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General News of Saturday, 14 June 2014


CRIC operated open-door policy – Chairman

The Chairman of the Constitutional Review Implementation Committee (CRIC), Professor E. V. O. Dankwa, has refuted reports that its work has not been transparent.

Rather, he said the commission had undertaken the demanding task of legislative drafting with an open-door policy.

In an interview with the Daily Graphic, Prof. Dankwa said working in the public eye, as some would have wanted, was what the work of the CRC had entailed.

That, he said, was achieved by direct and indirect contributions from the public, with more than 81,000 written submissions that resulted in the report entitled: “From a Political to Developmental Constitutions.”

He also said the work had entailed poring over all recommendations made in the 960-page report of the Constitution Review Commission (CRC) and the drafting of bills on recommendations in the report.

Apart from the CRC report, CRIC was also mandated to look at the government’s White Paper and also consider public reactions, while also beginning processes of administrative and legislative actions recommended by the CRC to make the constitution beneficial to Ghanaians.

CRIC’s mandate

When the CRIC was commissioned on October 2, 2012, with a mandate to implement the recommendations of the CRC, the report was distributed to all Members of Parliament, the Council of State, ministries, departments and agencies.

All accredited tertiary institutions, religious organisations and professional bodies were also given copies of the CRC report, Prof. Dankwa said.

He showed letters from institutions acknowledging that they had received copies of the report, and said the CRIC had, with the completion of the drafting phase of their work, begun sensitising the public to the processes for a referendum on the entrenched provisions, and added that a town hall meeting had already taken place in James Town.

Wide consultations

In the course of its work, the CRIC held briefings with all political parties: the Convention Peoples’ Party, which was represented by eight lawyers led by Mr Bright Akwetey, the Peoples’ National Convention (PNC), the Progressive Peoples’ Party (PPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Prof. Dankwa said.

“We were so compelled to let all grasp the process that in the case of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), we were mindful to wait until their congress to meet the new executives so that they could carry the message down to their constituents,” he said.

He also said civil society, including the Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG), as well as the Civic Forum Initiative (CFI) had also held interactions with the CRIC in the course of their work.Drafting bills in furtherance of recommendations in the CRC’s report, the CRIC was working indoors and it was not time for more solicitation, although our doors were open for any person who wanted to meet us,” he said.

Process must end

Prof. Dankwa also emphasised the fact that the process of reviewing the constitution, having already gone on for about four years, needed to end since it could not go on forever.

For instance, he said, after the CRC’s work and while the CRIC was also doing its work, more recommendations had come in, indicating how the country needed to shift from the presidential system of governance to a parliamentary system.

He said from other quarters, there were concerns about what was termed ‘election fatigue’ being experienced by Ghanaians because of the cycle of electing political party executives and the national elections.

The suggested solution to that had been a constitutional provision for political parties to hold their elections at the same time as the national elections. He said the suggestion could not be incorporated in the constitution, but that was for all, particularly the political parties, to take action on.

Collaboration for the future

Prof. Dankwa disclosed that on June 19, 2014, the CRIC, together with the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), which was at the forefront of the sensitisation programme, would hold a regional public forum in Koforidua. From there, other regional fora would be held.

He said these interactions would be serialised in the dailies, with jingles sensitising all to the referendum.

The bills on the entrenched provisions would have to be gazetted, he explained, and the gazetting would be the final product on which Ghanaians would vote.

The referendum

Prof. Dankwa said the 1992 Constitution, with 299 articles and 37 transitional provisions, came into being by a simple response of “yes” or “no” to a single question about whether Ghanaians were in favour of the constitution. Some articles, such as article 19, had 21 clauses, with some clauses having further sub-clauses.

He said to vote on each amendment would be a Herculean task for voters and the management of logistics. Thus, the current amendments would be decided on by a referendum on two simple questions, to be responded to with “yes” or “no”.

The first question would be whether people were in favour of the death penalty or not. He said that had been necessitated by the overwhelming reaction to the death penalty as the CRIC worked.

The second question would be whether Ghanaians were in favour of all other amendments to the constitution.

For the other amendments to the non-entrenched provisions, Prof. Dankwa explained that they would be done by the normal parliamentary process of passing legislation, which was also transparent and participatory.