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General News Wed, 7 Jan 2004

President Kufuor At The People's Assembly

I remain committed to dealing with corruption- Kufuor

Accra, Jan. 7, GNA- President John Agyekum Kufuor, on Wednesday said his statement on corruption at Cape Coast did not seek to justify the social vice in any way and reiterated his conviction to deal with Government officials who are proven to be culprits.

"Not even Ministers or my party colleagues would be spared when they are found guilty by due process of the law," he warned.

President Kufuor was responding to a question by Mr Martin Kwame at the People's Assembly, which suggested that President Kufuor defended corruption at the NPP Conference, held at Cape Coast last December. President Kufuor corrected the impression being created and said

"What I said on that occasion was that when the Government declared Zero Tolerance for Corruption, it was not na=EFve to the complexity of the situation.

"I said if government officials were to yield to the temptation of bribery, the scent of corruption would have been all over the place by now. Please let's be honest with each other when we quote ourselves."
The President stressed that he would not allow any decision taken by government to be influenced by bribery of self-interest but will ensure that all decisions were made in the best interest of the nation. He acknowledged allegations of corruption made against public officials in the media, but said the government needed concrete evidence to pursue such cases and could not work with rumours.

"If specific allegations are made against individuals they would be called to answer irrespective of their positions and no one would be covered," he said.

President Kufuor gave comprehensive responses to questioners who queued to ask about issues on human rights abuses, taxes, sanitation, education, peace and security and employment after the he had delivered the opening address.

The 15-minute opening address talked about progress made so far on the government's five priority areas of good governance, vigorous infrastructural development, modernised agriculture, enhanced social services with special emphasis on education and health and the private sector development.

Vice President Aliu Mahama, Members of the Council of State, Ministers of State, the diplomatic corps, politicians, security agencies, public officials and a cross-section of the public attended the two-hour session, which provided a forum for interaction between the Executive and the governed.

President Kufuor scores high marks at People's Assembly

Accra, Jan. 7, GNA- A cross section of Ghanaians who attended the third People's Assembly in Accra on Wednesday commended President John Agyekum Kufuor for exhibiting courage, statesmanship and tolerance in answering "nagging questions" put to him at the Assembly.

Most of the participants who spoke to the Ghana News Agency (GNA) after the two-and-half hour programme, said President Kufuor's performance was excellent.

"His composure, delivery, interaction with the Vice President Alhaji Aliu Mahama, and other Ministers of State on the podium was simply the best show of a statesman", one of the participants said. The People's Assembly concept initiated by the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) formed part of activities marking 11 years of the Fourth Republic, and three years of Positive Change, had the theme: "Good Governance through Democracy."

Mrs Gifty Afenyi-Dadzie, immediate past president of Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) urged the public to eschew rancour, confrontational postures and provocative questions during such public forum to ensure that the purpose of the interaction was achieved. She expressed concern about some of the questions, which lacked Ghanaian model of civility and respect for leadership and the elderly and appealed to the general public, socio-political commentators and political party activists to be guided by the general principles of circumspection in their public pronouncements.

Mrs Afenyi-Dadzie said as the nation prepared towards Elections 2004 any unguided statement had the potential of derailing the democratic development and put the country into anarchy. Mr Lord Commey, NPP National Organizer said the President through the People's Assembly had demystified governance and given true meaning to participatory democracy and multi-party democracy.

"This is a clear manifestation of an open and accountable government with particular interest dialoguing with the masses as well as offering them the opportunity to scrutinize its operations over the period".

He said: "it takes a bold President and government to face the people head on, this President Kufuor had demonstrated within three years".

Mr Commey was, however, disappointed about the behaviour and line of questioning by Mr Kennedy Abotsi the new president of the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS) at the forum.

The NUGS President had threatened that the GETFUND was in arrears of 411 billion cedis and if within two weeks the government did not declare the correct amount of the accumulated fund the students would advise themselves on the next action to take.

The NPP National Organiser reminded the NUGS President and the entire student body that students' politics and general multi-party democracy had moved from its confrontational stages to dialogue, consensus building and diplomacy.

Mr Ward Brew, Leader of the Democratic People's Party (DPP) called for enactment of the People's Assembly concept into the national calendar for all governments after President Kufuor to adhere to. He said the platform provided the impetus for national unity, peace, cohesion and model for good governance and democratic stability. Mr Brew suggested that the duration be increased, while the system of questioning be modified to ensure that "the President is accorded due respect even in our attempt to open the presidency to the general public."

The DPP leader commended President Kufuor for a good show but castigated the NUGS president for public show of disrespect for the high office of the land.

Ministers of States, Members of the Council of States, Service Commanders, the Diplomatic Corps, political parties executives, journalists, Chiefs and Queen mothers and a cross-section of the public attended the forum.

Executive would not interfere in the affairs of the Judiciary - President Kufuor

Accra, Jan. 7, GNA - President John Agyekum Kufuor on Wednesday said government would not interfere in the affairs of the Judiciary on behalf of people, who felt justice had been denied them. He said, those who felt justice had been denied them should go on appeal rather than seek the intervention of the Executive on their behalf.

President Kufuor was reacting to one Mr Kwabla Kabonu who had complained about delay in a case between him and the Attorney General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ghana Commercial Bank about which he petitioned the President last year.

President Kufuor said the concept of separation of powers demanded that each organ of State should be made to perform independently. On the question of who ordered the killing of three High Court Judges and a Retired Army Officer, President Kufuor said the State investigative organs were still at work to unearth the truth. He noted that the issue was also before the National Reconciliation Commission.

On the killings during the "Kumi-Preko Demonstration", President Kufuor appealed to those who have any evidence about the killers to come out to enable the Government to take action on the matter.

President Kufuor urges citizens of Dagbon to support peace initiatives

Accra, Jan. 7, GNA - President John Agyekum Kufuor, on Wednesday, urged citizens of Dagbon Traditional Area to shun any mischievous politician, who might take advantage of the chieftaincy crisis to score points and rather support efforts being made to restore lasting peace and security to the area.

Responding to a question from one Ibrahim of Ayawaso East on moves to facilitate the peace process, President Kufuor said: "The Government is as eager as the people of Dagbon to ensure that normalcy is restored to the area to facilitate development. But our efforts would only be successful with the cooperation of the people of Dagbon."

"Any politician, either from Dagbon or outside who would fuel the situation is not worth his sort and must, therefore, be condemned."

President Kufuor, who was answering questions at the People's Assembly in Accra, said the complexity of the Dagbon Conflict, which had pitched brother against brother, needed to be handled with tact and cautiousness adding that he was quite impressed with the work done by the Committee of Eminent Chiefs so far, which had led to the lifting of the State of Emergency and curfew in four of the six districts affected by the conflict.

President Kufuor said: "I should thank the Committee of Eminent Chiefs, which has been mediating and the security agencies, which have worked throughout the two years to contain the situation.

"It is our hope and prayer that under the auspices of the Committee and the security agencies, further strides will be made, to enable the state of emergency and curfew to be lifted in the remaining areas soon."

The State of Emergency and curfew has been lifted in the Gushegu-Karaga, Zabzugu-Tatale, Tolon-Kumbungu and Savelugu-Nanton Districts but still remained in force in Tamale and Yendi.

President Kufuor said even with the volatile state of affairs in those areas roads, water and educational projects were ongoing and that more development projects would be done when the situation improved. A fratricidal conflict erupted in Dagbon in March 2002 during which, Ya-Na Yakubu Andani II, Paramount Chief of the Dagbon Traditional Area and 29 others were killed.

Vice President Aliu Mahama, Council of State Members, Ministers of State, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Civil Society Groups and a cross-section of the public attended the two-and-half hour session, which gave the citizenry the opportunity to directly hold the Executive accountable.

President Kufuor's 15-minute opening speech centred on the National Health Insurance Scheme, Sanitation, Free and Fair Elections and the Dagbon Chieftaincy Conflict.

President Kufuor moves audience at Assembly

Accra, Jan. 7, GNA - Thunderous applause and standing ovation welcomed President John Agyekum Kufuor and Vice President Aliu Mahama to the main hall of the Accra International Conference Centre to account for their stewardship at the third People's Assembly.

Smartly dressed in a dark suit, President Kufuor walked unto the podium raising both of his hands to acknowledge cheers from the audience before moving on to exchange greetings with the Vice President and other Ministers of State who were standing on dais.

As the cheers subsided, the Police Band, which had hitherto entertained the audience with patriotic songs, dramatically drowned the voices with their instruments as they played the National Anthem, formally announcing the presence of the Nation's Chief Executive. The feeling of nationhood was accentuated with paraphernalia such as flags, flowers and balloons in national colours, artistically displayed to beautify and enliven the hall.

Tradition was not left out as Fontomfrom drummers and dancers demonstrated the rich cultural and artistic instincts of the Ghanaian with deft steps and well-coordinated body language to welcome the dignitaries at the entrance of the hall.

The drummers saluted each with appellations while the dancers, wrapped in beautiful costume made dramatic gestures and animated indigenous Ghanaian rhythmic movements to the admiration of those present.

At 1010 hours, the Reverend Dr Fred Deegbe, General Secretary of the Christian Council, invoked the blessings of God for a successful ceremony.

With God now in his corner, President Kufuor responded to an invitation to address his anxious audience, some of who had spent the night framing their questions.

President Kufuor's 15-minute speech was concise and focused on the Government's efforts in resolving the Dagbon Crisis, National Health Insurance Scheme, commitment to free and fair elections and the sanitation problems in the Accra and other major cities.

He also talked about the five priority areas of the Government - infrastructure development, enhanced social service, private sector development, good governance and modernization of the agricultural sector-which he said were steadily progressing.

His assurance that workers pension would not be affected when SSNIT supports the National Health Insurance Scheme received the longest applause.

Shortly after the speech, eager questioners rushed to queue behind the three microphones that had been provided for the purpose, thus affirming the importance and interest that ordinary persons attached to the opportunity to quiz the President.

So fast were some new comers that veteran public questioners like Kofi Bonin were conspicuously out-smarted, leaving them disappointed in the queue when the two hours dedicated for the session ended. The zeal was, however, not reflective in the line of questioning as some of them either started as preachers, praises singers, or ended up not knowing exactly what they wanted to say.

However, with the dexterity of the two compeers for the Ceremony, Nana Ohene Ntow and Mrs Oboshie Sai Cofie, what would have been a Herculean task of controlling and managing some over zealous questioners was made easy.

For those questioners, it was their ability to show their mastery of the English Language or ask long and many questions that mattered to them most and not the discipline to restrict oneself to a concise question, in accordance with the rules.

Some of them displayed embarrassing attitudes, however, these served as comic relief to the audience that occasionally responded with jeers and claps to interrupt them.

Nevertheless, they managed to deprive many others of the opportunity to have their turn.

Some compensation was, however, offered those thus deprived as the Masters of Ceremony announced that a window of opportunity had been opened at the Ministry of Information for people to channel their questions after the Forum.

So with a prayer from the National Chief Imam, Sheikh Usman Nuhu Sharabutu, the Forum came to a close with the audience departing the Centre with some memorable impressions.

Perhaps, the most indelible one would be the attitude of newly-sworn into office National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS) President Kennedy Abotsi, who made his first national speech by rudely and unduly issuing a threat to the President to clear an incorrect debt of 411 billion cedis to the GETFund in two weeks or face the wrath from his group. It was obvious after the answers of the President and the Finance Minister, Yaw Osafo-Maafo, the only Minister given the opportunity to answer a question, that he did not have his facts right.

Before entering the hall, President Kufuor, accompanied by Vice President Mahama, First Lady Madam Theresa Kufuor, Senior Minister Mr J. H. Mensah, opened a photo exhibition depicting the achievements of the government over the period at the Foyer.

Another side event was Nana Akomea, Minister of Information's launch of a book titled: "Good Governance Through Democracy...Three Years of Positive Change."

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Source: GNA
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