The President, Mr John Dramani Mahama, has urged Ghanaians in the diaspora to make a strong case to the Electoral Commission (EC) to implement the Representation of the People Amendment Law (ROPAL) passed in 2006.
He said the directive issued by the Supreme Court in its ruling on the 2012 Presidential Election Petition to the EC to make reforms in its operations, provided a good opportunity for Ghanaians living abroad to forcefully put their case before the EC to extend voting rights to them.
Initially, the EC attributed its inability to implement the law to lack of funds, but the President stated that the government should be able to provide funds for the exercise if the EC decided on the implementation. The President was speaking during a meeting with the Ghanaian community in Worcester, Massachusetts, in the United States of America last Saturday. One of the Ghanaians had asked when the law was going to be implemented.
Mr Mahama’s statement drew loud applause from the large number of Ghanaians who had gathered at the St Spyridon Cathedral Hall in Worcester for the over two-hour meeting.
On February 24, 2006, Parliament passed the Representation of the People’s Amendment Bill. ROPAL allows Ghanaians living abroad to exercise their franchise in general elections conducted in Ghana.
The President, who had been in the United States since last week attending the 69th UN General Assembly, took the opportunity to visit Massachusetts to interact with his countrymen and women. It was the first time a sitting Ghanaian President had visited the area to meet the people, and the Ghanaians were very appreciative of the visit. On another question about corruption in Ghana, President Mahama said it had been a very difficult phenomenon to deal with. This was because the institutions that were supposed to deal with the problem were weak, allowing people to have a leeway. Notwithstanding this, he said he had taken steps to bring some sanity in the system, mentioning, for instance, the reforms introduced in public procurement.
“I have reduced sole sourcing and taken steps to introduce technological application in procurement,” he said. The GYEEDA case in which some government officials were facing prosecution was also a testimony of his resolve to tackle corruption with all seriousness.
“Nonetheless, the President believed fighting corruption was the responsibility of all and not only him. “I have the will to fight it but I need the support of all to fight it.”
He restated his position that the economic structure of the country as an exporter of primary products and importer of manufactured products was the major reason for the economic challenges. That was why the government was working hard to reverse the situation. President Mahama disclosed that two gold refineries – one by a foreign investor and the other by the Precious Mining Minerals Company ( PMMC) – were to be established in Ghana soon. PMMC would supply refined gold to the local market while the other would look at the external market. He said the discovery of oil did not mean Ghana’s problems were over, pointing out that oil was making just a marginal contribution to the economy.
Mr Mahama touched on the numerous development projects his government was undertaking in the country and said they would be pursued with all seriousness to improve the lives of the people. He said the government was looking for a strategic partner to complete the Apedwa-Suhum section of the Accra-Kumasi road project on a Public-Private Partnership basis. President Mahama said it was unacceptable for public officers to continue enjoying freebies, including utilities, at the expense of the state and said: “We are doing a lot to cut waste.”
The chairman of the Ghanaian community in Worcester, Prof. Kwabena Panford, said the President had demonstrated how he valued his countrymen and women living outside. He assured the President that they would continue to conduct themselves well in the United States.
The nonpolitical Progressive Alliance Movement (PAM) was inaugurated on Saturday June 12, 2014 at the historic Riverside Church in New York City. PAM’s purpose is to rally Ghanaians Living Abroad (GLAs) to improve their own living standards in their host countries, while contributing their talents and resources to the economic and social development of their common inheritance-Ghana. As emphasized by the organization’s chairman, Mr. Kwame Fosu, PAM will be short on accusations and blame, and long on knowledge and service. To this end, PAM welcomes all regardless of affiliations of political party, religion, gender, ethnicity, national origin, and even sexual orientation. The quality of importance is what one can do now to uplift the quality of life of our fellow citizens and countrymen. For a good measure, the audience was led to sing Dr. Ephraim Amoo’s pseudo anthem: “Yen ara asaase ni, aduru me ne wo so” (This is our common land and it is our turn to continue the good works of our forebears).
As a first step of continuation, PAM officially assumed the mantle of working for the implementation of the Representation of the People Amendment Act (ROPAA) that became a law of Ghana on February 24, 2006 (Act 699). Having learned that at least 14 African nations, including Niger, Chad, and South Sudan, permit their residents abroad to vote in their countries’ presidential elections, the audience was shocked that a law exists on Ghana’s books, and has been ignored for two national elections in 2008, and 2012. Short of a supreme court action to compel Ghana’s electoral commission to register GLAs to vote in 2016, one can surely predict that it will not happen. This is unfortunate since GLAs pour billions into Ghana’s economy compared to growing trade deficits the country has faced from its international trade in all products, including petroleum. Ghana simply buys more than it sells, hence the continued downward pressure on the cedi. The country borrows and begs to make up its deficits. Would it not make sense to court its GLAs to increase their remittances? Would implementing ROPAA not be a first step in this direction? Ghana has everything to gain by assuming a more inclusive stance. Remittances do not have to be paid back, and interest is not charged. It supported the cedi and opened up the country during the 1980s into 2016 (before the global recession). It can do it again. Today the country badly needs unconditional foreign exchange. But something must happen along with appealing to GLAS to increase their remittances- implement ROPAA for 2016’s presidential elections. Yes PAM says: “Yentie Obiara – We go Vote 2016” (We shall not be stopped by what others say- we shall vote in 2016). The arguments for and against ROPAA have been volubly made. It is time for implementation. In deed the time has been long overdue. There are two important laws of Ghana that readers have to be reminded of:
Article 42, of the Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, 1992 states: “Every citizen of Ghana of eighteen years of age or above and of sound mind has the right to vote and is entitled to be registered as a voter for the purposes of public elections and referenda.”
Act 699 otherwise known as Representation of the People Amendment Act – February 24, 2006 states: “8 (1) A person who is a citizen of Ghana resident outside is entitled to be registered as a voter if the person satisfies the requirements for registration prescribed by law other than those relating to residence in a polling division”. The Electoral Commissioner shall, by Constitutional Instrument, make Regulations to prescribe the modalities for the implementation of this Act.
Kwame Fosu (not to be confused with the Chair), a director at the Rebecca Project for Justice , and one of the speakers at the PAM inauguration, emphasized the need for PAM to be transparent and pursue policy and advocacy initiatives that would augur well for Ghana in the distribution of international largesse . The venerable and Honorable US Congressman Charles Rangel, who is credited with founding the Congressional Black Caucus and initiating the African Growth Opportunities Act (AGOA), narrated stories to illustrate the need for Africans and African-Americans to bond and collaborate for the development of the homeland. A point echoed by Herb Boyd of the Amsterdam News. US Congressman Rangel pledged his support for the ideals of PAM that shun political endorsement in favor of institutional principles and measurable progress. Catherine Cudjoe reminded the executives of PAM to include women in all their activities. Lawrence Freeman, Director of the Africa Desk, EIR Journal, traced the contributions of Ghana’s Nkrumah and the role of multinationals in the underdevelopment of Africa while underscoring opportunities for transcontinental infrastructure.
This was a substantive meeting. Ghanaians came from near and far. They stayed through the 6-hour program without any dancing and a few morsels of donuts and fruits for energy. Having raised their curiosities about their voting rights, PAM promised further meetings on dual citizenship that will be led by the author who made the presentation on ROPAA. The baby has been adopted by PAM who will see it to its growth. PAM promises to engage top quality lawyers. PAM needs support to achieve its goals for Ghana’s ultimate development starting with the implementation of ROPAA. Chinese, Indians, and Jews living abroad have played significant roles in the development of their nations. GLAs, it is our time. Set the blame game aside. Roll up your sleeves for positive action to implement change for ourselves, children, and perpetuity. For further information please contact Mr. Kwame Fosu, Chair of PAM at email@example.com Arise Mother Ghana!