Ghanaians in UK hail two bills
Ghanaian residents in the United Kingdom, last Friday welcomed the decision by government to allow residents outside the country vote in elections conducted in Ghana.
They expressed their belief that if implemented, it would cut off the huge travel expenses that people have to make to reach Ghana and exercise their franchise.
The decision was embraced when members of the committee on constitutional, legal and parliamentary affairs held a forum at Ghana's High Commission in the UK to present the bill to the Ghanaian community.
Ghana's ambassador to the UK, H.E. Isaac Osei, in a welcome address, said the committee was meeting them as part of their tour to solicit views of Ghanaians on the whistle blowers' bill and representation of the people's amendment bill.
He recommended that steps be taken to ensure that corruption is flushed out of the system so that the country can move forward.
The minister of parliamentary affairs and majority leader, Felix Owusu Adjapong, stated that the bill was introduced to parliament last year and is aimed at being reviewed to enable Ghanaians outside the country, vote during elections.
He said parliament and government had agreed that the bill be passed before the Electoral Commission could take action on it, and there was more time to discuss it.
Mr. Adjapong said when a bill is presented to parliament, it becomes the property of the house, not government and the bill could be rejected by the house, accepted or accepted with modifications.
The bill, he said, had gone through the first reading stage, and been referred to the committee, which is enjoined to collect views on it and come out with a good report for the house to consider.
“We would be guided by what the committee says, to get a balanced report,” he said.
The chairman of the committee, Kwame Osei Prempeh, introducing the bill at the forum, said the right to vote in an election was an entrenched provision of the constitution because article 42 of the constitution empowered every citizen of Ghana of eighteen (18) years or above and of sound mind, to register as a voter or vote in public elections.
He said this right was not restricted to citizens resident in the country because the reference was to a citizen without qualification.
Mr. Osei Prempeh noted that some amendments had been made to section 8 (1) (2) and (3b), which stated that a person who was a citizen of Ghana, resident outside the republic, was entitled to be registered as a voter, if the person satisfied the requirements for registration, as prescribed by law other than those relating to residence in a polling division.
He continued that section 8(2) shall state that the commission may appoint the head of a Ghana Mission or Embassy abroad or any other person or institution designated in writing by the commission as a registration officer, to register a person to be a voter for an election.
He cited an example that when Malians in Ghana are voting during elections, it is the electoral commission in Ghana which supervises, not the Malian Ambassador to Ghana, as such, not only ambassadors could supervise elections.
Touching on the Whistle Blowers' Bill, the Chairman said the purpose was to provide for a manner in which individuals may, in the public interest, disclose information that related to unlawful, corrupt or other illegal conducts or practices in a country.
He added that the bill ensured that persons who made the disclosures were not subjected to victimization and victims who made the disclosures would be given monetary compensation, where applicable, from a fund established specifically for this purpose.
The Vice Chairman of the Committee and MP for Evalue Ejura, Mr. Kojo Armah, in a remark, said a bill such as this should normally have a national consensus because anything that affected elections should be looked at seriously.
He said the committee had not closed its minds as to the direction the bill should take because the issue of logistics as was being raised by other people was not within their circles because it was the EC, which had to decide on it.
He mentioned that the fact that the NDC was not part of the tour did not prejudice their work because the exercise was at the heart of the democratic process.
The MP for Zebilla and Vice Chairman of the committee on Judiciary, Mr. John Ndebugre, in his submission, said although the PNC and CPP were opposition parties, they were not against the bill. This is against the background that it is being presumed that all in the opposition were against it.
“If we want our democracy to grow, a spade should be called a spade,” he said.