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13.07.2005 General News

Confusion characterises public forum on bill


Tamale, July 13, GNA - A public forum on the People's Representation Amendment Bill, organised in Tamale was brought to an abrupt end when a member of the public refused to retract a statement a section of the audience saw to be insulting.

Confusion broke out amidst boos and taunts when the member said: "Our friends from the Minority side are intellectually dishonest."

The member's remark was in response to calls by some of the people at the forum to have the debate on the proposed amendment bill dropped. The Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs led by its Chairman, Mr. Kwame Osei-Prempeh, made several attempts to have the member retract his statement but the efforts were to no avail. The forum was also punctuated by hooting and name-calling and neither the heavy police presence could deter the youthful audience to comport themselves.

Present at the forum were representatives of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), the Convention Peoples Party (CPP) and the People's National Convention (PNC) but conspicuously absent were representatives of the NDC.

The People's Representation Amendment Bill and the Whistle blowers Bill were slated for public debate but most of the concerns were directed at the People's Representation Amendment Bill, which among other things, seeks to make it possible for all Ghanaians resident abroad to vote in national elections.

Later in an interview with the GNA, Mr. Osei-Prempeh said the event should not have ended abruptly and expressed the hope that the forum would be re-organised.

The public forum on the two bills is the third in a series after Wa and Bolgatanga, being organised nationwide to seek the views of the electorate in order to fashion out acceptable bills for the country. There were mixed reactions from the public on the People's Representation Amendment Bill.

While some thought that enfranchising Ghanaians living abroad was a step in the right direction since they contribute substantially to the socio-economic development of the country, others believed that the introduction of the bill was premature since the country was not financially sound to effectively carry out such elections in every country worldwide.

Alhaji Abubakar Saddique Boniface, Northern Regional Minister, who was at the forum said any Ghanaian above 18 years should be allowed to vote and choose which political party should take power.

On the Whistle Blowers Bill, Mr. Osei-Prempeh attributed the under-development in Africa partly to corruption on the continent. He said however, that since 2001, the government had taken bold initiatives to reduce this social problem with the passage of the Public Procurement Act, the Financial Administration Act and the Internal Auditing Act.

He said the Whistle Blowers Bill had been so structured that it would encourage and protect individuals with information on corrupt officials to offer such information to the appropriate authorities for the necessary action.