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14.02.2006 General News

Botwe Blasts 'Burger Bill' Demo

By Times

Information Minister, Dan Botwe, has described the demonstration planned for today by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and three other political parties as needless and “an unnecessary distraction.”

“The NDC is disintegrating as people announce their resignations on weekly basis, so the executives have latched on to the Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill as a welcome diversionary tool to keep people's attention off the party,” he said.

Mr Botwe was speaking to the Times in Accra yesterday, on the position of government regarding the demonstration announced under the auspices of “Concerned Ghanaians”, to protest against the passage of the Bill by Parliament. The other parties involved in the demonstration are the People's National Convention, the National Reform Party and the Egle Party. Also joining in the protest are some civil society organisations.

The Bill seeks to amend the Representation of the People Law, 1992 (PNDCL 284) to enable Ghanaians resident abroad to register and vote in their countries of residence during elections in Ghana. Under the existing law only persons working in Ghana's missions abroad and United Nationals agencies as well as those on Ghana Government scholarships are able to vote abroad. Other Ghanaians resident abroad need to travel back home to register and vote in elections and referenda. Mr Botwe said what is even more surprising is the decision by the three other parties to allow themselves to be talked into embarking on a cause that to all intents and purposes, stands to benefit only the NDC.

He said that “it is interesting for the NDC and its supporters to accuse the government of rushing to pass the Bill. Ten clear years after the then government and NDC dominated parliament advised the electoral Commission to accelerate the process of involving diaspora Ghanaians in future elections.

“If the ordinary meaning of “accelerate is what we all understand it to be, then how can anybody say that 10 years is too soon to implement the recommendations of the EC?” he asked. Mr Botwe wondered why the law cannot be amended three or two clear years before its implementation when the only bottlenecks left would be the administrative and structural facilitation of the process.

He said if it was impossible for the law to be amended to take care of elections in 2008, then the same encumbrances would apply when attempts are made in 2009 to affect the 2012 elections. Mr Botwe explained that the government's placement of the Bill before Parliament was premised on the EC's own recommendations in 2002, a fundamental part of which was that the legal bottlenecks encumbering the process be removed first.