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General News of Saturday, 21 April 2018

Source: citinewsroom.com

‘We needed more time to properly assess US military deal’ – MP

Reflecting on Parliament’s ratification of the controversial Ghana-US Defence cooperation, the Vice Chairman of Parliament’s Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, Alexander Abban, has admitted that the committee assessing the deal might have needed more time to do a thorough job.

Responding to the assertion that the deal, which was ratified on March 23 just before recess, was rushed, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament (MP) for Gomoa West, who was on that select committee, recalled that they used a day to assess the legal aspects of the agreement.

“To be honest, I do not know for what reason the thing had to be passed that day but I believe that there were timelines between the two governments, probably.” “Probably a little more time would have been [worthwhile]. It would have been worthwhile to have a little more time. I had raised a couple of issues,” the legislator remarked on The Big Issue.

Mr. Abban also noted that this was his first experience scrutinising such a deal as he had “not had the benefit of assessing similar agreements with other countries.”

With the agreement ratified, US troops will among other things be exempted from paying taxes on equipment that are brought to Ghana as well be able to use Ghana’s radio spectrum for free.

Privileges of privacy have also been granted to the US army and potential contractors who may operate on Ghanaian soil.

Though the initial fears that Ghana had given the US space for a military base have been dispelled, critics, particularly from the National Democratic Congress (NDC) maintain that Ghana’s sovereignty has been mortgaged.

Another point of criticism has been the absence of a straightforward exit clause in the deal. Ghana can only initiate the termination of the deal after giving 12 months’ notice.

Despite the issues, a few of which Mr. Abban agreed with, he said adequate assurances had been given to convince him that the deal, which he described as a substantive continuation of similar agreements from 1998 and 2015, was ultimately Ghana’s interest.



He also had no doubt that the government will pull out the moment it senses any danger to the nation’s sovereignty, without recourse to diplomatic ties.

“If it [defence cooperation] becomes erroneous, if it becomes laborious, if it becomes injurious to our reputation and all other things that you can think about, do you think Ghana cannot tell the United States that; this is something anaemic to us so after 12 months, let us end it? You think we can’t say that?”



Operational restraints

Mr. Abban also clarified that the legal points in the deal may not be reflective of the operational arrangements.

The assurances from the US military had to do with outlining limits to some aspects of the deal, like US operatives’ unfettered operations on Ghanaian soil.



“At the first sight of the documents, I raised questions and may have even made harsh comments on the documents until we met the top military hierarchy… I felt that [for] unfettered access, if somebody decided to go on an adventure and uses a military helicopter and says he wants to land on the land on the Flagstaff House, what do you say? These are all possibilities.”



“But of course, these operational restraints, how they know their own command structure and all those kind of things, will at least give us some peace,” Mr. Abban said.