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16.07.2005 Press Review

EDITORIAL: These Debates Must Be Well-Informed!

By Chronicle

The series of confusion reported to be breaking up the debates on The Representation of the People's Amendment Bill, is something that should be worrying to all Ghanaians interested in the development and growth of our democracy.

The reports have it that supporters of the two leading parties are expressing such high level of intolerance of each other's opinions that, some of the fora have had to be aborted.

The Chronicle finds it regrettable that such an important national exercise is degenerating into a state of chaos as a result of signals sent out earlier by the political leaders of the country.

Any one who listened to Mr. Sam Okudzeto and Mr. Kwamena Ahwoi, coming from the opposite sides of the debate and finally agreeing that there is more to be done about the bill as it stands now, would have no doubt that a lot of soberness is required to understand the issues.

In the first place, it is The Chronicle's considered opinion that even though there would by all means be new ideas from the on-going debate to enrich the Bill, the environment as it exists presently, has been too poisoned by the political parties.

It is only through informed debates that ideas that would enrich the Bill could be got. However, looking at the signals already sent out, it is clear that people would not be debating, based on knowledge and would only offer contributions based on sheer opinions, political bias, and its attendant emotions.

It is our hope that the platform created for this important national exercise would be utilized in a more civil manner than we have seen so far, such that at the end of the debate, we would not be standing still, but shall all be satisfied in our minds that we have progressed from where we started off.

A report of the Ghana News Agency (GNA) on the Bolgatanga forum, organized by the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, to solicit for the public's view last Tuesday, on the Representation as well as the Whistleblowers Bills suggests that the premise for the debate is unfortunately, heavily flawed.

The report has it that: 'The Chairman of the committee, Mr. Kwame Osei-Prempeh, explaining the People's Representation Bill, said the Constitution stipulated that all Ghanaians, 18 years and above be registered as voters and that it would, therefore, be discriminatory for them to be denied the chance to vote just because they were abroad.'

Clearly, the above explanation cannot in any way form the basis for a debate of any form, since there is only one uncontested position to the subject matter, placed before the public at that forum.

It is important that all the core issues that have been identified and raised in respect of the Representation law, as it exists now, and the Amendment Bill are brought out to form the basis for the debate.

The acrimony characterizing the forum is also the result of our Members of Parliament (MPs), having assumed the role of delegates, and therefore not seeking the public's opinion at open fora such as what is going on.

There is no doubt that having a debate on the issues at stake is good, but it is more important to have a well-informed debate, not based on opinions!

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