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01.03.2005 General News

Roundup: Thousands take part in "Wahala" Demo

Roundup: Thousands take part in
LISTEN MAR 1, 2005

Accra, March 1, GNA - Thousands of Ghanaians on Tuesday poured into major streets in Accra in a peaceful protest against Government's recent 50 per cent increase in petroleum prices and the general economic hardships in the country. Former President Jerry Rawlings and former Vice President Professor John Atta Mills joined the Committee for Joint Action (CJA), organisers of the demonstration dubbed "Wahala March", in the protest march. The CJA is made up of representatives of the opposition parties - National Democratic Congress (NDC), EGLE Party, National Reform Party (NRP) and People's National Convention (PNC).
The demonstration started from the Freedom and Justice Park, near Kwame Nkrumah Circle in Accra and ended at the gates to the State House. The Protestors, who bore placards, some which read: "Say No to Kufuor Fuel Tsunamis"; "30,000 Cedis to Satisfy NPP's 88 Ministers"; "Petrol Price Hikes 3D Social Explosion" and "NPP The Suffering Is Too Much", marched while others danced to music provided by brass band music during the manifestation. Other placards read: "Kufuor, Have You Forgotten the Poor?" "Transport Fares Wahala", "TUC Where Are You? And "Why Is Christian Council Silent?".
Students and pupils, market women and workers in offices came out to see the Protestors, with some standing on the balconies of their buildings, either cheering or watching the demonstrators. Under the direction of a contingent of more than 900 unarmed Police Officers led by Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Kofi Boakye, Greater Accra Regional Police Commander, the Protestors marched from the Kwame Nkrumah Circle through the Farisco Avenue, Adabraka, Hall of the Trades Union Congress, Cedis House, National Theatre, Ministries, to the Stadium Road.
The Protestors after their three-hour march converged at the gate to the State House on the Osu Cemetery Road at which point Police allowed only the Executives of CJA and identified Journalists entry. Alhaji Ahmed Ramadan, National Vice Chairman of the of the People's National Convention (PNC) read and presented the Declaration of the CJA to Mr Freddie Blay, First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, who received it on behalf of the Speaker, Mr Ebenezer Begyina Sekyi Hughes.
The Executive of the CJA urged the House to review taxes and margins, which made over 50 per cent of the price of petroleum products and to reverse its approval of the fuel price increase by March 7, 2005. The CJA stated that the recent increases in the prices of petroleum products were a gross manifestation of insensitivity to the already overburdened people of Ghana and that the increase would only perpetuate poverty. "Ghanaians are dissatisfied with the growing subservience of the NPP Government to the prescriptions and conditionalities of the IMF and the World Bank to the detriment of the well-being of Ghanaians," the group stated, and called on the NPP to make life bearable for the people. They also accused the Government of undermining the confidence in the country's democratic institutions through deception, and that the NPP exhibited a culture of impunity and arrogance and pursued selective justice. They called on Parliament to ensure honesty and transparency in the management of the economy.
Mr Blay said demonstrations were a legitimate means to express concerns about the governance of the country. The Minority Leader in Parliament, Mr Alban Bagbin, who took part in the demonstration, said he was grateful to the Police for the protection of the marchers and the media for the coverage and added that the "good people of Ghana" were hoping the petition would not fall on deaf ears.
The Executives of the CJA, featuring Dr Obed Asamoah, National Chairman of NDC, Dr David Pessey, General-Secretary of NRP, Mrs Araba Bentsi-Enchil of the of the Convention People's Party (CPP), Ms Ama Benyiwa-Doe of the NDC and Mr Omane Boamah, the Spokesman of the CJA, took turns to urge the demonstrators to keep up the pressure to get the Government to reduce the prices of the petroleum products.
Former President Rawlings' arrival earlier at the Freedom and Justice Park threw the demonstrators into excitement. He told them that the Government was stealing the sanctity of the right of the choice of the people, saying there was a limit to which Ghanaians could tolerate the insults and insensitivities of the Government.
When he again addressed the crowd at the gate to the State House Complex on the Osu Cemetery Road, which turned into a rally ground, he said the demonstration would be replicated in the Regions, to bring home to Ghanaians the corruption in the Government. He said nobody would make any coup against the NPP government, but Ghanaians could "punish" the Government by holding it accountable to do the right thing.
Mr Kwesi Pratt Junior and Professor Nii Dowuona both of the CPP, as well as Professor Mills also gave words of exhortation before the demonstration took off. Mr Doe Adjaho an NDC MP, in interview said the NPP would pay a heavy price on December 7 2008 if it failed to listen to cry of the people. "I will be the first person to issue a press statement in praise of the NPP if it listened to the people."

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