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18.07.2005 NDC News

NDC Storms Forum

By DAILY GUIDE

NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC Congress (NDC) activists and thugs from the Asawase Constituency, nearly turned the Prempeh Assembly Hall, in Kumasi, upside down, when they enacted what looked like “a well-rehearsed drill” to halt proceedings of the on-going national forum on the proposed amendment to the People's Representation Bill, as the Parliamentary Committee on Legal and Constitutional Matters, pitched camp in the Ashanti regional capital, last week.

A chaotic scene unfolded as the thugs and activists, majority of whom were ferried to the venue from the Asawase Constituency, fought over microphones, during question and comment time.

The Deputy Ashanti Regional Secretary of NDC, Mr. Joe Tamakloe, and others were spotted by this reporter, violently and rudely struggling to have access to the two microphones mounted for the public to make their contributions, and to ask questions, a situation which nearly marred the proceedings.

The visible obsession with halting the proceedings by the thugs, and the tension generated by the verbal exchanges between them and New Patriotic Party (NPP) elements, prompted the Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Osei Prempeh, who is also the Member of Parliament for Nsuta Kwamang Constituency, to call for Police/Military reinforcement, to contain the unfolding nasty situation.

He warned “mischief-makers” they would not be spared.

The security, agents on arrival, broke into two groups – the armed ones took positions outside the hall, while the unarmed were positioned within the hall, where they employed diplomacy to restore sanity, for proceedings to continue.

The decision to ask for reinforcement came as a last resort, when the Chairman, and Director of Public Affairs of Parliament, Jones Kugblenu, failed to cool down the tensed atmosphere, as well as the unsavoury verbal exchanges which ensued in the hall.

It would be recalled that in the wake of the government's proposals to have the Legislature amend the People's Representation Bill to extend voting rights to Ghanaians abroad, the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs was charged with the task of undertaking a countrywide exercise, to collate the opinions of Ghanaians, on the proposals.

NDC has kicked against the proposals, stating that it would enable the ruling party to rig the next elections. Currently, Minority MPs are not taking part in the exercise, even though a number of them have been spotted at certain venues. Expressing regrets at the NDC boycott, the chairman of the committee stated, however, that this would not deter it, doing its work.

“Whether the NDC members co-operated with us or not, the committee would continue with its work, to achieve its objectives” the chairman pointed out.

NDC MPs on the committee who have vowed not to take part in the exercise, include Hon Emmanuel Kwasi Bondua, Hon Kenneth Dzirasah, Hon Francis Aggrey Agbotse, Hon John K. Gyapong, Hon Benjamin Kumbuor and Hon Alfred Kwame Agbesi.

While a section of the public endorsed the amendment, others, suspected to be NDC elements, objected to it, arguing that Ghana, in its present position cannot garner the required logistics to undertake the extension of the franchise of its citizens outside.

Later, in an exclusive interview with Daily Guide, the chairman observed that though the exercise ended, successfully, the NDC supporters' misdemeanour discredited it.

He wondered why NDC had sought to disrupt the exercise, in all the places so far visited by the committee, adding that, this does not augur well for democratic governance.

“You see, wherever we visited, an attempt was made by certain NDC activists to disrupt the function”, he noted.

He stated that the exchanges between the committee and members of the public, as well as general contributions, have been balanced.

The committee, he hinted, would prepare adequately for the turns of the southern sector of the country.

The committee, he disclosed, will also, seek the input of Ghanaians abroad, when they travel overseas, to collate their suggestions and queries on the amendment of the bill.

In Tamale, the Northern Regional capital, a similar scene unfolded when NDC activists of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) stormed Tohazie Hotel, bringing proceedings to an abrupt end, as a hail of stones and other missiles were freely thrown.

Daily Guide has learnt that the similarity in the manner by which the activists mis-behaved at the various venues, was in consonance with a pre-arrangement, code-named, “Operation Assault”, by which the party seeks to disrupt the exercise, as a whole.

When police personnel were dispatched to the scene to maintain security, they were out-numbered by the hoodlums, who were openly brandishing offensive weapons.

The Wa forum, in the Upper West Region, was equally greeted with disruption, at the instigation of an NDC MP.

Daily Guide learnt that the NDC assault on the committee, was allegedly led by the party's Deputy Regional youth organiser, reported to have given the directive to his “boys” to stop the programme, following a contribution by a participant.

A contributor, suspected to be an NPP sympathizer, had made a comment, describing the NDC Minority's position on the proposed bill which when amended, would allow Ghanaians abroad to exercise their franchise, as “intellectual dishonesty”.

Following the refusal of the contributor to withdraw the comment, when prevailed upon by NDC, a former cadre of the PNDC, and currently, a member of staff of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Nurudin Bawa, stormed the podium, declaring the forum ended.

This was followed by spontaneous hurling of stones and other missiles at the participants, who ran helter-skelter, for cover.

Daily Guide learnt, that prior to the event, a well-co-ordinated plot had been hatched to disrupt the programme, and if possible, assault participants, openly.

To this end, structured questions articulating the NDC's position, were noted to have been faxed from Accra to Tamale, with a directive that the party leadership in the region, should mobilise members, in their numbers, to take over the venue.

To this end, before the commencement, NDC “thugs” stormed the premises of the Tohazie Hotel, on their motorbikes and bicycles, preventing people, suspected of not being their member and sympathisers, from entering.

When eventually, the programme started, the police personnel, on duty, could not prevent the hoodlums, including members of the dreaded “Zaachis”, from hooting at the chairman, and his members.

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