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General News of Tuesday, 20 May 1997

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Rawlings Is Hostile to Multi-partysm- Lecturer

By Isabella Gyau President J.J. Rawlings's conception of multi-party system of government came under serious attack at the on-going 9th Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference in Accra, Ghana. Mr. F.K. Drah, a senior lecturer at the Department of Political Science, University of Ghana, speaking on the topic: The Political scene in Ghana;, started it all when he said democratic rule in Ghana is in danger citing what he termed ;President Rawlings hostility to Multi-party system as one of the factors ;His preference is no partysm;, he said adding "one is not certain how many of the leadership and followership of the NDC share President Rawlings' hostility to the party system and preference for no-partysm;. The lecturer also said, it is not without purpose that, President Rawlings in his utterances is said to have described; opposition leaders as punks, thieves and filth". All that this means in simple political language according to Mr. Drah is that apart from the NDC, there is no other political party now, nor is one ever likely to emerge in the foreseeable future which can also legitimately lay claim to the allegiance of a sizeable portion of the citizenry. With such a cast mind, he said, "it is no exaggeration to suggest that the NDC and its leadership are not very keen to preside over the evolution of a strongly institutionalized multiparty system conducive for democratic progress". Another factor which Mr. Drah said is a threat to democratic rule is, the increasing number of NGOs which he said have close affinity to the NDC. These include the 31st December Women's Movement which he described as the Ghana Private Road Transport Union of TUC, (GPRTU), The Council for Indigenous Business Association (CBA) and the Association of Committee for the Defence of the Revolution (ACDR).

He said there is the potential danger of the ruling party to claim and monopolize the social and political space in which the civil society operate. Mr. Drah said even though he is not against the establishment of party wings, the kind of relationship that exists between the ruling party and the civil groups points towards one party state which is destructive of democratic development.

In addition, Mr. Drah said the system whereby the ruling party keeps growing financially strong while the opposition gets weaker and weaker in terms of funds does not augur well for a healthy democracy. He blamed this situation on the over exploitation of the advantages of incumbency, and called for appropriate distinction between resources of the state and that of a ruling party.

He also said, the unwillingness on the part of the ruling party to take measures to fund the opposition for the fear of losing government contracts may also not help the democratic system. Mr. Drah who had earlier on praised the government for the relative peace and stability, the democratic process and the existence of the private media also called on the government to review section 185 of the criminal code which he described as "medieval and archaic". He said, the contribution of the private media, inspite of their weaknesses to the democratic process cannot be overemphasized. He said the Private Media is doing the best it can to inform and educate the public on the activities of the government and its functionaries as well as to unearth corrupt deals in the system all of which would have largely remained a closed book to the public. Mr. Drah noted that, though it is not wrong to bring erring Journalists to book, the law on libel tends to criminalize freedom of speech and called for the use of civil remedies in dealing with Journalists since there is no freedom of Information Act as it exists in other countries. Mr. Drah also said, the state-owned media which is still controlled by the government poses a threat to the democratic process.

The political science lecturer also cited, poverty, and ethnic chauvinism as other factors obstructing the democratization process. However, the Majority Leader in Parliament Hon. J.H. Owusu Acheampong did not agree with the political science lecturer on the President's concept of Multiparty system. He said the President would not have supervised two elections which he won if he had no belief in multi-party democracy. I have not heard my president say anywhere that he does not believe in multiparty system;, the Majority leader said, adding ;He may have expressed views about what party politics do to people in terms of divisions, bitterness and rancour even among family members;. Mr. Albert Bosumtwi-Sam, a former MP and Deputy Minister of Interior supported the views of the Majority Leader. Describing Mr. Drah's views as odd;, and strange; Mr. Sam who is a Lawyer by Profession said there is nothing wrong with going to court to seek redress when maligned by a newspaper. He said section 185 of the criminal code has been in the statute books since Nkrumah and Busia's parliamentary days and no attempt had ever been made to remove them. ;So why now? He asked. Hon. Mrs. Ama Benyiwa-Doe also did not agree with Mr. Drah's presentation. She noted that, efforts should be made to find out why democracies failed in the past. She also said the 31st December Women's Movement had not in any way benefited from government funds and called on the opposition in parliament to find out from the records. So for it has all been suspicion and no one can prove that, the 31st December Women's Movement had in anyway benefited from our accounting system.She added.

Hon. Malek Yakubu, NPP member of parliament for Yendi sympathized with Mr. Drah and said, even though the President accepted Multi partyism, it was not until all Ghanaians and the International community made it clear that, they wanted it.

When Mr. Drah was given the floor to react to the various expressions, he said the President expressed his dislike for Multiparty system in 1991, after the National Commission for Democracy report was presented.;He said he was opposed to Multiparty Democracy but Majority of the Cabinet accepted it,; Mr. Drah quoted the President. If he did not believe in it but had practised if for over years, then we have to congratulate him;, said Majority Leader J.H. Owusu Acheampong, adding, Mr. Drah has to find out from the President, what his views on Multiparty system are now.