ROPAA in 2020 – we demand the constitutional instrument now
I write for the New York City-based Progressive Alliance Movement that filed and won the High Court case to compel the Electoral Commission to develop the mandated constitutional instrument (CI) to implement ROPAA by December 31, 2018.
That is exactly what is needed now. The order of mandamus (meaning you must do what you were authorized to do) was given by His Lordship Justice Anthony K. Yeboah on December 18, 2017. Page 41 of the judgement reads:
“An order of mandamus is hereby made and directed at all the Commissioners of the 1st Respondent and the Electoral Commission itself to uphold/ensure full compliance/operationalization of the Act 699 within calendar twelve(12) months reckoned from 1st January 2018 by having the constitutional instrument for the modalities for the implementation of Act 699 passed into law by Parliament and ensuring that the Applicants and similarly circumstanced Ghanaians are registered to vote in the 2020 national elections and subsequent elections and referenda” (italics mine). For clarity, Act 699 is the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act 2006. ROPAA allowed that “a person who is a citizen of Ghana resident outside the Republic is entitled to be registered as a voter…”
Act 699 placed the responsibility of effectuation thus: “The Electoral Commissioner shall by Constitutional Instrument, make Regulations to prescribe the modalities for the implementation of this Act.”
Our dear Chair of the EC, its members, and Ghana’s political leaders:
Where in Act 699 is responsibility placed anywhere but the EC? Where in Justice Yeboah’s order is anything else called for but a constitutional instrument? It is the same CI that was required in Act 699 but ignored for nearly 13 years.
Justice Yeboah’s order is clear of the goal to implement ROPAA for the 2020 elections. What and how can anyone talk about not being ready, and suggesting a postponement to 2024? After nearly 13 years, when can the EC ever be ready? Granted that the EC Chairperson, Mrs. Jean Mensah, and three additional commissioners came on board in August 2018, they inherited an institution. They are duty bound. We at PAM have written no less than seven letters to all members of the EC to remind them of the dying months of inaction, all to deaf ears without even the courtesy of replies. How can that attitude earn sympathy?
How can the call for a committee not be interpreted in the manner Justice Yeboah described the EC as “a body that self-indulgently relies on recitation of challenges as excuses for not performing its constitutional function as assigned under Act 699 rather than creatively and self-assuredly finding the appropriate solutions to the challenges” (page 9 of December 18, 2017 judgement).
We echo the sentiments of our attorney Samson Lardy Anyenini. At trial, the EC offered into evidence documentation that that it empaneled a Committee and received its comprehensive report in September 2011. The committee’s report was titled ”Report of the Sub-Committee on ROPAA and Political Parties Act on the Implementation of the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, ROPAA.”
The 2011 Committee comprised Mr. Sarfo Kantanka (then of the EC and Chairman of the group), Mr. Aggrey Fynn (one of the Commissioners of the EC), Dr. Kwesi Jonah (representing Civil Society), Alhaji Huudu Yahaya ( NDC), Mr. T.N. Ward Brew (DPP), Hon. Dan Botwe (NPP), Mr. Bernard Mornah (PNC) and Mr. Owusu-Parry (EC).
The Committee offered recommendations on issues such as: requirements for registration, authenticity of resident permit, the target group, registration centers and polling stations, appointment of registration officials, design of registration forms, handling challenges, punishment of breaches and more.
We suggest that the EC should use the September 2011 report by its eminent persons to compose the CI. It would satisfy the court’s order of seeking wisdom by exposing it for public comment in a limited time. The political parties and civil society had their say and representation in 2011.
Another round would signal an inability and unwillingness by the EC, aided by the major political parties, to implement ROPAA no matter what and how long. We shall advise ourselves.
By the way, Judge Yeboah’s idea of consultation does not give any veto power to the political parties to decide what additional questions must be answered and when ROPAA should be implemented. It is the EC and the EC alone that is mandated both by parliament and now the court to lay the CI before parliament.
The EC’s courtesy to the political parties must be withdrawn and its energies refocused.
If the inconvenient truth must be told, it is this in our considered opinion:
The two major parties in Ghana are each afraid of ROPAA benefiting the other. There is no basis for this as no one has conducted a scientific study, nor willing to acknowledge that ROPAA simply brings in new voters who will vote according to their analysis of issues, messages, and interpretations of performances, just as they do in Ghana.
There is a complicity in sacrificing the enforcement of a parliamentary law, and now a court order to maintain status quo, even while we beat our chests about a growing democracy to lead Africa. This is a theater with the title Oyaa Suro Oyaa (One is Afraid of the other One).
Please members of the EC, do not take the easy way out by planning to send excuses to the High Court in November 2018 to recite yet again the defeated citations of why you could not timely develop a CI in 12 months.
Your own report of September 2011 will expose you to contempt before the first page is read. That goes for each of you seven EC members. The leaders of the political parties will be sleeping in their beds after filling themselves up with fufu and banku. You have barely 60 days, let us do it! The time lost is your own fault. We alerted you beginning in February 2018.
The evidence is there. Shunning PAM leaves us no option but to go public now. As Dr. Kwame Nkrumah demanded independence now, we at PAM and Ghanaians Living Abroad demand the EC to finally do its job and come up with the constitutional instrument to implement ROPAA in 2020 now!
Yes we go vote in 2020! The court has said so!