Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to contribute to this Statement. Just a brief intervention.
Today, June 16, marks the African Union (AU) Day of the African Child and the Hon Minister has come with a Statement to commemorate the event.
I think that is a very good thing that the Hon Minister has done except that I have always thought that for such commemorative Statements, if they preceded the event by a day or a couple of days, then of course the nation would see its greater relevance. It will have greater impact if it is done a day or a couple of days before the event itself is commemorated.
So I would urge that the Hon Minister, the next time round bears this in mind. In similar vein, I may also want to entreat Committee Chairmen and Ranking Members to also avail themselves of such opportunities and come on such events with such commemorative Statements. Every now and then, we have such important days passing us by without noticing.
The second thing that I want to also address is what the Hon Minister herself
brought out. What has occasioned this celebration of AU Day of the African Child is the massacre in the 1970s of school children in South Western Township, the suburb of Johannesburg, affectionately referred to as Soweto.
I believe that on such occasions, we should contextualize the event in Ghana. There are happy developments in Ghana, particularly the last regime and this regime. I am talking about NDC II under His Excellency Prof Atta Mills and the NPP Administration under President Kufuor. We have not seen, this nation has not seen the battery of school children.
Mr Speaker, that is an important observation, regimes spanning from Dr Kwame Nkrumah's era have all witnessed school children going on demonstration, being beaten up, some of them being shot at in this country. We talk about events in Soweto and nobody mentions what has obtained in this country. On such occasions, I believe as a nation, we should resolve never to go back into those dark days, those blood and tender days as the late former Speaker, Justice Annan would normally want to refer to them.
Mr Speaker, we have moved away from such era; let us put them behind and as I have said, resolve as a nation never to thread that path again.
Having said that, I think as the Hon Second Deputy Speaker said, we should not also use it as a ritual where year in, year out we pour our hearts out on same events. Our Constitution provides as per article 13 (1), and Mr Speaker, with your indulgence, I quote:
“No person shall be deprived of his life intentionally except in the exercise of the execution of a sentence of a court in respect of
a criminal offence under the laws of Ghana of which he has been convicted.”
Again, article 15 (1) of the Constitution, in my view, re-inforces the dignity of every person, every living creature, human creature when it says:
“The dignity of all persons shall be invoilable.”
The issue about abortion in this country has become very topical, it has continued to exercise the attention of all administrations. I believe that when we come to discuss children and children's rights, and happily, we have the Attorney- General, Hon Minister responsible for Justice now as a woman, herself a gender engineer -- I believe the time has come for us as a nation to take a bold stand on abortion and I challenge the Attorney- General and Minister for Justice to lead this crusade.
Mr Speaker, we cannot continue to mention this year in, year out and allow it unattended to. I believe at this time and age, we should confront this topical matter and come clean.
As I said, the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, a woman, a gender activist and a gender engineer, should hold and hoist this flag, and I believe she would be remembered for that if she leaves the scene one day. I pray it is not too soon but she should accomplish this before she leaves; whether or not it is going to be tomorrow, I cannot tell. But Mr Speaker, I believe it is something that as a nation, we should take on and who better prosecutes this agenda than the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, the first woman to occupy that position --
I am happy that she is in the Chamber
Mr Speaker, finally on the issue of the educational rights articulated by my Friend the Hon Member for Asawase, the Constitution as per article 25 provides quite a coverage on the educational rights of children. What we are not too sure of is children who today do not have access to the Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE).
There are projections. Happily this year, we are going to have a national census - a population and housing census. May I plead that we include this since this is a constitutional obligation, so we are able to determine how many children in this country are outside this net in order for us to be able to better pray and attempt a real rescue mission for these children who tomorrow may become a social menace.
Mr Speaker, I thank you for your indulgence.