Debates of 13 Nov 2007

PRAYERS 10 a.m.


Mr. Speaker 10 a.m.
Order! Order! Hon. Members, I have a high privilege and great honour to welcome to this honourable House the Speaker of the National Assembly of Kenya, the Rt. Rev. Hon. Francis Ole Kaparo. [Hear! Hear!]
His Excellency is in Ghana on a goodwill visit at my invitation. He is accompanied by his spouse, Mrs. Mary Kaparo and his Special Assistant, Ms. Nancy Mukunya. Hon. Members, as you may know, the Rt. Hon. Francis Ole Kaparo has been the Speaker of the National Assembly of Kenya for fifteen years, that is, from 1993. [Hear! Hear!] His visit would undoubtedly strengthen the already existing relations between our two Parliaments and our two countries.
On behalf of the Leadership and Members of the House and on my own behalf, I wish His Excellency hon. Francis Ole Kaparo, his spouse and indeed his entire delegation a pleasant and warm stay in Ghana. You are welcome.

Alhaji M. M. Mubarak 10 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, my hon. Colleague has asked me to ask this Question on his behalf with your permission.
Mr. Speaker 10 a.m.
You may go ahead.


Minister for Women and Children's Affairs (Hajia Alima Mahama) 10 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, section 14 of the Children's Act 1998 (Act 560), states that
“No person shall force a child --
(a) to be betrothed
(b) to be the subject of dowry tran- saction, or
(c) to be married.”
The minimum age of marriage of whatever kind shall be 18 years.
The sanction for contravening this provision is summary conviction to a fine
not exceeding ¢5 million, or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding one year or both.
The Ministry ensures that such information as contained in the Children's Act 1998, Act 560 and the Criminal Code Amendment Act, as well as the Principles of the 1992 Constitution, Chapter 28 on the Right and Welfare of the Child, form the basis of its advocacy, strategies, as with other policies and legislation on Child Rights.
Public fora, durbars and other community dialogue processes are used to interact with the communities to make them aware of these issues. Collaboration with the Ghana Education Services on the code of Professional Conduct of the Ghana Education Services also ensures that such information get to schools for the benefit of the children.
Furthermore, in collaboration with Ministry of Education, Ghana Education Service, UNICEF, World Food Programme and Civil Society Organizations, girl child friendly programmes that promote girl child education are implemented. Some of such measures include:
Sensitization programmes in the districts and communities on government policies and activities for increased school enrolment.
Sensitizing parents and community members on the value of girl child education as against forced and early marriages.
Currently, there are 100 Community Child Protection teams that have been established in the regions through which communities and parents have been sensitized on child rights issues and
sometimes offenders are apprehended.
The promotion of girl-child education at all levels has ensured the enrolment and retention of girls in school and Ghana has achieved gender parity index of 0.97 enrolment at basic school level.
MOWAC also collaborates with law enforcement agencies to take measures to ensure enforcement of laws relating to forced or early marriages and other offences against children. Sustained education on such matters alongside education on legislation will in the long run, curb the problem of forced under-age marriages.
The Ministry will continue to promote initiatives for cooperation and colla- boration of all sectors and stakeholders, especially the Ghana Education Service, Department of Social Welfare, Domestic Violence and Victims Support Units, District Assemblies, NGOs, Traditional Authorities and Community-based organizations to ensure that our girls are protected from such early, forceful marriages as reported in our papers. We invite hon. Members of Parliament to support in this endeavour.
There is now, Mr. Speaker, an enhanced enabling environment with the passage of legislations on child protection, with the vibrant NGOs, Civil Society and Media monitoring and reporting on child abuses and demanding appropriate response.
Mr. Joseph Y. Chireh 10:10 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, the hon. Minister has answered the question eloquently. But I want to find out from her whether there are any statistics of enforcement and whether they follow what goes on in the various courts and tribunals so as to inform this House on what efforts we have in enforcing the laws.

Hajia Mahama: Mr. Speaker, yes, there is statistics and I can provide them at the appropriate time; I did not bring the statistics with me.
Mr. Kojo Armah 10:10 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, I want to know from the hon. Minister what arrangements are made to improve the capacity of the gender desk officers that we have at the districts to handle some of these issues that have been raised in the answers about the legislation, forced marriages and so on - whether the gender desk officers are being empowered in terms of capacity to be able to handle some of these issues.
Hajia Mahama: Mr. Speaker, District, Metropolitan and Municipal Assemblies have identified staff in their districts to serve as gender desk officers and the Ministry is still working on recruiting them as staff of the Ministry. But as at this time, they are under the Assemblies.
However, we give support on intensive capacity building for the gender desk officers and our regional officers collaborate with them and support them in all their activities. Indeed, we have, through our interaction with the gender desk officers, developed a toolkit that the gender desk officers too can use to provide training on issues on gender and also on child-related matters.
Mr. G. K. B. Gbediame 10:10 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, in the answer of the hon. Minister she talked about public fora and durbars. I want to know from the hon. Minister how far down the grass roots are these fora being administered? This is because, Mr. Speaker, I come from a rural community and this abuse is very rampant, but the very people who perpetrate this act normally are not reached in these educational programmes.
Hajia Mahama: Mr. Speaker, we organize our durbars and community sensitization programmes in the districts and personally when I even go to the communities on such programmes I target the rural communities.
We have regional officers and some district officers; we do not have district officers in all the districts and the regional officers back such gender desk officers and the Department of Social Welfare in the communities do educate and sensitise our communities on some of these issues. Definitely, as we know, some of these issues border on culture and we have to continue sensitizing and working on them.
Mr. Alfred W. G. Abayateye 10:10 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, in the hon. Minister's answer she said that 100 community child protection teams have been established in the regions and are working in the communities and they have sensitized parents and sometimes offenders are apprehended. I want to find out whether this is ongoing or it has ended.
Hajia Mahama: Mr. Speaker, it is on-going. As at this point we have 100 established, but we would continue to ensure that we have child protection teams in all the districts. In addition, we have at this point 40 early childhood care development teams spread out in six districts in the country.
Mr. Clement K. Humado 10:10 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, teenage pregnancy can lead to con-sensual marriage. I would like to ask the hon. Minister, how this is handled under the law that she has just talked about.
Hajia Mahama: Mr. Speaker, under the laws of Ghana, having sexual relations with a girl under 16 years is prohibited and it is defilement under the laws of Ghana. So a man or a boy has no business having sexual intercourse with a girl under 16 years and if that is reported the culprit would be prosecuted for defilement.
Therefore, beyond 16 years our laws say that a girl has sexual responsibility and marriage is allowed at age 18 or after 18 years.
Mr. E. T. Mensah 10:10 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, in the hon. Minister's answer she indicated that their sensitization takes place through fora organized by the Ministry. She also says that the issue is cultural; I think it is cultural and religious. Mr. Speaker, I want to know whether they use the church platforms as well as the mosques to sensitise the masses because they can reach so many people through this medium.
Hajia Mahama: Mr. Speaker, we do use the church platforms and mosques and the Imams around. In fact, in a major sensitization programme on human trafficking and other matters we target the Priests, Pastors and Imams and they have helped us a lot. On the issue of trafficking - We all know Imam Nuamah; he has been doing a lot for us in terms of sensitization and being a resource person in our programmes.
Mr. Speaker 10:10 a.m.
Hon. Minister for Women and Children's Affairs, thank you very much for appearing to answer the Question. You are discharged.
STATEMENTS 10:20 a.m.

Dr. Francis Osafo-Mensah (NPP - Mpraeso) 10:20 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity offered me to make a Statement in this august House on “World Diabetes Day”, recognized and declared by United Nations through a resolution to create awareness on the
Dr. Francis Osafo-Mensah (NPP - Mpraeso) 10:20 a.m.

[HAJIA MAHAMA] implications of diabetes on our economies globally for the first time.

The theme for this year is “Diabetes in Children and Adolescents - A Dis- advantaged, Vulnerable and Underserved Communities Worldwide”.

Mr. Speaker, it is worth noting that most current research findings indicate 6.4 per cent as diabetes prevalence which is an increase of 16 fold over 0.4 per cent, the rate recorded soon after independence. This therefore calls for much attention as given to HIV/AIDS and other epidemics.

Diabetes is a chronic disease marked by elevated blood glucose levels due to inadequate insulin production by the pancreas or effective functioning of insulin. Those with diabetes therefore have higher than normal glucose levels and are not necessarily those who eat too much sugar.

Diabetes is non-communicable and different forms of diabetes exist; some afflict the young; others occur later in life and with varying treatments.

Some modifiable risk factors of diabetes are overweight (obesity), unhealthy eating, lack of physical activity and high blood pressure. The non-modifiable risk factors are age, gender and inheritance.

The symptoms of diabetes include feeling of tiredness, frequent passage of urine, constant thirst, blurred vision, itching of skin or genital area and slow healing of cuts or infections.

The disease has no cure and can lead to complications like heart diseases, strokes, kidney failures, blindness, amputations and impotence if not properly managed. The world over, one million people have limbs amputated because of diabetes each year and it kills nearly four million people a year, that is, about the same as HIV/ AIDS. It can also double the likelihood

of developing depression.

The greatest burden of diabetes is felt in developing countries, where it threatens to undermine benefits from improving standards of living, education and economic growth.

Diabetes can be managed through healthy lifestyles, tablets or insulin injections along with advice from health professionals.

Mr. Speaker, about twenty-six (26) years ago the Ghana Diabetes Association (GDA) (a member of the International Diabetes Federation) was formed to conduct research into diabetes prevalence and also to carry out sensitization programmes. Some of the research findings indicated that:

i . the productive workforce (between the ages of 35 years and 64 years) stand at greater risk of developing diabetes although all are at risk;

ii. diabetes is also identified as the cause of prolonged ill health in at least 2.2 million Ghanaians and threatens about 50 per cent of all Ghanaian patients;

iii. seven (7) out of every ten (10) new cases screened did not know they had diabetes and also diabetes-related lower extremity amputation is approximately 44.5 per cent;

iv. the prevalence of “pre-diabetes” in Ghana is 12 per cent; and

v. each week not less than four (4) new cases are reported at the various hospitals and clinics

across the length and breadth of the country.

Diabetes is responsible for immense humanitarian, social and economic costs and so must be prevented through:

i. sensitization in the communities regarding health lifestyles and good eating habits;

ii. screening of high-risk-groups;

iii. incorporating diabetes edu- cation, health and physical education in school curricula;

iv. advocacy by all stakeholders; and

v. the development of policy directive for the Ministry of Health/the Ghana Health Service to prioritize diabetes programmes in their budget.

Diabetes is a hidden epidemic detrimental to the health of individuals and the whole economy. It must therefore receive serious consideration from all Ghanaians.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. J. Y. Chireh (NDC - Wa West) 10:30 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, first of all let me express my gratitude to the maker of the Statement for drawing our attention to this debilitating disease which affects so many people but who are not aware. Indeed, this condition requires that all of us who are sitting in this Chamber, because of our lifestyles, check every year to see whether we are approaching the danger signals of becoming diabetic, and whether what we already have is progressing towards where multiple disease conditions would affect us.
We need a compulsory test because when you get up and you think you are fit, you walk about; that is all. But diabetes is a terrible situation where you can even have your limb, as he said, amputated. Many of us do not exercise, and if we go and do the test, and do the measurements, the BMI, it will indicate to us whether we are going towards the zone of being diabetic and what we should do. What are we supposed to do?
We are supposed to cut down all foods - eating certain foods which will give us too much sugar. Those who are already diagnosed with diabetes are told not to take sugar at all. But those who do not know still eat foods which contain more sugar than even the pure sugar. Recently, a friend of mine who was diagnosed diabetic decided to be eating fruits because he was advised to eat a lot of fruits instead of taking some of the things that he used to take, particularly the junk food.
What he did was to eat a lot of pineapples, and you know, some of them contain a lot of sugar. He quickly ran into crisis and had to be rushed to the hospital. When they examined his eating habits, they realized that he was taking pineapples virtually three times a day and in large quantities too. So once again, this calls for all of us to examine what we eat and why we eat the things we eat so that we do not kill ourselves by these silent killers which depend on our lifestyles.
I think that the Ghana Diabetic Association needs our commendation; they organize programmes, they speak to us on the radios, they appear on the television to educate people. But those of us who should take them seriously are the ones who do not do so, that is why I think that this timely reminder by our hon. Colleague for us to be conscious of our health is most welcome.
Mr. Speaker, on this note, I thank you
for the opportunity.
Dr. Kwame Ampofo (NDC - South
Dayi): Mr. Speaker, I also want to comment on the Statement made by the hon. Colleague because I think it is a very important Statement. Anything that concerns the health of individuals in this country concerns the health of the country at large.
Indeed, diabetes is one of the diseases that are on record to be rising in this country. Another one is hypertension, and I mentioned hypertension because the two sometimes go together. It is a fact, a medical fact that hypertension if uncontrolled leads eventually to diabetes. So once we are looking at the issue of diabetes, we need to be considering all the factors that contribute to one acquiring this disease.
Mr. Speaker, diabetes, as you know, can be acquired by habits, or it can be acquired through hereditary origins. Either way, being conscious or having knowledge of one's status as far as these diseases are concerned is a very important aspect of managing and controlling them.

Diabetes can be a very humiliating disease in the sense that it affects even one's thinking, and as it has been said, one's sight, and could lead to blindness in many cases. I think that our national culture itself sometimes leads to the advent of these diseases. I have not been very active recently and I have realized that I have gained a few kilograms of weight and people see me and say I am looking very fine - I am looking very healthy simply because I am perhaps getting a little bit above the index that my Colleagues set here, the body mass index. When you are gaining weight, you are actually getting
Mr. R. A. Tawiah (NDC - Yilo Krobo) 10:30 a.m.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to contribute to the Statement on the floor. As we have been told, diabetes is one of the killer diseases but it can be controlled if detected early.
Mr. Speaker, one problem that we have in this country is about laboratory diagnosis. We do not do medical examinations; we do not check ourselves medically. We send our vehicles for servicing every month but if I should ask how many of us go for medical examinations to check our system even once in a year, I do not think I will have about 50 per cent of this House in a positive position.
So, while we draw awareness to the dangers of diabetes I will like to say that we should try to at least in every year conduct medical examination on ourselves to detect not only diabetes but other diseases that may be within us before it kills us very early. Mr. Speaker, diabetes can be detected if we go to a laboratory for test; we can test the urine or the blood. If one has a result of about 4 to 7 milimos per litre, it is normal; anything above 7 is abnormal.
So I want to encourage my hon. Colleagues and Ghanaians in general that as we create this awareness, we try and at least every year go to any medical outfit and check our bodies. Thank you very
much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Stephen Kunsu (NDC - Kintampo North) 10:30 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to contribute to this wonderful Statement on diabetes. The maker of the Statement has made very wonderful revelations about the dangers of the disease. Since all Ghanaians are at the risk of attack, I will entreat everybody to be wary of the type of diet we take.
Mr. Speaker, I cannot imagine, much less describe the situation where most Ghanaians are attacked. And I can foresee a danger in this situation. I do not think it will be fine for us to be termed as a country of one-legged people. I agree that Ghanaians must be sensitized enough on the dangers of the disease and I will suggest that Government gives support to the Orthopaedic centres at Nsawam and Duayaw Nkwanta to offer meaningful services to people.
I also suggest that treatment of diabetes should be captured in the District Mutual Insurance Scheme so that people who suffer or who are diagnosed to have diabetes can have treatment at the district levels. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Minister for Women and Children's Affairs (Hajia Alima Mahama) 10:40 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the Statement. Mr. Speaker, long ago, maybe about two or three decades ago when I was in school, hardly did we find children diagnosed with diabetes. These days there are a number of children who are diagnosed with diabetes and it comes again with our habits and our diet.
Whereas children used to exercise - they go to the park to play around, now most of them sit down and are glued to
television sets, watching television from morning, especially when they are on holidays, till evening and at night. Parents must ensure that the children have an opportunity to play; they should go out to the fields and play; we should not be over- protective. It is important that we protect our children but we must ensure that our children have opportunities to play instead of sitting down and watching television.

It is also important that for most of us who are over 40 years, we do have regular medical check-up. You may be walking around thinking that you are comfortable, you are all right, you are healthy and you get the shock of your life if you go for tests to be told that your sugar level is high. So it is very important that we have regular check-ups.

Mr. Speaker, most men do not even enter the kitchen to know about the preparations of food and what is important for them. I am talking about Ghanaian men. I would like to encourage men to go into the kitchens to learn from their wives -- find out what their wives are cooking, find out what is important for them to eat and learn about it so that when then travel -

I know of a number of students when they go abroad - married men -- do not know what to cook, what to eat and what to prepare. They should make it a habit to go into the kitchen, see what is being prepared and learn from their wives.

Mr. Speaker, they have talked about

walking. Walking is so important, regular exercise is so important in the manage- ment of diabetes. If you have diabetes, it is not a death sentence, it can be managed and it should be managed. We should talk to people to sensitize them on the
Mr. Speaker 10:40 a.m.
Do you have a point of order?
Mr. E. T. Mensah 10:40 a.m.
Yes, Mr. Speaker, the hon. Minister is misleading this House. It is on record that the best Chefs are men; most men know how to cook. So we know what happens in our kitchens.
Mr. Speaker 10:40 a.m.
It is not a point of order at all. Please continue.
Hajia Mahama: Mr. Speaker, I am surprised he has not given the statistics. How many men step into the kitchen? It is important that they go into the kitchen and learn about food preparation and what is good for them, especially when one is above 40 years it is so important.
Mr. Speaker, I would want to propose that we have a gym for Parliament either within the premises of this institution or a gym dedicated to Members of Parliament, so that we can go there, have regular exercises and also be taught what to do with ourselves and then what kind of exercise would be appropriate for us. And maybe, as Parliamentarians, we could also come up with a plan and have a sponsored walk one of these days. So this is a suggestion that could be considered in due course. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Annual Moslem Pilgrimage to Mecca
Mr. Haruna Iddrisu (NDC - Tamale South) 10:40 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to make a Statement on the Moslem Annual Pilgrimage to the Holy City of Mecca otherwise referred to as
Mr. Speaker, Hajj is the largest annual pilgrimage in the world. It is the Fifth Pillar of Islam and an obligation that must be carried out by able-bodied Moslems who can afford to do so at least once in their life time.
It demonstrates absolute submission to Almighty Allah and the solidarity of Moslems Hajj is observed between the 8th and 12th day of Dhul-Hijah between the month of November and January.
Mr. Speaker, once every year Moslems of different ethnic groupings, social status and culture gather praising Allah together before the Kaabah. The significance of Hajj lies in the fact that everyone is equal before Allah. Hajj represents a perfection of faith and true submission to Allah.
The religious and spiritual importance of Hajj is captured in the Hadith of Buhari and Moslem quoting the Holy Prophet (Mohammed S.A.W.) as saying that “whoever perform the Hajj and committed no harmful acts during it nor disobeyed God (in another way) shall return from it as pure and sinless as he was at the time of his birth”. Hajj does represents a perfection of faith and perhaps this explains the strong emotional attachment by Moslems attach to Hajj.
Mr. Speaker, the organization of Hajj in Ghana is usually done by the National Hajj Board/Council and it should be without hitches and problems. Indeed, the process has been embarrassing in recent times. Some pilgrims are usually denied the opportunity to embark on this religious journey for no fault of theirs even after paying to make the trip to Mecca. The problem has been as a result of poor organization by the National Hajj Board/ Council and unnecessary interference.
In some situations, Mr. Speaker, pilgrims
are subjected to unacceptable, inhuman and dehumanizing treatments. Pilgrims are not offered decent accommodation and are made to sleep in the open spaces at El-Wak Stadium and sometimes at the Airport. This unacceptable practice, Mr. Speaker, must stop and I think that our Moslems deserve better.
Mr. Speaker, I understand that in the last Hajj over 450 Ghanaian pilgrims could not make it to Mecca, even though they had fully paid for the trip. The Govern- ment in the last minutes had to bail the board out of a crisis. However, the fate of those who could not make the trip this year still remains a major problem and concern.
Mr. Speaker, the National Hajj Council as presently constituted is not representative enough. Some Moslem groups such as the Coalition of Moslem Organizations (COMOG), Federation of Moslem Women Organizat ion (FOMWAG) and the Alsima Wajamal (ASWAJ) have publicly dissociated themselves from the interim Hajj Council. A very worrying development!
Mr. Speaker, it is my recommendation that there is an efficient and effective organization of the Hajj, through a well- structured and well-constituted Council that will be responsive to the needs of our pilgrims. It is my strongest recom-mendation that the organization of Hajj be left to competent hands in the private sector with minimal government involvement and interference.
Mr. Speaker, Government's involve- ment in the organization of the Hajj cannot be eliminated entirely, since over 2000 adult Ghanaian citizens are normally involved and are required to travel to a foreign land - Saudi Arabia. The Council will certainly require government support in many ways; especially for the
processing of their documents and other areas of welfare support services.
Mr. Speaker, may I call on the Hajj Council to put their house in order and ensure a problem-free Hajj this year. Hajj is a religious obligation and must be observed as such. The Council and pilgrims should therefore ensure that this important religious duty is not turned to a profit or business making activity.
Mr. Speaker, it is important that an assurance is given to the disappointed would-be pilgrims who could not make it to Mecca last year that they will be given unconditional opportunity and priority to go to Hajj this year. It is my fervent hope that all stakeholders, particularly the Hajj Council and Government would act timely and appropriately to forestall the inadequacies of last year. I thank you, Mr. Speaker for the opportunity.
Dr. Ahmed Yakubu Alhassan
(NDC - Mion): Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me space to associate myself with this Statement. I do believe that the issue of Hajj is a spiritual tourism and because it is spiritual tourism it engages various departments of tourism that has to be harnessed when the annual pilgrimage has to be embarked upon. The areas of expertise must include tourism, travel documentation, immigration issues, sometimes international relations, ticketing and aviation issues. And it would be important that all these areas of expertise are harnessed and on an annual basis for a trouble-free Hajj.
Mr. Speaker, if all these areas of
expertise could be harnessed from among Moslems, it would be very pleasing. Unfortunately all these cannot be found -- either they cannot all be found among Moslems or they have not been searched for. It is important that the unfortunate issue of organization of Hajj annually
Alhaji Iddrisu Zakari Alidu (NDC -- Walewale) 11:50 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, thank you for allowing me to contribute to this very important issue or Statement on the floor. I want to say that I am the most fresh Alhaji in this House as far as Hajj is concerned. I was the only Member of Parliament last year who performed Hajj and I just want to give you a little bit of what has transpired in the Kingdom.
I want to urge and plead very sincerely and seriously that Government cannot disassociate itself from this very important and very crucial trip that Moslems make to this Kingdom. Once upon a time, you could see that those who made this trip were subjected seriously to humiliation and embarrass-ment and at the end of the day, people even lost their lives.
As the maker of the Statement said, I want to assert that in the kingdom, it was so serious that people who performed the pilgrim were even put in daycare centres. I visited them in a daycare centre where they were supposed to stay for this very important exercise. And Government's disassociation from this very important issue can create a lot of problems to the committee and the Hajj Board even this year as well.
They have stated that over 499 pilgrims
could not make it last year. It is not only so; they were more than 499. Others paid and their names never appeared at all in the list and as a result, they went home, but got frustrated and even died. Some have lost their lives because they were disappointed and could not make the trip.
Secondly, I want to also make it clear
here that the amount of money paid by
Alhaji Amadu B. Sorogho 11:50 a.m.
Speaker, my Brother who is talking - he says he wants to associate himself with the Statement, but the comments he is making are completely disassociating him from the Statement.
Mr. Speaker 11:50 a.m.
Minister, I have already
given you the opportunity to contribute, so continue.
Alhaji Boniface 11 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, if I said I am contributing and associating myself with the Statement on floor, it does not mean that I should follow everything that is said in the Statement. Something that I do not agree with, I need to dissociate from it. So it is not a must that I should accept everything that has been said ditto ditto in this particular Statement.
Secondly, my hon. Colleague is talking
about private sector participation; we know in countries like Malaysia, Nigeria, Indonesia; they make Hajj so successful. You are even given the opportunity to make payments for a period of five years because of their population. A country like
Indonesia will send over three hundred thousand people to perform Hajj every year. And once you perform it, you do not have a chance until another circuit, maybe, in the next ten to fifteen years to come, if you are alive.

So in trying to import such an idea,

Maj. (Dr.) (Alhaji) Mustapha Ahmed

(retd): Mr. Speaker, it is just a point of correction. In Malaysia, the system they have is called Tabun Hajj. It is a susu form and if you subscribe to that system you would have the chance to perform Hajj in a period of time. However, if you have your money, you can go as many times as you want so long as you are prepared to pay the commercial rate. This is the difference I want him to understand.
Alhaji Boniface 11 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, I
was one of the Hajj members who were given the opportunity to study about the Malaysian and Indonesian documents. What I said was, you are made to contribute. If you have your own money you do not even join the ordinary plane. In Ghana, we have people joining Ethiopian Airlines and joining different airlines provided they have their own cash.
But the point is that at the end of the day the whole programme is considered as a
Alhaji Boniface 11 a.m.
sovereign programme. This is so because whatever airline is coming -- and the quota given to each country is based on the country's performance and recognition.
For example, Ghana might be given a quota of 2,500 in a year whereas a country like Nigeria would be given over a hundred thousand and Malaysia would be given over three hundred thousand. It all depends on the country's population and the population of Moslems in that country. So it is important because at the end of the day, any pilgrim in Saudi Arabia is not considered as a private individual; he is considered as an individual of a particular country. So if there is anything at all, it is country-to-country con-sideration.
So it is quite important that as we look at this document, we should consider that leaving the whole operation of the Hajj Board to the private sector is dangerous because at the end of the day, issuance of visa is considered based on the credibility of the country. One person going to commit any crime or involving in any problem discredits the country. So the involvement of a government in the operations of the Hajj is very, very important.
For example, I remember in the past, we had an MP in the person of hon. Salia who was the Chairman and we had other private people. When we came in, we had the opportunity to handle the operations of the Hajj with government members on board. This one happened up to last year but last two years or last year, the private sector themselves said “no way”, they would want to operate the whole thing and unfortunately, it ended in a fiasco; it never met the approval of the public.
Therefore, like my hon. Colleague is
saying, it is quite important that we look at the operations. At least at the apex, we should have government involvement because it has to do with money; it has to do with an aircraft; it has to do with a lot of people, delegations and committees to handle such a thing. If it is left to a particular group of people they would mess up and then mess up the country as a whole.
Mr. Speaker, having touched on these points I would associate myself with the Statement on floor.
Alhaji Collins Dauda (NDC - Asutifi
South): Mr. Speaker, I also rise to associate myself with the Statement made. This Statement in my opinion, has come at the right time. We are looking at the Statement, after a Hajj has been badly managed and also before one is to take place.
Mr. Speaker, Moslems out there certainly would be wondering why problems relating to Hajj organization continue to bedevil this country and particularly Moslems. Mr. Speaker, they would always be wondering because this is an exercise that is always being carried out between Ghana and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It is always from Accra to Mecca. It has never changed yet we continue to have problems.
Mr. Speaker, I happened to be a
member of the Hajj Committee in the 1980s representing Brong Ahafo Region and at the time there was not anything like the Hajj Board; it was organized on committee basis. Mr. Speaker, at that time there were problems and because of the problems it was thought that if the Hajj Committee was made a board maybe the problems would be minimized. But Mr. Speaker, with the board, the situation is worse.

Last year, for instance, I happened to be near the airport where they hosted the pilgrims and the situation there was very, very bad. Mr. Speaker, the pilgrims were left to themselves, there was no water even for performing ablution for prayers. All kinds of difficulties were there for these pilgrims to encounter.

Mr. Speaker, I think that nobody in this country can rule out Government involvement in any Hajj exercise. Government certainly has a role to play here. But the problem encountered here is the undue interference by Government sometimes, that is where the issue is.

Mr. Speaker, Government certainly would want to support people to perform the pilgrimage and nobody can stand in the way of Government when Government decides to support or sponsor people to perform the pilgrimage. But how it is done is what causes the problem for pilgrims.

Mr. Speaker, pilgrims pay their moneys to the board or the council, waiting to be lifted from Accra to Mecca for the pilgrimage. Then along the line Government decides to sponsor. Meanwhile, a quota is given for Ghana and you cannot exceed the quota. Because Government would want to ensure that people that it wants to sponsor would perform the pilgrimage - [Interruption] -- I have not talked about a cedi quota, I am only saying that Ghana has a quota within which we must operate and -

Hajia Alima Mahama -- rose -
Mr. Speaker 11 a.m.
Hon. Minister for Women and Children's Affairs, do you have a point of order?
Hajia Mahama: On a point of order. Mr. Speaker, the hon. Member is
misleading the House. I am aware that last year, Ghana's quota was three thousand and we have never exceeded our quota. So for him to say that people pay for their tickets and then Government comes on to sponsor people and therefore it affects the quota level is incorrect.
Alhaji Dauda 11 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, I never said that we exceeded our quota. If she had waited patiently, she would have gotten the import of my statement. What I said was that I know we have a quota as a country and people are told how much to pay and they pay their moneys.
But Mr. Speaker, before the pilgrims are lifted from Accra to Mecca what normally happens on the part of Government is that because they would want to sponsor their people, they bring them in their numbers therefore reducing the number of people who would otherwise be able to perform their pilgrimage. That is what caused the four hundred and fifty pilgrims not being able to perform the Hajj last year.
Alhaji Boniface 11:10 a.m.
On a point of order. Mr. Speaker, what the hon. Member is saying is totally misleading. The Hajj Board does not organize an aircraft. That was why I was sent to Niger to bring an aircraft. So to tell us that Government had brought people as special delegates for them to go before others is totally wrong. It is not true.
If the Hajj Board had organized well and brought all the aircraft on time, all the people would have gone. He was one time a member. If one organizes everything very well and the aircraft comes, everybody would get the opportunity to go. But this was what happened. It was poorly organized. The aircraft that they expected never came and that was how we organized an eleventh-hour aircraft for the Hajj Board.
Mr. Speaker 11:10 a.m.
We should not provoke debate over this matter.
Alhaji Dauda 11:10 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, the point
Mr. Speaker 11:10 a.m.
Hon. Member, please, as I am saying, we should not provoke debate.
Alhaji Dauda 11:10 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, I will move away from there. Mr. Speaker, we have the Board in place that organizes the pilgrimage for us and I think that one would have thought that after every year's pilgrimage, this Board will come up with a report and the report examined by major stakeholders in this particular exercise. For instance, in Islam, we have the Chief Imam and his Imams or the Ulamah. We also have COMOG. We have FOMWAG. We have Alsuna, Wasjamaa and then we have the Moslem caucus. In fact, these in my opinion are the major stakeholders so far as Islam is concerned in the country; maybe, there could be other ones.
Mr. Speaker, I think that what we must begin to do for instance is to demand a report from this Hajj Board after every pilgrimage. After the report, all these stakeholders will have to meet, analyze the report, look at the shortcomings and look at how to address these shortcomings. I believe if we begin to put this practice in place - [Interruption] -- They cannot come before the Public Accounts Committee.
When such an exercise is done, I believe that we would be able to identify where the problems are and find solutions

Mr. Speaker, I do not know why the hon. Minister is worked up like that. So Mr. Speaker, I am only making an appeal to the Hajj Board to prepare a report of any Hajj that it organizes and make sure that it organizes meetings of all stakeholders in Islam so that we can meet, analyze the report and find solutions to these problems together. I believe, together, we would be able to find solutions to the problems and organize a Hajj-free for our Moslem brothers and sisters in the country.

I thank you very much for this opportunity.
Alhaji AlhassanYakubu (NDC -- Nanton) 11:10 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, the Statement on the organization of Hajj highlighted the problems and the way forward. My contribution is going to be centred on documentation; and documentation involves the issue of passports and so many other things.
Mr. Speaker, anybody who is in the seat for organizing Hajj should not be envied at all. The organization of Hajj is not an easy job at all; it is very, very difficult. Mr. Speaker, in the area of preparation, the documentation that I talked about earlier on is something that is causing a lot of trouble for Hajj organization.
When Hajj is being organized people wait until the eleventh hour. If the Hajj is going to be organized somewhere in the first week of January, people would wait until around the very first week of January that they start paying. It is around that time that a lot of payments are made to
Minister for Greater Accra Region (Sheikh I. C. Quaye) 11:10 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, I thank you very much. I was not here when the Statement was made but I think that listening to contributions being made by hon. Members here and there on both sides of the House, it is a good Statement that has come to the floor of this House.
Mr. Moses Asaga 11:20 a.m.
On a point of order. Mr. Speaker, the hon. Regional Minister is saying that he was not here. But he starts by saying that it is a good Statement when he has not even heard the Statement. [Laughter.] So I think that he cannot appropriately contribute.
Sheikh Quaye: Mr. Speaker, well, I said so but I added that listening to contributions made by both sides of the House, I think that the Statement is in the right direction and therefore there is the need for us to contribute as well in support of the Statement.
Mr. Speaker, this is not the first time that a Statement is being made on Hajj on the floor of this House. I remember that about three years ago, a similar Statement was made on this floor and we had occasion of contributing to it. Among other things, we said that Government cannot wash its hands completely off the management of Hajj. Some others suggested strongly that there was need for Government to wash its hands completely off because Government is anti-Islam, Government is anti-Moslem. Consequently, there was a meeting or a conference organized by COMOG attended by all the Islamic organizations in this country. And they came out with a resolution to the Government that the Moslems had the capacity of handling and managing Hajj and therefore Government should hand over Hajj to the Moslems.

Then the Office of the National Chief Imam issued a resolution in the same manner that the Government should hand over the management of Hajj to Moslems. So the Government having put the two statements together, decided that the management of Hajj must be entrusted to the Moslems. Therefore, the management of Hajj was handed over to the National
Mr. Moses Asaga 11:20 a.m.
Chief Imam, COMOG and FOMWAG. The constitution of the National Hajj Council was left entirely to these bodies. They managed the Hajj two years ago -- and I can say, not with perfection but somehow very well.
But last year, it was terrible and some politics was made out of this. They even rejected the water I sent to the stranded pilgrims. Those who sent the water were nearly lynched by the stranded pilgrims because they thought it was the Government which was handling the Hajj operation. So the Government had to come in to save the situation.
As my brother, the hon. Minister for Water Resources, Works and Housing said, the Government was not aware that the Hajj Council could not hire an aircraft to lift the last batch of the would-be pilgrims to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. At that time, we had nearly about one thousand would-be pilgrims who were languishing around and not knowing what to do.
So when we got the information that the Hajj Council was handicapped in securing an aircraft, the Government decided that something must be done. The hon. Minister for Water Resources, Works and Housing and some others were sent to secure an aircraft to lift the rest of the would-be pilgrims to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Indeed, by then, the Government's delegation was also waiting. The Government's delegation numbers about eleven and this has been the case all through when the National Democratic Party (NDC) was in power.
A government delegation is always sent to Hajj to represent the Government.

[SHEIKH QUAYE] This is done all over the world. I led the government delegation to Mecca last year. We went there and saw that the pilgrims were left comfortless because none of the members of the Hajj Council was in Mecca to handle and manage the pilgrims.

S o H i s E x c e l l e n c y, G h a n a 's Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and I had to handle and manage the pilgrims over there. Mr. Speaker, you can imagine the difficulty that we encountered in the performance of this task. This is because we had no idea whatsoever that the members of the Hajj Council could not join the pilgrims to Mecca. Therefore, I had to carry the whole burden and in some cases I had to remove money from my pocket to take care of them. We had to arrange for drugs from the Saudi Arabian Government for those who were sick.

Maj. (Dr) (Alhaji) Mustapha Ahmed (retd) On a point of order. Mr. Speaker, I believe the hon. Regional Minister has misled us by saying that they were not aware of the problem that had arisen. I say so because the Hajj Council has operatives of the National Security Council and the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) duly represented on the Council and therefore they pass on information as and when they arise to the appropriate authorities.

Sheikh Quaye: Mr. Speaker, I was talking about the management of the pilgrims in Saudi Arabia. We were not aware that the members of the Council did not join the Hajj pilgrims and therefore, when I got there, I had to take care of the management of the pilgrims. This was what I said.

Mr. Speaker, a copy of the Statement has just been handed over to me and I can agree with the hon. Member who made the Statement that in the last Hajj operation, over four hundred and fifty Ghanaian would-be pilgrims could not make it to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia even though they paid fully for the trip. At the last minute, the Government had to bail the Hajj Council out of the crisis. However, the fate of those who could not make the trip last year still remains a major problem and concern.

I cannot agree with the hon. Member the more on this part of the Statement. I think that Government should not be blamed in any way whatsoever for the problem because I remember that my very good Friend, the hon. Member for Asutifi South (Alhaji Collins Dauda) himself participated in the COMOG conference. It was published in the newspapers and I read that he was there as well. And the resolution was taken that the Government was not concerned about Islamic affairs and that the Government should hand over the operations of Hajj to the Moslems because they had the men. We all agreed with that and the operations of the Hajj were handed over to them. The Council is responsible for the preparation of the would-be pilgrims, the payments, documentation and others are handled by the Hajj Council.

The role played by the Government is to ensure that nobody as an individual can travel to Mecca and then go and make arrangements with the Ministry of Pilgrimage. So the Government has to do all this and it did its work so well.

My information is that this year, two thousand, seven hundred would-be pilgrims would be going to perform the Hajj. That is the quota approved by the Ministry of Hajj. Nobody should say that the Government interferes in the management of Hajj. Since it handed the

management to the Council, any mishap, error or problem created should be directed at the Hajj Council. I think this is as simple as anything.

Mr. Speaker, the Holy Qur'an says that their affairs shall be a matter of reconciliation or dialogue. So when I came and there was confusion, I advised all Moslems in this country that they should try and sit together and resolve their differences. I published a newsletter about that. I arranged chairs to enable them to sit together to iron out the problems so that those who were not able to perform the Hajj last year would go this year. This is what the Government has done so far. We have done everything possible to help them.

We have also done everything to see to it that they come together to organise this year's Hajj, but they say there is confusion among them.

If COMOG says that they are not aware of what is happening with this year's Hajj, it cannot be true. COMOG has some members serving on the Hajj Council. So the Hajj is being handled by COMOG, the Office of the National Chief Imam and FOMWAG, that is the women orga-nisation. The Government should not be blamed in any way whatsoever for lapses and problems that occurred in the handling of the Hajj in any way.

Mr. Speaker, I thank you very much.
Mr. Speaker 11:20 a.m.
At the Commencement of Public Business, item 5 - Committee sittings.
Mr. Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu 11:20 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, there are two very important committee meetings. The Committee on Mines and Energy and another one on Poverty Reduction Strategy are meeting today. We ought to have had a closed Sitting today but we are unable to do
that. Mr. Speaker, we would be having it tomorrow. Again, tomorrow, we would be having a Committee of the Whole meeting and that would be after the closed Sitting.
Mr. Speaker, having said that, I beg to move, that this House do now adjourn until 10.00 o'clock tomorrow in the forenoon.
Mr. E.T. Mensah 11:20 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, I beg to second the motion.
Question put and motion agreed to.
ADJOURNMENT 11:20 a.m.