothering on national security.
Mr. Ken Dzirasah, Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament, in a contribution, said there was a remarkable improvement in civil/military relations, adding that, there was considerable room for more improvement.
He noted that the lack of knowledge of legislators on issues relating to the military limits the scope they could contribute meaningfully to national security issues.
Mr. Dzirasah, however, stressed that Parliament was constitutionally handicapped to look into issues that concerned defence and security. The three-week course is being funded by the Defence Advisory Team of the Ministry of Defence of the United Kingdom in collaboration with the Ghana Government, Cranfield University UK, University of Ghana, Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration, African Security Dialogue and Research and the Ghana Armed Forces.
Participating agencies include Ghana Immigration Service, Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS), Ghana Police Service, Ghana Bar Association (GBA), Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), the Ministries of Defence, the Interior, Foreign Affairs, Finance and Information. The other agencies are the Ghana Armed Forces, Office of the Head of Civil Service (OHCS) and Africa Women Lawyers Association. The course is to afford the participants with the opportunity to understand some of the major political economic organizational and behavioural phenomena, relevant to national security decision-making at the national, regional and international levels.
It is aimed at addressing the need for effective planning, coordination and management of the security sector. Participants are expected to suggest appropriate structures and reforms to enhance the performance of the security sector.