Forum raises concern on funding of franchise to diaspora
Koforidua, Aug.3, GNA- Contributors at a forum on the Peoples Representation Bill at Koforidua on Wednesday, have questioned how best the Bill could be implemented to the letter, considering the huge amounts of money involved in general elections and the many problems encountered during elections in Ghana.
The concerns raised ranged from the political neutrality of the Ghanaian Missions abroad since most of the senior workers there were appointees of the ruling government and the proper identification of Ghanaians.
The forum was among a series of regional exercises being organized by the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on the Peoples Representation and the Whistle Blower Bills to tap public opinions.
While majority of the participants agreed that since the Peoples Representation Bill was a requirement in the constitution, it had to be implemented to ensure that no Ghanaian anywhere was denied his or her right to vote, others also felt the government should suspend its implementation for sometime.
In a peaceful atmosphere, the participants who took their turns to ask questions or state their opinions relating to the Bill, pointed out that people living abroad also contributed their quota to the country's economic development through the huge remittances they made to relatives and therefore had the right to enjoy their franchise.
According to them, an elected President was recognized by both Ghanaians living in Ghana and those abroad, all citizens must be allowed to exercise their franchise.
On the Whistle Blower Bill, participants noted that it was an appropriate move to tackle corruption in the system, but asked that measures be put in place to ensure that people were not framed up through malicious information.
Earlier, the Eastern Regional Minister, Mr Yaw Barimah, had said the constitution required that every Ghanaian without exception have the right to vote, and therefore it was long overdue for the Bill to be implemented.
He stressed that in his opinion, since people who go on foreign missions and their families and soldiers on peace-keeping can vote, contrary to the constitution, Ghanaians outside on their own have equal right are being discriminated against and called on the participants to look at the issue objectively and not on party lines.
The Chairman of the Legal, Constitutional and Parliamentary affairs Committee, Mr Kwame Osei Prempeh, indicated that the mandate of the committee was to help Parliament establish the legal framework for the Act and then allow the Electoral Commission to sort out how details on how to conduct such elections.
He recalled that the attempt to pass the bill was made in 1998, but was withheld due to logical constraints and yet now the perception by some citizens was that the ruling party was trying to use it to win the 2008 elections instead of seeing it as fulfilment of a constitutional requirement that had been overlooked for a long time to strengthen democratic governance in the country.
Mr Prempeh cited Niger, Mali, Senegal and South Africa as some countries in Africa who had been able to allow their nationals abroad to vote in their general elections, saying, "it is not above our status to allow Ghanaian nationals also to vote, especially when it has to do with our constitution."