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14.07.2005 General News

Public debates Bills at forum


Sunyani, July 14, GNA -The Parliamentary Selected Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on Thursday held its fourth public forum in Sunyani to collate views on the proposed People's Representation and the Whistle Blowers Bills. The Representation Bill is aimed at ensuring that Ghanaians resident outside the country exercise their democratic voting right during elections, while the Whistle Blowers Bill would also constitutionally empower Ghanaians to help the Government to check corruption without fear or favour.

Apart from the NDC members, representatives of the other opposition parties, namely the CPP and the PNC are in the team.

The People's Representation Bill engaged the greatest attention of the participants at the well-attended forum in Sunyani, which included representatives from all the 19 municipal and districts, heads of departments, identifiable organizations and other stakeholders.

Nana Kofi Amoah, ex-Apagyahene of Sunyani Traditional Area in a contribution suggested that the security and stability of the nation must be paramount in the efforts to empower Ghanaians resident elsewhere to exercise their franchise.

He noted bottlenecks and shortfalls during general elections in the country, "which breed political instability, mostly due to disagreements and dishonesty among election officials" and expressed the fear that elections conducted outside the country might not be free and fair. "I want to caution that the nation should take time to answer all the pertinent questions to safeguard our unity and cohesion whilst we continue to nurture our infant democracy", the former chief said.

Nana Kofi Amoah noted that the nation used the existing law to successfully conduct elections in 1992 and 1996, which were won by the NDC and used the same law to conduct the 2000 and 2004 elections, won by the New Patriotic Party (NPP).

He appealed to the government to forget about the proposed bill "to enable us to continue to enjoy the peace".

Many participants rooted for the bill but called for the streamlining of the electoral processes, whilst some also wondered as to how the new bill could cater for the 230 ballot boxes in the Parliamentary election, how the political parties would organise their campaigns, supervision of polling agents and other pertinent issues. Earlier, addressing the forum, Mr. Prempeh, explained that the nation's constitution "provides the right for every Ghanaian to exercise his or her franchise, hence the Government has thought it expedient to amend the 1992 constitution, which prevents or debars Ghanaians engaged in private businesses outside the country to enjoy this privilege and right."

He said the 1992 constitution enjoins only Ghanaians on official duties outside the country to vote and saw this as unfair to others who also in one way or the other contribute to the nation's socio-economic growth.

"I see no reason why while we want those of our brothers and sisters to help make the nation worth living in, but would not see them exercise their legitimate right to vote to decide on the governance of the country", the MP said.

The participants unanimously associated themselves with the introduction of the Whistle Blowers bill, provided the government could honour some of the proposed or promised benefits such as security or protection for informants, who could suffer reprisals from perpetrators.

Other members of the sub-committee at the forum were Mr. Ben Ayeh, Member of Parliament for Upper Denkyira, Mr. Ofosu Asamoah, MP for Kade, who is also chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Lands and Forestry, Mr. William Ofori Boafo, MP for Akropong and Deputy Minister of Defence, Mr. John Ndebugre, People's National Convention (PNC) MP for Zebilla, Mr. Yaw Badu, MP for Kumawu and Mr. Kojo Armah, Convention People's Party (CPP) MP for Evalue Gwira in the Western Region. Also present at the meeting, presided over by Nana Kwadwo Seinti, Brong-Ahafo Regional Minister were Mr. Kwadwo Agyei-Darko, MP for Sunyani West and Mr. Ignatius Baffour-Awuah, Deputy Brong-Ahafo Regional Minister.

Mid-way through the proceedings some of the participants walked out of the conference room, saying they were disgusted with a comment made by Nana Seinti in reaction to a contribution by a participant. The participant had complained, among other things about the government's handling of the FCUBE programme to which the Regional Minister stepped in to say that that was not what the committee was in for and warned participants against veering from the main agenda and not to waste the committee's time with unnecessary points. This and other comments he made in his capacity as chairman for the meeting seemed to have infuriated those participants who walked away in protest.