MPs begin to consider amendment as PC Ofori makes telling proposal EVEN before the third and final consideration stage of the vexed Representation of the People's (Amendment) Bill (ROPAB) hits the floor today, four different amendments to the bill have been proposed by members of the Majority in Parliament.
The proposed amendments should make significant changes to the controversial bill that has generated so much national furore in the last few weeks.
The apparent change of heart or strategic move by the Members of Parliament (MPs) may be interpreted by some less discerning observers as confusion, but each of the four amendments were advertised in the notice of amendments in the order paper, and were made by respected members who were also law professionals. They were articulating different modalities for the implementation of the bill if it was passed.
The most significant proposal came from the Chairman of the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Mr. Kwame Osei Prempeh, whose position was usually that of the Executive. He sought to delete clause 2 of the bill, which states, “This act shall come into force on the date determined by the Commission in an executive instrument issued under the chairman of the commission” and substitute it with, “The electoral commission shall by constitutional instrument make regulations indicating the effective date of implementation of this Act”. Probably the most telling proposal which is likely to generate the most interest and find favour with majority of the people of Ghana may be the proposal of Hon. P.C Ofori, the respected Member of Parliament for Asikuma Odoben, Brakwa and noted anti corruption crusader.
His suggestion, which he amplified in an interview with The Chronicle, is that he believed that the bill was of overriding national interest and must be supported with significant caveat, to wit, that it should be passed but cased till the elections of 2008.
“I think that as much as we have such good intentions, we must not create the impression which is fast gaining currency that we are going to pass the bill and bring in diasporan votes to the advantage of the ruling party.”
Honourable P.C. Ofori, who hardly catches the eye of the Speaker because of his outspokenness, rationalized that he believed that the NPP would win the elections with a little bit of hard work and programmes that would benefit the people directly.
He said, “There is no need for the bill to be passed and implemented before the elections because then, the integrity of the results would be rightfully questioned by the NDC and steal the thunder of our coming victory. The NDC would say we have smuggled in votes from abroad to enable us win.”
The second point made by P.C. Ofori is the cost factor. The MP, who is an accomplished accountant with an eye for figures and detail, said the exercise of traveling round the world to organize Ghanaians abroad and the sheer logistical implications for the Electoral Commission and the Government would not be commensurate with the benefits at this crucial time.
“If there is money for such an exercise, it should go towards supporting programmes within the next few years to help our people, who would then appreciate us better, and gain our confidence and reward us with their votes,” he said, adding that though he does not underestimate the importance of the Diaspora voters who are as important, the bill, if passed should become operational only for the 2012 elections.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nana Akuffo Addo, speaking on the proposal made by Honourable Osei Kwame, proposed that the clause be deleted entirely and substituted with, “ The electoral commission shall by constitutional instrument, make regulations to prescribe the modalities for the implementation of this Act”.
The Deputy Majority Leader, Abraham Ossei Aidooh, on his part, proposed that the said clause be totally deleted.
He again proposed that a new paragraph be added to section 8 of PNDCL, 284 which should read, “Until otherwise determined by law, registration and voting by Ghanaians abroad shall relate to presidential elections and the elections of members of parliament from the constituencies from which the voters hail”.
The chairman of the committee also proposed that a new paragraph be added to section 8 which should read, “Until otherwise determined by law, registration and voting by Ghanaians abroad shall relate to only presidential elections”.
Section 8 of PNDC law 284 provided that those Ghanaians living outside the country who satisfied all the requirements of voting as stated in article 42 of the constitution apart from those relating to residents are entitled to vote.
The chairman again proposed that a new clause be added to the law and this should read, “Evidence of citizenship for the purpose of registration and voting by Ghanaians abroad shall be determined by the Electoral Commission”.
What this established was that even among the Majority, members had divergent views as expressed through the amendments proposed. Whilst the chairman of the committee and the Minister of Foreign Affairs thought it should be substituted by different clauses, the Deputy Majority Leader thought there should be no substitution.
Nana Akuffo Addo also wanted the EC to prescribe the modalities for the implementation of the Act, while the chairman wanted the EC to indicate the effective date of implementation by a constitutional instrument.
Also, whereas the chairman proposed that the voting be related to only presidential elections, Mr. Ossei Aidooh said it should relate to both presidential and parliamentary elections.
It is therefore left to the House to decide to make the necessary amendments or reject them.