Kumasi, July 15, GNA - The decision as to when Ghanaians abroad could register and vote in public elections, should the Representation of the People Amendment Bill be passed into law, rests exclusively with the Electoral Commission (EC), the body charged with conduct of elections in the country.
Mr Kwame Osei Prempeh, Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitution, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, who said this in his introductory remarks at the Ashanti Regional public forum in Kumasi, explained that, "what we are seeking to do is just to remove the legal restrictions".
The funding and other logistics for the implementation would follow later.
The forum was part of the series being held nationwide to collate views and concerns of the people to enable Parliament to make informed decisions on the passage of the Bill that has excited intense public debate as well as the Whistle Blowers Bill.
Mr Osei-Prempeh said it was important for the people to be dispassionate in their discussions and take out any partisan coloration. Majority of the contributors at the forum were of the opinion that passage of the Bill would give meaning to the Constitution, arguing that, section Eight of PNDC Law 284, denying Ghanaians abroad the right to participate in public elections was inconsistent with the 1992 Constitution.
"The fact that they are living outside does not mean they have lost their Ghanaian nationality and must be accorded all the rights of a citizen, with the right to vote being no exemption," a contributor said. They took note of the immense contribution those abroad were making towards the growth of the economy and said it was absolutely unfair that they were prevented from being part of the process to select the political leadership.
They saw no reason why Ghanaians outside could not register and vote in national elections, if nationals of other countries living abroad were able to do so.
The few who expressed contrary opinion, said the country was not yet ready for the passage of the Bill and asked that it should be shelved for now.
They insisted that those living abroad were far removed from the political and economic realities prevailing in the country and could therefore not make informed political choices and decisions at elections.
With regard to the Whistle Blowers Bill, all the contributors asked Parliament to hasten its passage, noting that it was necessary in the fight to bring down the level of corruption in the society. Madam Patricia Appiagyei, Deputy Ashanti Regional Minister, noted that the two Bills would help enhance democracy and good governance. "Enhancing accountability, efficiency and transparency is a tent of democracy", she added. 15 July 05