Posted on: www.dailyguideghana.com
By William Yaw Owusu
Monday, October 26, 2015
Reports reaching DAILY GUIDE indicate that the New Patriotic Party (NPP) might boycott the public hearing that is going to be organized by the Electoral Commission (EC) on whether there should be a new biometric voter register (BVR) before the 2016 general elections.
The party is reportedly demanding answers from the EC on the allegation of flaws in the register that it raised before it can further engage the Commission on the topic; and may issue a statement stating its position before Thursday.
On October 18, the NPP issued a statement signed by its Communications Director, Nana Akomea, asking the EC to “investigate evidence of the register’s flaws.”
The party asked the EC “to conduct a thorough, open and transparent investigation into the specific evidence of flaws in the voters' register as contained in the party's petition to the EC dated 18 August, 2015 and 22 September, 2015.”
It pointed out, “The evidence presented to the EC include multiple registrations, massive cross-border registrations, presence of scanned photographs in the register, unexplained bloating and discrepancies in the EC's own numbers on the ‘presidential’ register, and the unusual, curious, strange and improbable increases in constituency numbers between electoral cycles.
“The NPP believes such an investigation will throw independent light on the veracity of the evidence detailed in the party's petition. The findings of this investigation, placed before stakeholders, will serve as basis of fruitful discussion on the urgency for a new voters' register.
“The NPP further urges the EC to act with utmost dispatch in this urgent national matter.”
That notwithstanding, the EC has set up a five-member panel to hold two-day public hearings on the register, even though it has already received proposals from the political parties on the topic.
The NPP claims it still has not heard from the EC on the petition it sent to the commission, asking for explanation on why the register is bloated.
Furthermore, the timetable released by the EC recently detailing its programme of activities leading to the 2016 general election does not appear to make room for the compilation of a new register.
Apart from the NPP and its ally Let My Vote Count Alliance (LMVCA), there is a league of pastors, including Catholic Bishops, Christian Council, statesmen and women as well as opinion leaders like former Presidents JJ Rawlings, JA Kufuor, Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, Dr Joyce Aryee, chairman of the Christ Apostolic Church International, Apostle Dr. Stephen Ntow Amoani, Imams, among others, who are in favour of a new register, if that would ensure peace after next year’s election.
They have asked the EC not to hesitate to prepare a new register before the 2016 election, if the allegations are correct.
However, the EC in a statement signed by its Ag. Director, Public Affairs, Christian Owusu-Parry, has justified the composition of the panel to collate concerns of the public and said it was meant to broaden the process so that nobody or group would be shortchanged.
“The panel of five will conduct the hearings in a free, transparent, fair and objective manner. The hearings will also be broadcast live on radio, television and on the internet for the benefit of Ghanaians who cannot attend but wish to follow the proceedings,” the statement posited.
It said, “The findings and recommendations of the panel will be presented to the EC for final decision and communication to the public.”
The statement said the hearings would take place on Thursday and Friday, 29 and 30 October, 2015 at Alisa Hotel, North Ridge, Accra, from 10:00hrs to 13:00hrs and 14:00hrs to 17:00hrs daily.
Some observers are already raising eyebrows on the neutrality of some of the members of the panel composed by the EC for the public hearing.
For instance, eminent jurist Justice V.C.R.A.C. Crabbe, co-Chair of the Coalition for Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) and former EC Chairman who is expected to chair the panel, is on record to be in favour of cleaning the register rather than compiling a new one altogether.
In an interview with Citi FM on August 21, the eminent jurist disagreed with the NPP on its call for a new register and rather asked the party’s leadership to take advantage of the EC’s voter register exhibition to help clean it, rather than call for a new one.
“When you register the people you have what we call the provisional register, that’s where the work should be done, that’s where you exhibit the register because the Electoral Commission does not know everything, and it says I have registered people come and tell me who should be or not be on the register,” he said.
He also said “Is it possible for somebody to be in Ivory Coast and also a citizen of Ghana? The answer is yes. Then there is a possibility that his name will be in the register in Ivory Coast and the register in Ghana.”
Another member of the panel, Prof Nii Narku Quaynor, a distinguished scientist, reportedly supervised the training of National Democratic Congress (NDC) bigwigs, including then vice chairman and now chairman, Kofi Portuphy, on the biometric registration when it was being introduced for the first time.
The said training programme, held at Shai Hills in early 2012, was also attended by Amadu Sulley, a deputy chairman at the EC, and it raised heated argument on why the EC should train ruling NDC officials at the expense of other parties.
Other members on the panel include Most Reverend Professor Emmanuel Asante, immediate-past Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Ghana and Chairman of the National Peace Council; Dr. Grace Bediako, a former Government Statistician and former member of the National Development Planning Commission and Maulvi Bin Salih, Ameer of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission of Ghana.