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Politics of Friday, 24 October 2003

Source: GNA

Govt will not undermine the Electoral Commission - Ankomah

Accra, Oct 24, GNA - Papa Owusu Ankomah, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, on Friday said government would not undermine the independence of the Electoral Commission (EC), which had played a significant role in the country's political development.
He said: "It is inconceivable that this government will do anything to compromise the essence of the EC, because it is the EC's independent exercise of its duty that legitimised the NPP government."
This was contained in a speech read for him by Mr Anthony Gyambiby, a Principal State Attorney at a lecture on "Good Governance" for students of Course 25 of the Ghana Armed Forces Command and Staff College (GAFCSC) at Teshie near Accra.
The lecture formed part of the Forces preparations towards a study tour of some selected regions to carry out research on: "Good Governance", "The Golden Age of Business", "The Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy", and "The Presidential Special Initiatives".
The 46 students, officers of the Armed Forces of Ghana, Senegal, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Mali and Zambia would undertake a one-year senior military officers course.
Papa Ankomah said it was particularly crucial for a political party, which did not have automatic recourse to coercive force, to uphold the independence and credibility of an electoral commission. He said such a party's ascent to power could only be through an election legitimised and universally accepted by the electoral system. The Attorney General told the students that the EC could "boast" of conducting an election in which the people were guaranteed the choice of changing a "virtually" entrenched incumbent.
Papa Ankomah said: "Any attempt to underminine the Electoral Commission would be in reality an attempt to erode the legitimacy of the government."
He said government ensured transparency, accountability and value for money in the disbursement of public funds.
Papa Ankomah said government conceded its initial position on the purchase of materials for the EC not because the intent was bad but because public sentiments and perceptions of a "noble" intent could prejudice the EC.
Papa Ankomah said the way the public dealt with the matter was intrusive of the larger picture of how governance worked in practice and reflected the sum of all parts of society exercising diverse and sometimes conflicting needs, interest and desire.
He said good governance was a process that focused on developing and deploying functional mechanisms that could elicit social norms and legal principles.
Papa Ankomah said the duty of a government, in that sense, was to focus on harnessing differences instead of emphasizing them. "Where a government does not facilitate competing public interest in an impartial, fair and equitable manner, discontent finds an outlet in conflict on differences of religion, ethnicity and gender. Such immutable differences, when established as the basis for political, social and economic differences, are very difficult to resolve," Papa Ankomah noted.
He said good governance encompassed the offer and maintenance of choice and participation in the process of acquisition and exercise of public power.
Papa Ankomah said public power was best accessed in an objective, predictable manner determined by society, adding that it was only then that the people could fell being part of and accept to be a continuing part of the process of actual exercise of power.
"That is why a distinguishing feature of good governance is open election that offers competing choices within a system prescribed by an objective impersonal constitution," he said.
He said society needed to accept that discord is a legitimate part of choice and that it must be processed in a transparent manner. The Attorney General noted that military interventions have sometimes been spurred by perceptions of discord and that their means have not been too successful because it aimed at correcting by seeking one voice. He said the exclusion of choice and restricting freedom was not the best way of processing social tensions.
Papa Ankomah stressed that where a civilian government seemed to be acting to close off avenues for participation, it was incumbent on the people to act in defence of their rights.
He said the military, as an institution and a force of coercion, was a two-edged sword when it intervened in politics because it could chose to govern in exclusivity or defend the order that the constitution provides.
Papa Ankomah said the military's role in ensuring good governance should be exercised in its coercive force in the defence and sustenance of society subject to the direction of the authority that the people choose in free elections.
He said the military in Africa should appreciate the position that, the search for good governance could be sustained through the imperfect but free system of plural political organization.
Mr Alan Kyeremanten, Minister for Trade, Industry and Presidential Special Initiatives (PSIs) said the rational for instituting the President's Special Initiatives was to ensure structural transformation and the diversification of the Ghanaian economy.
The initiatives, that included projects on cassava, garments and textile, oil palm and salt, were aimed at intergrading the rural communities into the national economy.
He also said the Presidential Initiatives were the new strategic pillars of the economy meant to trigger growth and that if the economy were diversified it would be transformed.
Mr Kyeremanten said the projects were neither for government nor the duplication of the functions of the stakeholders like the Ministry of Agriculture but was a way to fast-track some of the interventions already in place.
He said government had to go beyond rhetoric and support the private sector to transform the economy.
Mrs. Peace Ayisi-Okyere, Technical Advisor, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development of the Ministry of Private Sector Development, who spoke on "The Golden Age of Business," said the vision would be a reality because Ghana had a world-class business environment and had eliminated key barriers to doing business in the country.
She said the vision involved the implementation of policies and strategies to strengthen and energize the private sector to make it the main engine of economic growth while at the same time building the capacity of the public sector to efficiently support it.
Mrs. Ayisi-Okyere said the Armed Forces as an institution has an important role in ensuring that the vision became a reality.
She noted that in performing their traditional duties of securing the national and territorial boundaries of the country, the armed forces had to provide the needed safety and peace to enable business entrepreneurs to set up enterprises.
Mrs. Ayisi-Okyere said the Armed Forces were required to be administered in a business manner in respect with the government's slogan of Golden Age of Business.
She asked personnel of the Armed Forces to avail themselves of economic and business institutions like the Ghana Stock Exchange and the insurance companies to save money toward domestic capital formation and the establishment of personal pension schemes. The GAFCSC students will start their regional tour on October 26, 2003.