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14.02.2006 General News

ISODEC calls for suspension of ROPAB

By GNA

Accra, Feb 14, GNA - The Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC) on Tuesday said it has followed with much trepidation the simmering tension generated by the Representation Of People Amendment Bill (ROPAD) and urged the Government to shelve the Bill.

It said the Bill, which was currently at the consideration stage in Parliament should be suspended "in the interest of peace and national cohesion... till such a time when adequate consensus has been built around it".

A statement Mr Steve Manteaw, Media and Campaign Co-ordinator of ISODEC, signed said: "We note that both proponents and opponents of the Bill have in the last few months made quite convincing and interesting arguments in support of their various positions."

It said: "Without conceding whose arguments are superior, we would want to draw attention to the fact that, if ever there is the need to build consensus around any national issue, then it must be around the rules and arrangements governing national elections.

"The credibility of our electoral process is paramount at this stage of our democratic evolution and we must not do anything that has the tendency of generating acrimonious electoral disputes and, therefore, conflicts.

"We note particularly that the winner-takes-all syndrome in African politics has not been helpful in fostering national cohesion and galvanizing popular support for the national development agenda", the statement said.

It said it was for those reasons that the ISODEC would urge the Executive and the Majority in Parliament to consider the possibility of suspending the passing of the Bill, to allow for more dialogue and consensus building among all stakeholders.

The statement said the ISODEC was making the call after having taken cognisance of the fact that Parliament had, a few months ago, undertaken an education and opinion sampling exercise, which had among other things the aim of securing popular support for the Bill, and also of the fact that the exercise failed to build national consensus around the Bill.

It said the wisdom in suspending the Bill had a historical precedence and that it would be recalled that, at a time when the then ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) came up against massive opposition in an attempt to introduce the Value Added Tax (VAT) in the country, culminating in the Kumi Preko and Siemi Preko demonstrations, the Bill was withdrawn, and re-introduced later when more education had been done, and tempers had calmed down.

"Since then, the VAT has been increased twice without the tension and acrimony that characterized the first attempt to introduce it. "There is no denying the fact that, the apprehension on the part of the opposition parties is fed by the fear that the Bill, when passed could be opened to abuse by the ruling party and its appointees, and in the process cast doubt on the credibility of electoral outcomes." That suspicion called not only for assurance, but also for working through the process of instituting measure that would forestall any abuse whenever it was passed.

It is important to also point out that, in matters of this nature the time tested way of resolving such controversy had been to organized a national referendum, where on overwhelming majority of the votes cast, rather than a simple majority, would be required to determine the way forward.

The ISODEC contended that, the situation as it was today placed "our infant democracy under siege and it would be foolhardy to ignore the signs on the wall."

The statement said in the view of ISODEC, the political contest over ROPAB was one in which there could be no winners and losers. "The bells are indeed tolling for all of us to work together to safeguard our fledgling democracy," the statement said.

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