IN spite of the absence of the Minority NDC members of Parliament from the House during President Kufour’s State of the Nation Address, yesterday, the House was clearly not in a sombre mood.
Members of the Majority chatted happily among themselves and sang before and after the President had delivered his address.
A few of them mischievously crossed over to sit on the empty seats on the Minority side, drawing laughter from their colleagues, some of who shouted, 'Shame to the Minority!'
The partisan atmosphere, was occasioned by the boycott of the NDC members in protest against a-10-year jail sentence for the MP for Keta, Dan Abodakpi, with intermittent shouts of 'hear!', 'hear!' by the Majority side in approval of the President’s speech, which they dubbed 'Jubilee Address.'
At a point, the parliamentarians apparently gripped by the Jubilee euphoria, spontaneously waved white papers with the inscription 'JAK, Jubilee Chairman,' referring to the President’s recent election as Chairman of the African Union.
After the address, which lasted for over an hour, the house broke into cheers amidst the singing of the popular gospel tune, Di wo hene, meaning ‘enjoy your reign.’
Earlier, the President arrived at the House at 10:10 am after inspecting a guard of honour mounted by a detachment of the Ghana Navy.
Amid traditional drumming and dancing, the Speaker, Ebenezer Sekyi Hughes, led President Kufuor and Vice President Aliu Mahama into the Chamber.
The public gallery was packed. Seated there were members of the Council of State, members of the Diplomatic Corps, security heads, heads of various institutions, and some members of the general public.
After the address, the Times spoke to a cross-section of the people for their reactions.
Mr Yaw Osafo-Maafo, MP for Akyem Oda, said the initiatives by the government to resolve the energy crisis were laudable since reliable energy was vital for national development.
He said the address presented the real picture of the state of the nation and added that the country was making progress in many areas.
Ms Anna Bossman, Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), described the general progress made by the country as presented in the address as good, but was disappointed that nothing was said about how the country was promoting human rights.
'We want to know how far we have gone with promoting human rights in this country and what we need to do to improve on it,' she stated.
Mrs Gifty Affenyi Dadzie, a member of the Council of State, lauded the President’s appeal to the minority to return to the House, saying that it was important that he intervened in such matters as the leader of the nation.
Mr Sampson Kwaku Boafo, Minister of Chieftaincy and Culture, described the address as reconciliatory, adding that it showed 'progress rather than problems.'
On the Minority’s absence from the House, Mr J. H. Mensah, Chairman of the National Development Planning Commission and MP for Sunyani East, said the absence of the Minority was regrettable, but expressed the hope that they would return to debate the address.
'The address is an outline of the country’s programme, I hope that they will be present to debate the substance of it. It is our job,' he said.
Mr T. N. Ward-Brew, the Chairman of the Democratic People’s Party, said reconciliation was the greatest challenge to the President 'in the face of the empty seats in Parliament.'
He therefore, suggested that the President should sit down with the group and address their concerns.
Professor George Hagan, Chairman of the National Commission on Culture, said the Minority group could have used the occasion to express their misgivings, adding 'when you leave Parliament, your voice can’t be heard, the due process is there.'