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Diasporian News of Thursday, 26 October 2006

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Launch of On-Line Visa Application Program in US

Remark by His Excellency; Obeng-Gyan-Busia, Consul General Subheading; On the launch of On-Line Visa Application Program in US

H.E Ambassador Christian, Minister, Robert Tachie-Menson, Colleagues of the Mission and the Consulate, Dr. Victor Esien and Dr. Ben Doodo, our Guests of Honor, President and Executives of NCOGA and its member associations, the US based Ghanaian Travel Agencies, Pastor Adu Gyamfi and his Prayer Warriors of the Believers Bible Tabernacle (BBT), Nananom, Compatriots, Invited Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is indeed my greatest honor to be given the opportunity to address a gathering of this nature, which is made up of Ghanaians of all-walks of life and socio-economic background on the occasion of the launching of the On-Line Visa Application Program today, perhaps the first of its kind in Ghana's Diplomatic Community.

Please let me start by saying to each and every one of you, "Good Afternoon and Welcome to this historic Event". It truly warms my heart and fills me with joy to see you here this afternoon; a Saturday afternoon when you could have spent your time elsewhere or doing something else for yourself. However, such gatherings, as you may have noted, affords us the opportunity to interact and exchange ideas, build a forum for socio-economic and political discourse and ACTION for ourselves and our dear Country, GHANA.
When I assumed office as Ghana's Consul-General to the United States, I set for myself three basic goals, namely;
1. To use the new moss of trappings acquired by the office as a bully pulpit to effect changes that will benefit the at-large Ghanaian Community with a lasting impression. Succinctly put, my hope-for objective was to brighten my corner and leave my foot prints in the sand of our times. As I came face to face with the maze of constraints in serving the public outside of the New York Area, in terms of delivery of Visa services, I thought that bringing this office into the computer age will be one smart move to make a lasting impression. Until now, the Consulate has operated as a stone age entity in a twenty first century's technological environment. There was the unenviable scenario of out- of- state applicants calling the Consulate to mail them visa application Forms to be filled at their respective locations, mail them back to us for processing and sending them back to them in the post or through any of the package delivery companies. I found this practice as extremely out of tune with the realities of modern times. Indeed obtaining a Visa from Ghana Consulate was a very daunting experience for applicants outside of the New York Metro Area and this situation was really crying for a very positive change. Undoubtedly, this E-Visa Program that is being launched today has come to correct this anomaly once and for all as it leads us into the computer age. 2. As a political appointee, a fact, which notably makes me a politician, I wanted to use this opportunity to test a theory propounded by a former U.S. President, Mr. Clinton that a politician, who does not know where to go for money has no business being in the political game. For me, the success or otherwise of this effort to generate funds for a worthy cause; that is bringing our Consular culture into the realm of twenty first Century technological practices, would help ascertain whether or not I am in the right profession, as suggested by former President Clinton. Besides, I see the E Visa program as conforming to my desire to always keep faith with the high expectations of the authorities that appointed me to this high office of public trust. 3. I have always had the desire to optimize my experience, know-how and utilize available talents around me to achieve the objectives of my office. In this respect, I have enjoyed the utmost co-operation and dedication from the staff at the Consulate, namely; Joseph, Josephine, Carolyn, Esi and Ophelia. I want to add that without pandering to the vice of ostentations, neither my past work as a Lawyer with the Ministry of Finance between 1979 and 1984, or job as a Coordinator of International Student Programs at the Howard University in the 1990s up to the mid 2001, has prepared me for this job as a Consul-General than my three year stint as a Special Assistant; 2001 to 2004, to the Minister of Local Government in Ghana. The bedrock of that Ministry's job entailed intensive consultations with the community and a call to the District Assemblies to look beyond the regime of Government Subvention known as District Assembly Common Fund and generate extra revenues to cater to their developmental programs. This experience has equipped me with the strategy to reach out to the public and no doubt it has brought me willing adherents like you to help in making this dream of bringing the office into the computer age a reality without a brass farthing of Ghana Government's money.
Now thanks be to God, for the bond of good neighborliness and business friendly relationship I have established with two US domiciled Ghanaian professionals, Dr. Esien, a lawyer and Dr. Doodo, a medical officer, I can say with my chest out that I will always be able to reach into the pockets of some well wishers to support my pet causes as a public officer.
My relationship with these two gentlemen is of special nature spanning several years. Ever since I assumed office Dr. Doodo has never reneged on his responsibility as an adopted uncle towards me. He continues to offer good advise and suggestions to me in the area of Community relations, therefore, his bid to help me to generate money for this project through his clients, friends and some of his colleagues in and outside the New York State, must be seen as the highest form of expression of this special relationship, and for all these, I say "Thank You" dear uncle. For Dr. Esien, he is more than an elder brother of mine. Our relationship dates back to about forty years ago in my hometown, Wenchi, where his father served eight year tenure as the District Director of Education. Let me just stress the fact that together with his brothers and this is not to embarrass him, we did a lot of sinful things, some of them bordering on youthful indiscretions. Please let me also add that he was my lawyer when I was processing my Green Card application and the only fees that I paid for his services was the Application fees to the INS. In a legal parlance he represented me pro bono.
This said it is very logical that when his younger brother needed help, he was going to be there for him without any hesitation whatsoever. To him, I say "Thank You' big Brother. You have always been there for me when I needed you most.
As a mark of our appreciation for their role in getting this project through, it has been decided that their businesses would be given free listing in the business dairy column of our website. Admittedly, these gentlemen have between them a total of not less than fifty years of professional practice, and there is no need stressing the obvious fact that to survive that long in their respective profession, they might have cultivated for themselves a solidly devoted clientele base, which might make any advertisement for them a mooted issue, but since the Ocean has never been known to refuse to become a reservoir of heavy downpour of rain from the heavens, this gesture should be worthy of acceptance without any sense of reservation.
Now with the help and co-operation of our business community, notably, the Tri -State Area based Ghanaian Travel Agents, who at my behest agreed to buy Advertisers Space or signage as it is known in the sports industry, in the chancery, for a yearly fees of $240.00 each, I have been able to garner additional funds which has enabled me to provide the following customer service package to our community, namely, a TV with a stand for the Chancery, a writing counter to ease the burden of filing application forms, 3 Computers Terminals for our On-Line Program, a Router and a Network Printer with a Laser a Wireless Accessory, the E-Visa project and its website, and finally the use of some of the leftover funds to buy few items to beautify my office as a Consul-General. These changes, as you know too well, are to enhance the dignity of the Consulate-General, thus contributing to a significant improvement in service delivery, not only for Ghanaians but the United States community, as a whole. In the very near future, we intend to have a Laser system that will enable us scan pictures of applicants on to their E-visa application.
The benefits from this project are manifold and very enriching beyond its ability to enhance effective services delivery to our clients. The system has been configured in a way as to serve as a Data base for Ghanaians in the United States. It has the capacity to categorize them into three groups of Citizenship; that is those who are holders of Ghanaian passport, Ghanaian born citizens of a foreign country (Naturalized Foreigners) and finally, those born in the Diaspora of Ghanaian parentage. It is intended that in future, as the Representation of the People's Amendment Act, (ROPAA) comes into effect; this data could be sold to the Electoral Commission (E.C.) if needed. The website could also become a resource base for the promotion of Ghanaian Businesses. The old practice whereby we have to airfreight tons of papers containing data returns on visa applications to Accra at very high cost, will now give way to a new system that will enable us to send same via a thumb drive or a small disc. I am informed that this will be the first of such process in the Ghanaian diplomatic system. For the working of this system, I will leave the details to its Administrator, Mr. Joe Ampaabeng, who will explain the mechanism to you when he takes his turn to speak.
I must add that the role of two other persons, also present with us in this room, Alhaji Marda, the Executive General Secretary and Mr. Patrick Gyan, the Financial Secretary, both of the National Council cannot and should not be allowed to be lost in the excitement of this moment. They were the first to have been squeezed to making contacts with our community to contribute something towards the purchase of the TV at the chancery and they dutifully obliged. Since the sweetness of the pooding is in the eating as they say, I felt motivated to carry the same message of help to my uncle and big brother. Gentlemen, please accept my undying appreciation for your efforts in this regard.
Please do also allow me to say a big thank you to my two Ambassadors and senior colleagues, Excellencies, Nana Effah- Appenteng, who could not be here because of other demands of his office and L.K. Christian, for the very cordial working relationship that has developed between us and our two institutions; the Mission and the Consulate-General. It is this special relationship that has really become the fillip for the pursuit of bold and imaginative policies on my part. Your presence here, H.E. Christian, is but also a metaphor for the close relationship that exists between us as people. To you and the entire staff of the Mission and the Consulate, I say a big thank you.
One other person who needs special mention here is Nana Kwesi Arhin, Let me call him my most troublesome younger brother, who preceded me in office and is too remind me of that fact at the slightest provocation. Indeed he has become a sounding board to me and has been all too wiling to give a perspective or two on issues pertaining to my office. How can I also not mention Mr. Sam Nutakor, the Mission's librarian who has always been willing to lend his computer skills to the worthy cause of the Consulate?
I wish also to recognize my cousin Professor Abena Busia, who has taken time off her duties as the Director of Center for African Studies in Rutgers University to be with us this afternoon. Thank you my dear sister.
Finally, I do not intend to pre-empt the role of who ever will be giving the vote of thanks, but let me say, for the purpose of being a little bit courteous once again, a Big Thank you to everybody here assembled. Thank you they say is a very simple word indeed, but I say it to you with every parcel of sincerity contained in its meaning. My fondest prayer is that this co-operation and cordiality that has been nurtured with the entire Ghanaian community will stand the test of times...
The word of God says that "For without knowledge and vision the people perish" and as Ghana moves to be fifty years our collective dream as Ghanaians will be to see her become technologically sound in the little things that we do, so that she will have the vision to be part of the information super highway and not perish in the path of backwardness. God Bless Ghana and God bless you ALL. THANK YOU!!!