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Opinions of Sunday, 12 February 2006

Columnist: Quaye, Rikard

Fighting ROPAB: Another Aproach

The NDC appears to be at its wits end. The NPP appears to have stretched its mental faculties to its elastic limit and pumped up what appears to it a sure winning bet ? ?ROPAB? ? or Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill.

Currently under debate in Parliament, the NPP is clearly determined to allow the NDC to do as much talking for the NPP to have its way finally on the strength of its Parliamentary majority.

Unless and until Amoateng?s seat is declared vacant and the CPP Minority in Parliament undergo an evangelistic change of mind, a near impossibility given their recent public showing and the threat of their expulsion from their mother party, it is near impossible to have them reject the! ir present daily bread and butter for a measly pot of banku and okro stew.

A tottering NPP under President Kufuor?s watch has definitely attracted several negative vibes. The high cost of living seen in ever increasing tariffs and rates; menacing school fees and medical bills in spite of the over-vaunted Students Loan Trust and medical insurance via the NHIS; scandalous cases of corruption which will not be investigated until the informants are prepared to lay criminal complaints publicly with the police; lethargic and dormant anti-corruption agencies; high level complaints of one-sidedness against the state investigative agencies and the general level of despondency and cynicism which has already been publicly acknowledged by the Presid! ent himself; these have been the Ghanaian experiences under President Kufuor?s watch.

Then in addition, there have been tons of loads of unfulfilled and electoral promises and breaches of electoral promises such as in the apology on the quantum of appointees required to efficiently run a government.

Contrary to President Kufuor?s 250, 000 jobs created in the last 2 years, many more are being thrown to out of jobs on to the job market.

The overview of these demeaning events cast their shadows long on the impending vote in Year 2008. A panicky Kufuor Government has thus dug deep to shore up and create new areas for vote catching and vote-snapping.

To the Ghanaian in the Diaspora, the NPP Government now appeals. With over 200,000 Diaspora Ghanaians plugged into the public system (according to Hon. Asamoah Boateng), this area appears attractive and appealing.

The NPP Government is clearly being myopic and has failed to think more deeply into the open, blanket, immediate franchising of the rather indeterminate spread of Ghanaians in the Diaspora.

The Government has decided to think upside down. Take the decision, and look at the problems arising thereafter. For whatever political gain the Kufuor Government wishes to achieve through the hurried passage of the ROPAB, their attention must be drawn to the fact that the ROPAB may well be their pyrrhic victory.

A sure Frankenstein monster, the ROPAB will surely open a can of worms under President Kufuor?s watch. A sensible delay 10 years ago after the Rawlings Government first announced its intention to pass a ROPAB is today being used by President Kufuor to satisfy criticism against the speedy passage of this Bill.

Just pray President Kufuor to live long enough to see the consequences of this Bill a couple of years later. The indeterminate number of people, their residence, their political colouration, the logistical nightmare, the fiscal parlousness of a HIPC state undertaking such! an ambitious and gigantic electoral effort and the potential for violent disagreement of the count in the external vote, a matter which in the 2000 U.S. electoral process was defused only largely due to the political maturity and stability of the bicentenary U.S.A. As experts announced at the time, the consequences would have been something else in a banana republic.

But President Kufuor and the NPP are adamant. In his ?State of the Nation? Address to Parliament last week, he defiantly asserted that he and his Government would pursue the ROPAB agenda to its logical conclusion.

Unlike the NDC, which backed off the first introduction of the VAT in the country in 1995/96, Mr. Kufuor and his NPP have shown sufficient mettle to indicate their unpreparedness for bi-partisanship gallantry in national politics. The options open to the NDC in opposition are limited.

The NDC filed a legal action at the High and lost. The Speaker of Parliament refused to stop proceedings on ROPAB on account of the court action while it was pending, arguing he was yet to be restrained by any competent court.

On the floor of Parliament, the NDC Minority will obviously be fighting a losing battle as the NPP whip does not appear to be sealed i! n its scabbard.

The sheer taunts and vociferous hallelujahs from the NPP Parliamentary group to any mention of ROPAB seems to belie the public tongue-in-cheek statements by the new NPP General Secretary as though the NPP Parliamentary group is at liberty to vote at large.

The NDC has a duty to explore various other alternatives and options. President Kufuor has already condemned any talk about violence and breach of the law in approaching this discussion. The President?s ventriloquist spokesperson Kwabena Adjapong has broadly hinted at hard reprisals for any such attempt at breaches of the peace.

The NDC has yet to affirm its total faith and belief in the independence and impartiality of the security forces and the Judiciary, as they exist today.

In the circumstances, the NDC should open up other avenues. In the US Congressional battles, critical minority bills are frustrated by the majority by hooking unpleasant or undesirable clauses or conditions to them. The clanging of these bills invariably weighs down and sinks such bills until a more moderate and balanced bi-partisan position is achieved. Such bills run for years.

Back in Ghana, the NDC must think deep and wide to explore this legislative strategy.

Without suggesting anything, we may need to begin encouraging the NPP to be opening up and becoming less insensitive and more politically bipartisan. In any cas! e, have the NPP taken stock of the total votes being envisaged and its spread? We dare say the NDC probably has more exciting cards beyond the vilifying claim of violence touted by the NPP and President Kufuor.

The NPP may be democratically entitled to the ROPAB, but is it in the national interest today? The NDC should also explore its options. For the NDC, the sky should be the limit. President Kufuor may be advised to alter his refrain. He may need to be advised that the human brain has greater capacity to legally and constitutionally counter oppressive and obnoxious laws than the NPP can stop to think.

Does the NPP remember that the Preventive Detention Act, which jailed many of their supporters, was a lawful Act of Parliament? All laws may be necessary, but not all laws are desirable.



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