Accra, Feb. 14, GNA - Mr Kofi Osei Ameyaw, a Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry on Tuesday said the Representation of the Peoples' (Amendment) Bill as it stands now has the potential of making Ghana an enviable sanctuary of electoral bliss.
"It would take away so many legal afflictions and offers several opportunities to the Ghanaian as a person."
Mr Osei Ameyaw who is also Member of Parliament for Asuogyaman was contributing to the debate on the State of the Nation Address by the President, John Agyekum Kufuor.
He said the seeming controversy over the bill rests on two areas, that is, the legality of future elections and the credibility of the management of elections in Ghana.
Mr Osei Ameyaw said there is a glaring conflict between Article 42 of the Constitution and the PNDC Law 284, the Law that regulates elections in Ghana.
He said Article 42 enjoins all Ghanaians aged 18 years or above and of sane mind to vote and be entitled to register as a voter, whilst the PNDC Law 284 barred many sections of Ghanaians resident abroad from voting in public elections.
"As one clearly see Article 42 grants the rights to registered and to vote by any sane Ghanaian of 18 years or above without the mention of 'residential qualification.'"
"Section 7 (1) (c) of the PNDC Law 284 imposes a residency requirement for being a registered voter and also ignores the mandate of Article 42 and legally imposes its own registration scheme."
Mr Osei Ameyaw said PNDC Law 284 provides that one must be resident in a polling division or having a place of abode in that division before she or he can be registered.
He said Section 7 (4) further states that a person shall not be deemed to be resident in a polling division if he or she has been absent from his or her place of abode for a continuous period of six months ending the qualification date.
"The effect of the section 7 is that it automatically disenfranchises Ghanaians who are resident overseas."
"It also disqualifies otherwise qualified citizens who reside in Ghana but who travel and stay outside the country for the six months preceding the registration exercise."
He said; "I believe that the removal of the residency requirement is what baffles the opponents of the Bill and has driven them to think that where there is no residency requirement, there is no credibility." According to Mr Osei Ameyaw, Article 42 imposes an implied sanction on any qualify Ghanaian who fails to register as a voter.
He contended that if one was not registered he or she was disqualified to be voted for as a Member of Parliament, become a Minister of State, a member of the Electoral Commission and a member of Public Service Commission.
"An unregistered Ghanaian cannot also become the President or the Vice President. So you see one who is not registered to vote is denied so many employment opportunities and public service."
The Deputy Minister said Article 55 (8) of the Constitution even deepens the woes of the unregistered voter.
"It forbids such a person from becoming founding member, a leader or a member of a executive of any political party."
Mr Osei Ameyaw said the right to be registered as a voter should be taken up seriously by all Ghanaians.
He said when the PNDC Law 284 is amended, the Electoral Commission would still have the sole responsibility to conduct elections in Ghana. "I would advise that when the time comes the EC should not frustrate Ghanaians living abroad to come home and register as it used to do but put in place the appropriate instruments and mechanisms to make registration and voting overseas a reality."
He said the right to register and to vote is pure constitutional issue and not figment of the imagination of some group or a spirit somewhere trying to reward its worshipers. 14 Feb. 06