Mr. Speaker, but it is important for me to let him know that it is only a stranger who greets a dumb person. [Interruptions.] - Mr. Speaker, this law has been used in the conduct of four successful general elections and numerous by-elections. Two different political parties have been elected under the ambit of this law for two four-year terms in each case. As stated by the NDC Flagbearer in the 2004 elections, Mr. Speaker, with your permission, I beg to quote what he stated:
“What is so wrong with such a representation law as to warrant the infusion of a measure whose efficacy is uncertain, whose course is unknown and whose impact is unpredictable?”
Mr. Speaker, there is the vexed
question, “Who is a Ghanaian citizen?” for the purposes of the overseas Ghanaian voter registration exercise. That question is not so easily answered even though the flippant answer would be to refer to the Citizenship Act. The prospect of the citizenship of many who claim to be Ghanaians being contested abroad is very real. Where these issues arise outside the territories of Ghana, who would have jurisdiction?
Inside Ghana various measures are instituted to confirm the identity of persons claming to be Ghanaians. Agents of political parties resident in that political division are present during the registration exercise to challenge the citizenship of persons suspected not to be Ghanaians or resident at the polling division. A district committee exists to investigate the citizenship of persons whose citizenship is challenged and there is recourse to the High Court from the decision of the district committee. All these safeguards would be lost in the case of overseas Ghanaians registered abroad.
And it is important that analogous measures be instituted before any registration of overseas Ghanaians is considered. It could be argued that passports are a certain measure or means of identification of Ghanaians for purposes of such registration, but it is a notorious fact that Ghanaian passports have been and are counterfeited world wide and cannot be relied on for such an exercise. Besides if passports are to suffice for overseas Ghanaians, then they should suffice for resident Ghanaians as well, and not only passports but any other form of acceptable identification such as drivers' license, birth certificates and so on.
Mr. Speaker, an important matter worth
considering in all discussion about voting and voting patterns is the issue of statistics -- the issue of statistics -- tt is possible to know the total population of the country. In fact, it is know now. It is possible to determine the total number of registered voters, it is possible to determine the total turnout at the polls, the percentage voting for or against a particular political party or candidates and so on and therefore pronounce on the political legitimacy of parties and candidates.
Mr. Speaker, however, no such information is available about the total number of “Ghanaians resident outside the Republic either globally or on a country by country basis. This makes it very difficult to pronounce on the likely impact of the votes of non residents Ghanaians on Ghanaian elections. Mr. Speaker, I particularly put this question to the British High Commissioner as to how many Ghanaians are resident in Britain? Mr. Speaker, the answer was “I do not know.
Mr. Speaker, again, for purposes of planning for elections it is important to have an idea of the number of Ghanaians living outside Ghana so that we can take it in calculating the cost implications and other logistics that are needed.
Mr. Speaker, let me now move on to the Bill itself. The Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill is fraught with serious difficulties. To begin with it is the nature of the amendment that is sought to be effected in this House and in fact that has given out the motive of the proponents of the Bill. Mr. Speaker, the section of the Representation of the People Law, 1992, (PNDC Law 284) that prevents Ghanaian citizens resident outside Ghana from registering and voting at elections and referenda is section 7 (1) (c) which requires that a citizen must be resident in a polling division where he intends to register and vote. And Mr. Speaker, as I
stated earlier on, it is for the purpose of identification to make sure that the person is a Ghanaian before he is allowed to vote.
However, the Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill does not seek to amend section 7 (1) (c) of the PNDC Law 284 but rather section 8 which exempts Ghanaian citizens abroad, “outside Ghana in the service of the Republic” or in the service of the United Nations or other international organizations from the resident requirements of the PNDC Law
Mr. Speaker, thus if the Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill passes, every Ghanaian citizen living everywhere in the world except Ghana would be exempted from the resident requirement of section 7 (1) (c ) and would be able to register and vote everywhere in the world in all elections and referenda in Ghana. By amending section 8 instead of section 7 of PNDC Law 284, it becomes clear that the actual motive of the NPP Government is something other than the removal of what they themselves say is the cause of the denial of article 42 Rights to citizens abroad. After all if section 7 (1) (c) is the impediment, why not amend section 7 (1) (c)? Why amend section 8 and allow section 7 (1) (c) to stand? Mr. Speaker, we are being told that, that could be done on the floor of the House.
Mr. Speaker, what I said is if you look at article 106, the proponents of every Bill would seek to tell you the defects they want to cure. Therefore, if the defects is a different thing and they are saying another thing what they are trying to do is to hide under the cover of legalities to commit a fraud on the people of Ghana.
Mr. Speaker, what is known is that several thousands of Ghanaian citizens abroad do come to Ghana to register and vote in all elections, section 1 (c
) notwithstanding. There are a lot of my colleagues in this House who came straight from outside, registered, contested elections, were elected and they are here. [Uproar] -- I am told that hon. Dr. Akoto Osei - [Laughter.]