VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS AND THE OFFICIAL REPORT
Hon Members, Correction of Votes and Proceedings. Page 1…4 -- Hon Mohammed Abdul-Aziz -- rose --
Mr Speaker, I was in the House yesterday, but I have been marked absent. I would be grateful if that would be corrected.
Thank you very much. The Clerks-at-the-Table should please speed up the electronic registration that we have often talked about and decided upon already. Page 5…11 --
Yes, Hon Member?
Mr Speaker, I am sorry to take you back to page 8. I was in the House yesterday, but I have been marked absent.
Yes, Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, I am sorry to take you back to page 8. With regard to number 6 on item numbered 3, Ms Mavis Nkansah-Boadu was in the Chamber yesterday, but she has been marked absent.
Thank you very much. Hon Members, any further corrections on how far we have reached?
Mr Speaker, with regard to item (xl) on page 11, Mr Robert Ahomka-Lindsey is the Hon Deputy Minister-designate for Trade and Industry and not Monitoring and Evaluation.
Thank you very much. Page 13…18 --
Mr Speaker, my Friend, Hon Sualihu Dandaawa Alhassan, who is the Member of Parliament for Karaga, is not here today, but he was here yesterday, and has been marked absent at number 3, under item numbered 4.
Thank you, Hon Member; it has been noted. Page 19…34 -- Hon Members, the Votes and Proceedings of Wednesday, 15th --
Yes, Hon Member?
Hon Member, this is the recording from the Committee meeting. If you have any difficulty, you may consult the Hon Chairman and further check up with the Table Office.
Hon Members, the Votes and Proceedings of Wednesday, 15th March, 2017 as corrected are hereby adopted as the true record of proceedings. Item numbered 3 -- Statements. Statement against traditional rulers' involvement in partisan politics -- Hon Siaka Stevens, Hon Member of Jaman North? Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, I think on the programme, there are about six Statements to be made; and the Hon Siaka Stephens, I am told, is not available. The Hon Dr Emmanuel Marfo's Statement is also there. Perhaps, you can take that of Hon Dr Marfo, otherwise, you may take a Statement from the Minority first.
Thank you. We would proceed. Statement by Hon Dr Emmanuel Marfo, Member for Oforikrom -- Saying no to suicides on our university campuses.
Mr Speaker, the incidence of suicide on our university campuses is becoming too rampant and worrying. Just this weekend, one has happened on Legon campus. I am sad to observe that just about two weeks or so ago, another 18- year old first year student of the Independence Hall of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), was found dead in her room. I was shocked upon hearing the news and wish to express my deepest condolences to the family of the deceased and the University community at large. Mr Speaker, I engaged the University authorities last weekend on the issue, and
as we speak, investigations into the alleged case of suicide is ongoing. At this moment, I will only want to dwell on some peripheral issues related to student security, health and access to counselling, which all have implications for safety. Mr Speaker, it is important because this is not the first time we are hearing of a student committing suicide on our campuses and I believe that the time has come for us to say ‘no more suicides on our campuses.' First of all, Mr Speaker, many of our students are accommodated outside the main campuses due to inadequate official residential facilities. Today, towns like Ayeduase and Bomso, for example, have become the main areas hosting almost all continuing students of KNUST, and I believe the situation may not be different in other universities. The question is, how safe are students in these private hostels? Mr Speaker, I personally walked through the gates of some hostels this weekend without anybody questioning me. So, you can imagine what could have happened if I were a criminal. I understand that the Ghana Tourist Board conducts inspections and certifies the safety of buildings meant for private hostels. Yet, my cursory checks of some hostels suggest to me that we have more to do in terms of security. In the case of KNUST, for example, the situation in some areas is so bad that, it is the Students Representative Council (SRC) that has taken steps to provide street lights in the neighbourhood of some hostels in order to ensure the security of students from robbery attacks and rape. The Ministry of Education may need to conduct their own periodic checks to ensure that safety and security measures are always in place. Mr Speaker, I also believe that the time has come for us to pay particular attention to the requirements of the health screening of students before academic work starts to ensure that new entrants are in a sound body and mind state. We seem to have relaxed this requirement. I understand in the case of KNUST, for example, out of the about 11,000 fresh students, only 3,500 have so far completed their medical examination requirements. I believe there are very good reasons for instituting this measure and it must be enforced as it may help university authorities, and indeed parents, to take early measures to ensure that students are in the best of shape for the difficult academic work ahead. Lastly, Mr Speaker, access to timely counselling in our schools is very important, especially these days that most of our children go to the university as teenagers. Life on university campus can be complex, and many of these young people need to have counselling at their doorsteps. Even though I understand that in addition to the main counselling centres, there are dedicated counsellors at the colleges as well as trained peer- counsellors, yet owing to the large student populations, these are inadequate. Perhaps, we need to bring some innovation to this, by exploring the possibility of using ICT such as a mobile app that can make students have easy access to counsellors even on their mobile phones. If the banks are using this technology, I believe it can also be used to engage students and counsellors. Mr Speaker, the discussion on these measures should be encouraged among stakeholders to ensure that our young students have timely access to counselling, and that they also live and learn in a safe environment.
Thank you, Hon Member. Hon Yieleh Chireh?
Mr Speaker, I would want to commend the maker of the Statement for drawing our attention to the suicide cases, particularly within the young people who are in school. Mr Speaker, but suicide, as we know, is as a result of mental ailment. Just like any physical ailment, it needs attention. What should we do? When we get up in the morning and we do not feel fine -- we have headache or some fever -- we immediately go to the hospital or a clinic for attention. But in the case of mental health, when one gets up and one is feeling bad or depressed, they are signs that one is not well and the first thing is to ensure that such a person, if he or she is young, should be sent to a facility where he or she will be attended to. We need to mainstream mental health into the general health situation. This House would recall that we had passed the Mental Health Act. In that Act, it is required that we mainstream all the services and it is required of district hospitals and clinics to have wards, where as soon as one gets to the hospital, one can be referred to be attended to. Apart from that, we also passed the Ghana Psychology Council Act here as part of the process of getting those who work in the social sector to advise people who have problems. Fortunately for us in this country, there are many people who have gone to do further studies in psychiatry, clinical psychology and the rest. We have to make sure we make use of these people so that the issues of suicide -- people who feel that they are not well mentally will be given attention. We also ostracise those we believe have mental problems, when indeed, they require our assistance to help them out of the situation. Counselling should be part of it. Some people are going through trauma, whether as a result of accident, loss of family members or other people dear to them, but they are left on their own. More so, as he pointed out, with the kind of pressures that we have in schools, everybody wanting to perform well, and making use of the internet and seeing things happening; it is absolutely necessary for us to make sure that all the institutions have counselling centres. People should be counselled daily to guide them on what to do. Finally, Mr Speaker, again, in this country, we have put in our law books that if one attempts suicide, one should be tried. That is unfair and we have to take steps immediately to make sure that when somebody attempts suicide, that person is seen as sick and needs to be treated rather than to be sent to court. To criminalise suicide attempt is something that is archaic. I would still want to emphasise that we take steps to decriminalise suicide attempts so that people who have attempted it are counselled, helped and sent to the appropriate places for treatment.
Thank you very much, Hon Yieleh Chireh. Yes, Hon Minister?
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I must commend the maker of the Statement for bringing this issue to our attention and for giving us the opportunity to comment on it. Mr Speaker, the pressures that our young people go through, some as a result of the increasing urbanisation, is an issue that is subjecting them to immense trauma. We cannot overemphasise the fact that we also need to improve our mental health interventions that we have in this country. We have trained clinical psychologists available in this country, but it is not a discipline that many are aware of or know the benefits of. So, by bringing this issue to the fore, it gives us the chance to also impress upon them the need to publicise their services, more so that people would know that there is help available for those who are under such stresses and strains, and mental trauma that they may feel they do not have any hope left at all, but to take their own lives. It also imposes an obligation on parents, caregivers, friends, family and the social network to be more aware of the conditions that our young people are going through. They may not always even know what is wrong with them, but if we are aware that they are not being themselves, and are under some pressures, even having somebody to talk to may be a means of relieving the pressures that they are under, like relieving the knob on a pressure cooker. It lets some of the steam out, and they would know that there is somewhere they can turn to. So, Mr Speaker, improving psychological counselling for these students would help. It is not just the students; we are all under pressure. We are all facing challenges. Just as we pay attention to physical health, we also need to pay attention to the mental health challenges that our populace go through. We also need to invest in our mental health institutions. Periodically, we read stories about how our psychiatric hospitals are so neglected and the conditions under which the patients there live is heart-breaking. If those who find themselves in the institutions themselves are not given the attention that they need, how much more those who may need help outside? Nobody would even feel encouraged to go to the mental health institutions to seek the help that they need. Mr Speaker, we are going through the budgeting process, and I would urge that as we consider the budget for the Ministry of Health, we look at the provisions that have been made for the psychiatric institution, the training that we give to psychiatric nurses and doctors, how we equip the Mental Health Authority and then facilitate them to do a lot more community outreaches so that they can spot the problems before they get to the situation where our children and young people feel so helpless that they need to take their lives. Hon Chireh and the maker of the Statement have mentioned that, even the tertiary institutions need to beef up their counselling centres. There are therapists who can provide help to the children, but if they do not know where to go, they are left feeling even more helpless than they really are. The schools should set up counselling centres staffed with either trained therapists or clinical psychologists. It is also an opportunity for job creation. Once there is a challenge, we see there is opportunity. Even those health professionals can take that on as one of the opportunities that they can also provide to address this situation. Mr Speaker, we need to look at not just the professionals themselves, but some mid-level kind of intervention which will assist even ordinary people -- counsellors in churches and peer groups -- to also spot the warning signs and give our children the help that they need before then. Mr Speaker, I cannot help but commend Hon Chireh for highlighting one of the provisions in our criminal legislations, which may also be contributing to this scourge. We need to decriminalise suicide attempts. Anyone who attempts suicide is crying for help. So, instead of throwing them in jail, and passing them through the criminal process, let us see that as a cry for help and use that as an intervention to give them the help that they need. So, as a start, we can work towards decriminalising attempted suicide, and referring them to mental health institutions -- keep them there and give them the medication, counselling and the therapy they need, to help them stand on their feet again. Mr Speaker, if people feel so helpless that they think they should take their lives, it is something that ought to concern all of us. Let us look at how we can intervene, to prevent that scourge from escalating, instead of incarcerating them and throwing the key away. Mr Speaker, we make the laws. I think that it is a perfect opportunity for us to use this to test the willingness of this august House to come out with a private member's Bill, to amend the Criminal Code and to decriminalise suicide. We can take that as a project in this House, and use that mechanism in a bi-partisan manner to deal with this situation, which we all recognise is not good for us, and it is something that we can do as a House. Thank you very much for this opportunity, Mr Speaker.
Thank you very much, Hon Member, for your contribution. Yes, Hon Member?
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to contribute to the Statement made by my Hon Colleague. Mr Speaker, this Statement is very important, but there is an angle to it that we all need to look at.
Thank you very much, Hon Member. Yes, Hon Member? Deputy Northern Regional Minister (Mr Solomon Namliit Boar)(MP): Thank you, Mr Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to contribute to the Statement on the floor. I would first of all thank the Hon Member who made the Statement for the insightful revelation that we have received from him. Mr Speaker, I think the issue of suicide is becoming one too many in our tertiary institutions. We have to look at the behaviour of our wards in schools in a very serious manner. Mr Speaker, yesterday, I received a very striking information from a student from the University of Education, Winneba. She sent me a text message, which was that, “Uncle, I want to confess something to you, but I do not know how it will end. I do not want my father or my mother to hear of what I am going to tell you, please.” Mr Speaker, the information was that, she is a student who completed senior high school two years ago. She could not pass her English, Mathematics and Science. She was allowed by her parents to go and collect the results from the school. When she did that, we realised she had failed three (3) very important courses. Mr Speaker, this young lady was brave enough, took the results, went to Kumasi and altered it because she did not want her mother, who is so strict, to know that she had failed in these three core subjects. Mr Speaker, she managed to alter it, and used that one to apply for admission into the University of Education, Winneba. Mr Speaker, three weeks ago -- I am told this is because I called on one of the masters this morning and I was told that they went to confirm their results, only to note that she had failed in these three core subjects. It is very shocking. So, she was given a letter of dismissal. Now, she cannot go home. She wants to confess to me, we do not know what will happen the next moment because she says that whatever would happen from now, I should not let her parents know why she is in that situation. What I told her this morning was that, I would send her GH¢100.00 to come down to Accra and
discuss the issue with me but all was not lost. I could just see that the young lady wants to do something untoward. Mr Speaker, we would have to take a second look at the way we interact with our children at home; the way we counsel them about the need to study and pass their examinations. This is because I am very sure that the Almighty God directed this young lady to call her Hon Member of Parliament, probably, because I am closer to the family, to confess this to me. Otherwise, she could have gone to the next level to do anything and then we associate it to mental health -- self-inflicted mental health. Mr Speaker, so, the young ones must really understand that success in life is not just all about getting ‘A's or ‘B's throughout at their Senior High School level or University level. They should understand how to shape their thinking, as far as life is concerned. This is because the issue of suicide in our tertiary institutions is now becoming too much. Sometimes, one sits down to wonder why somebody of about 17, 18 or 19 years old would commit suicide. That is a very serious matter and I think we should send a message out there to our children to understand that, life is not all about being the best in their class but then they could be better even without the best grades. Mr Speaker, on this note, I would want to thank the Hon Member who made the Statement for this very important information we have got from him.
Hon Member, thank you. The last contributions.
Mr Speaker, thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to contribute and con- gratulate the Hon Member who made the Statement. Mr Speaker, we are all at risk of suicide. In every 40 seconds, somebody in the world commits suicide. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that annually, about one million people die through suicide. In Ghana, data from the Mental Health Unit says that about 1,500 Ghanaians lose their lives by committing suicide. In about two weeks, as a country, we have lost about 10 lives through suicide. Mr Speaker, this is worrying and it makes suicide an issue of public health concern. The issue of suicide is not only a public health issue, but also an economic issue. This country loses about seven per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) due to problems of mental health. The factors that contribute to one committing suicide are not just one. Psychological, economic, social, cultural and legal problems come together to make one vulnerable to committing suicide. It is however known that, about 90 to 95 per cent of the causes of suicide are due to mental health problems, especially, depression. Mr Speaker, I see that we are all at risk because there is a thin line between normal and abnormal mental state and any of us within a second could be moved from a normal to an abnormal mental state. We face this daily because we all cross the line at a point in time, from normal to abnormal and come back to normal. We are only seen as abnormal when we cross the line and we stay there for too long. Therefore, we should see the issue of death through suicide as an issue that needs holistic attention. Mr Speaker, I share in the fact that we need to have more counselling centres, but it is also true to say that, the first place for counselling is the family. The family is the first place that we could give proper counselling to our children and parents should take it up, observe and talk to them and let them know that life is good no matter the pressure. It is good to live and enjoy life than to end their lives. We should talk about suicide in our churches, mosques and wherever we gather. In our schools, it is not just about counselling centres, but we should ensure that all the students are observed and that challenges that we face with mental health in this country would be given the needed attention. Mr Speaker, stigma is one of them. If any of us here, who is looking normal visits a mental health unit, the moment they leave that centre, people think that they are mad. Mr Speaker, if you think that I am joking, just visit the Accra Psychiatric Hospital and before you leave there, people would ask if there is something wrong. That is the problem that we have in this country, that even when a normal person has a small problem, and they need a specialist attention at any mental health unit, people think that he or she is mad. That should not be so. Let us give attention to our mental health care, and ensure that we facilitate the passage of the Legislative Instrument (L.I.) of the Mental Health Act. Lastly, the issue of suicide is not only about law, whether we criminalise or decriminalise it, somebody who intends to commit suicide, would do it because he or she is willing to die than to live. Let us, as a country, see it as a holistic problem and develop a comprehensive prevention strategy to address the issue of suicide in this country. Mr Speaker, in conclusion, let us say no to suicide and together we could prevent millions of people dying from suicide.
Thank you very much.
That was the last contribution. In fact, I have taken the trouble to allow many contributions because of the importance of this matter which borders on both health and education. I do not know whether the Hon Minister for Education, who is now well seated in the House would want to make a comment.
Mr Speaker, I would like to briefly say that, firstly, our hearts and minds go to the parents of the victims or the parents of those whom this tragedy has befallen. The Ministry is taking active steps to awaken the various career and guidance counselling services in our universities and in our Senior High Schools. Under the Ghana Education Service (GES), there is a whole divisional director in charge of career guidance and counselling and some of the universities have these outfits. We would bring them
Thank you very much, Hon Minister. This matter is referred to the joint Committees on Health and Education to consider and report back to the House in three weeks. Indeed, we need an in-house committee for assurances. We have one for assurances concerning Ministers, but we do not have one concerning assurances in-House. So, the very important matters brought out by Hon Members and which are so well articulated are lost in the process. In future, we need not only a Committee on Government Assurances, but also on Parliamentary Assurances, so that we have these things well analysed, followed and taken up at the appropriate quarters. Thank you very much for your contributions. Hon Members, the next Statement stands in the name of Hon Samuel Nartey George on the potential bloodbath between the towns of Miotso and Dawhenya. Potential bloodbath between the towns of Miotso and Dawhenya
Mr Speaker, I am indeed grateful for the opportunity to speak on a matter of grave concern to me. I watched the news and saw the gory images of the bloodbath at Bimbilla and I have been haunted hence, by the thought of a similar occurrence in my constituency. Mr Speaker, the Ningo-Prampram Constituency is arguably the fastest growing constituency in the country today, with the saturation of mainland Accra and its attendant spiralling rent costs. This has forced many residents, and indeed, factories and businesses to look towards the Eastern corridor of Accra to settle in many of the new development suburbs, which a decade ago, were farmlands like Mataheko, Mobole, New Jerusalem, Ablekuma, Afienya, DEV- TRACO, Methodist Junction, Dawhenya, Miotso, Prampram and New Ningo to mention but a few. Mr Speaker, this migration has exponentially blown the value of land in the area. With the booming, sale has entered the menace of armed land guards and feuding clans and families. There are recurring daily reports of feuds between individuals who have been sold the same parcel of land, or the families seeking to make such sales. This has led to a very hostile climate prevailing in these communities. Mr Speaker, the 29th of December, 2016 is forever etched in my memory. 1 can still vividly recollect how I was flooded with calls from the constituency early in the morning of an alleged raid of some sort, by one faction in dispute over a 37,000-acre parcel of land. Gunshots were randomly fired, cars and business enterprises belonging to one faction were torched and completely razed to the ground. Between scrambling and going to the constituency and speaking with my District Police Commander on the telephone, I got further reports of an execution styled shooting of a respected elder in Miotso township. The circumstances surrounding the shootings have caused me and my constituents great anguish and worry. Mr Speaker, the deceased, Mr Francis Tetteh Botchway, was alleged to have been accosted in his home by a team of four policemen from the Buffalo Squad of the Tema Regional Police Command. He was ordered to lie face flat on the ground and then shot in the head. The gory images of his lifeless body and the attendant mess created are etched in my memory forever. A second person who immediately accosted the Police team was shot and killed. However, family members of the deceased arrived at the home of the deceased after they had been alerted by another witness, and they accosted the police team. According to the family members, they know and are familiar with the officers involved. Mr Speaker, it has been eleven weeks since the unfortunate shooting and despite the spirited efforts of the family, the Police Command appears to be uninterested in setting up an enquiry into the matter. This has led to agitation on the part of the Miotso youth and elders, who are threatening to exact vengeance if the State would not seek justice on their behalf. 1 have constantly engaged and prayed both sides to exercise restraint as well as the leaders from the Dawhenya side. The stark truth, however, is that only an instituted investigation into the allegations against the four Policemen who have been captured on film on the motive for the unfortunate incident on 29th December, 2016, can assuage the pain and offer a veneer of justice for the deceased family. Mr, Speaker, I pray you to instruct the Inspector-General of Police to immediately institute hearings into the matter and report to you, progress made in the investigations. I also pray that you instruct the Minister for the Interior to take the necessary steps to disarm the various factions who are heavily armed in anticipation of reprisal attacks. Mr Speaker, it is with despair and anguish over the ongoing matters that I submit to your better judgement for guidance, and any other direction you may deem fit to forestall what appears to be a writing of violence and bloodbath on the walls in my constituency. Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity accorded me and the people of Ningo-Prampram Constituency.
Thank you very much, Hon Member. Yes, Hon Member?
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity. Mr Speaker, I wish to commend the Hon Member for Ningo-Prampram for the Statement made. Mr Speaker, I wish to convey my condolences to the family of the late Francis Tetter Botchway, who was murdered in cold blood in the wake of the disturbances in Ningo Prampram. Mr Speaker, I am quite familiar with the land tenure system in Ningo-Prampram, because as a legal practitioner, I handled quite a number of cases, so I had the opportunity to read documents like the Jacksons Report, which contains a lot of historical evidence regarding the settlement pattern in Prampram. It is indeed true that, the land tenure system in Prampram is such that, lands are owned by families and clans, and so it is not surprising that in view of the peri- urban character of the area, now that Accra is becoming choked, many people have moved to Prampram to acquire lands for purposes of development. Mr Speaker, the Central University is headquartered in Ningo-Prampram. Other developments are springing up, so land is a hot cake in the area. Once again, that has brought to the fore the unfortunate issue of the nefarious activities of land guards. Mr Speaker, the Police by law are supposed to protect lives and property. I am quite sure that when the police stormed the area to try to restore peace and order, their original intention was not to unleash brutality on innocent civilians and citizens of this land. Mr Speaker, however, we have recorded yet another instance of Police brutality. The question then is, how do we deal with the issue of police brutality and assuage the pain and anguish of the deceased's family involved in this case? Mr Speaker, I have had occasion to point out before this House, when a similar Statement was made, that although the Police Administration had set up the Police Professional Standards Bureau to deal with issues of misconduct and police brutality, the public is not very confident about that arrangement. Mr Speaker, at some point, the Ministry of the Interior, with the support of some other civil society organisations, took the initiative to set up an independent police complaint unit, which would be separate from the Police Administration itself, so that when issues of this nature crop up, the public would at least have the confidence that an impartial arbiter sitting somewhere would be able to investigate the issues that come to the fore, without any display of bias. Mr Speaker, the last time I checked the immediate past Police Council which was chaired by His Excellency the former Vice President Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, they had actually gone far in their deliberations in the establishment of the independent police complaints com- mission. So, Mr Speaker, while supporting the Statement made by Hon Sam George, I would urge the current chairman of the Police Council -- I am not sure the Council has been constituted, but by practice and by law, the Vice President of the Republic chairs that Council. Mr Speaker, when the Police Council is constituted, His Excellency the Vice President, Alhaji (Dr) Mahamudu Bawumia would immediately take up the challenge and set up the independent Police Complaints Commission, so that issues of this nature are dealt with expeditiously. Mr Speaker, I am not by any stretch of imagination finding fault with the Police Administration, because I am aware that when issues of this nature come up, they have an elaborate procedure which is provided for under the police regulations, which must be followed religiously, and so charges are preferred -- it is like a criminal trial. Charges are preferred, the accused police officers involved have the right to be defended before a Service enquiry by a counsel, and so on. So, it is quite an elaborate procedure. While I am confident that these issues would be dealt with, there is a saying that justice delayed is justice denied, and so the families of Francis Tetteh Botchway are expecting to have the matter dealt with expeditiously. Mr Speaker, only yesterday I read in the electronic media that over a hundred police officers had been sacked. Reading the piece, it was very evident that those Police officers were sacked and they came from across the country after having committed various degrees of criminal offences, including corruption, bribery, extortion, indiscipline, et cetera. So cumulatively, in 2016, over a hundred police officers were sacked. If that is anything to go by, one can be assured that issues of this nature would be dealt with, but let us have the Independent Police Commission to engender confidence in whatever is done when the police unleash brutality on our innocent citizens. Mr Speaker, on that note I thank the Hon Member who made the Statement once again for his effort. Thank you very much.
Hon Member, thank you very much for your contribution.
Hon Members, the Second Deputy Speaker to take the Chair. 11. 56 a. m. --
MR SECOND DEPUTY SPEAKER
Hon Member, please, continue.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, we are likely to have a greater impact on the greater society. This is because, we have many other people, different and varied numbers of people, all moving to this area of Ghana -- Greater Accra. So, there is the need for us to take stringent measures to ensure that we do not have a situation where we lack security and people could go and kill others and property could be destroyed. Mr Speaker, with these few words, I thank you for the opportunity and also thank the maker of the Statement for bringing it up strongly. We should work on Ningo-Prampram, but not just that area, but we should stretch our hands and work elsewhere to make sure that the situation is nipped in the bud. Thank you very much.
Hon Members, my instructions are to take one contribution from each side of the House. So, Leadership would have to guide me on those they would prefer to contribute, or make comments on the Statement, because I do not have any list here with me.
Mr Speaker, I believe we could take one contribution from each side of the House and personally, I have an interest to make some kind of contribution to the Statement.
Hon Member, you said personally?
Mr Speaker, I said I would also wish to make some comments on it, but I believe we could take one Hon Member from the Minority side, and another from the Majority side.
So, are you urging me to rather call you instead of the others on their seats?
Mr Speaker, I would want us to take, at least, two contributions. An Hon Member from the Minority side has just spoken, so, we would want one from the Majority side, and if possible, maybe another from the Minority side again, then I could also be given the opportunity to contribute.
We have taken three.
Mr Speaker, they need three from the Minority side, but it is just that the Rt Hon Speaker also watched the Majority side and it seemed that by then, Hon Members on the Majority side were not up. That is why Hon Members from the Minority side got the opportunity to speak more than the Majority side.
Yes, because they have the right of say, but you have the right of way. So, if there are more Hon Members speaking from the Minority side, it is quite in order.
I agree, Mr Speaker.
So, I would take -- now we have two -- Dr Appiah-Kubi, you are a late arrival, so, I would allow Hon Benito Owusu-Bio to start. I would try and give you the opportunity. Deputy Minister for Lands and Natural Resources (Mr Benito Owusu- Bio)(MP): Thank you, Mr Speaker, for giving me this opportunity to contribute to the Statement made by the Hon Sam George, about the serious situation that is occurring in his constituency. Mr Speaker, I would want to comment on the land tenure aspect of the Statement and the way I feel we should all handle it and see how to solve that particular problem. Mr Speaker, in his Statement, he made reference to the fact that, the land tenure system in his constituency is basically
made up of family and stool land ownership, in fact, family and clan land ownership. Mr Speaker, when such a situation happens, the major problem is about boundary demarcations. That is, overlapping boundaries among the families and the clans, and no clear demarcations where each particular family land ends. Also, at the same time, the capacity, that is, who has the capacity as the family head to transact business on lands in those communities. Mr Speaker, this becomes the major challenge, and in so doing, we would have litigations and disputes, as is happening now and as a result of this, there would be court litigations. I just made a check with the Lands Commission and have been informed that there are over a thousand court litigations in the Hon Member's constituency, regarding boundary demarcations and the right to transact business on lands, as at now. Mr Speaker, the way forward is that, the Lands Commission and the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources would have to consult with the Greater Accra House of Chiefs, so that they could come together and with the help of the Regional House of Chiefs, try and help the communities -- the family heads to come up with a solution, on the clear cut demarcations and boundary lines for the various families and clans. Mr Speaker, I have been told that, soon the Lands Commission would consult them so that they could help them to come up with that particular solution. Also, the Greater Accra House of Chiefs would also need to be involved with determining who the family heads or the clan heads are so that they would actually chronicle them down, make sure it is documented and published; then everybody would know who is who in his constituency. Mr Speaker, I would be consulting with him in future when this House grants me the approval on my nomination, so that we sort this problem out. The maker of the Statement must be rest assured. He is a good Friend of mine, and I would help him out. Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the Statement on the floor. I wish to do so, and concentrate on the judicial angle tools to this problem. Mr Speaker, the Prampram-Dawhenya area is inundated with court cases. There are certain families who are on record to be land owners in the area, such as the Addicowe family, Annewe family, the Olowe family, and the Nartey Borboryoe family. Mr Speaker, oftentimes, the activities of some of these landguards are as a result of the fact that, even when judicial pronouncements are made, settling the ownership of either land boundaries or the interest of landowners in the area, the contesting parties would refuse to obey some of these judicial decisions. Instead of atoning tenancy, they would refuse and continue to alienate lands even though the courts have settled the matter. Mr Speaker, I would make reference to a case that has been settled in the Supreme Court -- Abed Nortey vrs African University College of Communications, and Daniel Nartey, reported in the Supreme Court Report of 2014 where the Supreme Court pronounced and settled the vast area of land in excess of 745 acres in favour of the appellant and yet, the other feuding party, which is Abed Nortey and the family, refused to let persons who have procured land through them atone tenancy to the appellant. Mr Speaker, because the victorious party would also procure a writ of possession to go into possession and levy the execution, oftentimes, the guards who are employed by the other party to protect the land, and the guards who are also employed by the newly victorious party in the matter would clash. Therefore, I have no doubt that the incident, that is the thrust of the Statement of my Hon Brother in question, would be about one such issue. Mr Speaker, so, I would urge the various families in the Prampram- Dawhenya enclave to, as a matter of principle, obey pronouncements or judicial decisions when they take the trouble to seek justice in a matter and particularly when the matter, travels all the way to the Supreme Court, they must be willing to abide by the outcome of court decision. Mr Speaker, this is a very sensitive matter. It spirals out of control to other traditional areas. We know that certain areas like the Haatso and Agbogba areas in the Greater Accra Region are also bedevilled with these matters. We know of the Sowutuom area and the Kasoa area, which are contiguous with the Greater Accra Region, these matters abound. We know the Dodowa enclave and the Kpone area, which are also contiguous to his constituency, these land litigation clashes also abound. Mr Speaker, my humble position would be that, we should not simply debate this matter and end it here and that a resolution would be passed, directed at the Lands Commission to, as a matter of urgency, take steps to avert some of these clashes by expressly taking control of some of the judicial decisions that would be directed at them to expunge certain land titles procured by other parties who must have gone to court, and the court would have given a different verdict, so that nobody goes round wielding one land title certificate when indeed, before the law court, that land title certificate has been cancelled out. With these few words, Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity.
Thank you Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to commend the Hon Member for that good Statement. Even though the Hon Member who made the Statement limited it to his own constituency, Ningo-Prampram, the issues which emanated from that Statement cut across the whole country. There are issues about conflict over land and police professional standards. Mr Speaker, conflict over land is an issue that should attract the attention of Parliament and Government as a whole. This is because as the population of this country grows, conflicts over land are likely to result and increase. If we look around, most of the conflicts in this country are largely over land. Many of the chieftaincy disputes are equally over land. As a result, this country implemented a Land Administration Programme (LAP) over a decade ago. I cannot tell the results of that programme so far achieved, but I would suggest that the government may do well to bring this programme to a higher stage, for the results to manifest in the reduction of conflicts and land disputes.
Another issue that I would like to touch briefly, is what my Hon Colleague, Hon Agalga touched on and that is about police professional standards. There have been too often allegations about misuse of guns which are given to policemen for the protection of people and property and in the end, investigations take years and when even completed, they all add up to delay what people probably -- the expected results of people who are involved. The Ghana Police Service itself has a Police Professional Standards Bureau which is meant to investigate allegations of unprofessional behaviour of policemen. But the question that we need to ask ourselves is, how can the police investigate itself? This Bureau is located and run by the police itself and that is why I would support the recommendation of Hon Agalga that there should be an independent complaints unit where people can freely go and lodge their complaints about unprofessional behaviour of the police whereby this unit could also conduct their investigations swiftly. Mr Speaker, so I believe you may do well to assist this nation to make an order for the government to speed up the setting up of this independent unit. With these few words, I thank you, Mr Speaker.
Is the Leader still interested? No? Then I would permit my Hon Colleague here to contribute.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to contribute to this Statement. In the meantime, I would like to congratulate my Hon Colleague on the other side of the House who made the Statement and subsequent comments made particularly by the former Deputy Minister for the Interior. Mr Speaker, the issues in this particular Statement borders on ownership of land. Incidentally, Mr Speaker, I have been a lawyer in most of the cases so mentioned. Mr Speaker, in the particular case that was mentioned, decisions were obtained from the court but most of the people who lost the court cases would not respect the decisions of the courts. Mr Speaker, there is also a particular case where we have so much land vested in the State but these vested lands are still being attacked by encroachers in the full glare of the Lands Commission. People are even fighting over these vested lands. There is a clear case of a land that has been given to a company called Golden Exotics by the Lands Commission, and they are variously attacked by encroachers. Mr Speaker, the situation at Ningo- Prapram area calls for State intervention. Everybody is calling on the police to intervene. The police themselves are intervening variously and for various reasons. Members of the Police Service went into this matter but unfortunately they shot and killed some citizens who were lawfully sleeping in their homes. Mr Speaker, it calls for discipline and professionalism in the Police Service. There are people who are in those areas calling themselves land guards. Most of these land guards are in connivance with the police as we speak. Most of them visit the areas with the full participation of the police. Mr Speaker, most of these people --
Yes, Hon Member?
Mr Speaker, thank you very much. Mr Speaker, respectfully, my Hon Colleague is making a solid point but he keeps mentioning the entire police. I would be grateful he would use the phrase ‘some police personnel' but indicting the entire Police Service, would not be the best for us. Thank you very much.
Hon Member, that is a genuine concern so, please take it on board.
Mr Speaker, I thank my Hon Member for this intervention. Nevertheless, one policeman is still a policeman therefore, the Police Service --
Hon Member, be guided.
Mr Speaker, I am guided by that. But Mr Speaker, what I am saying is that --
When you start by saying ‘nevertheless' and the phrase following does not seem to take on board the comments he has made, that definitely is unacceptable.
Mr Speaker, I am only suggesting that, some Police Service actions are vicariously liable for some breaches of the law by the policemen. Mr Speaker, particularly, the policemen that we are complaining about are within the Prampram area and they have had occasions where these policemen have carried arms, not even onto the lands but into homes and this was where we recently experienced the act of murder. Mr Speaker, I say this because I had been a solicitor for most of the families in Prampram and some of the families mentioned, are really not the owners. But I support my senior Hon Colleague's recommendation that we should engage the Lands Commission and the families in demarcating the various landholdings of the various families, and indeed, provide the hierarchy of leadership within the families. Mr Speaker, some of the cases that we have been handling in these areas are not between families but between members of the same family, all claiming to be heads of family. So, Mr Speaker, the traditional authority would also do us good by cataloguing the leadership of the various families so that -- indeed, in a particular case, the leadership is also lodged with the Lands Commission but the Commission still acknowledges appli- cations by non-heads or non-leaders of such families. So, Mr Speaker, it is a two-fold approach that we require: one is to streamline the operations of the Lands Commission to accept and process the legitimate grants, and the other is to seek professionalism in the Police Service so that they only execute orders of the court, and not execute orders by ordinary members, or even land guards. Mr Speaker, this brings to attention the serious nature of the problem of land guards in the country. The land guards sometimes appear stronger than the men from the Police Service. If we do not deal with this problem of land guards, at some point in time, the police would be helpless to even execute orders of the court.
Mr Speaker, I crave your indulgence to probably ask the Committee on Defence and the Interior Ministry to ensure that this issue of land guards is dealt with and uprooted from our system. With these few words, Mr Speaker, I thank you.
Hon Members, we have as many as six more Statements pending, and I want us to take this on board; if the comments could be as short, direct and concise, I believe that we could take many more Hon Members. But the way Hon Members go to town and take a very long time, we are very unlikely to finish all the Statements. And it is not my intention to extend Sitting after 2.00 o'clock. So, please, take this on board. I cannot prevent you from commenting, once we have some time left at our disposal but other Statements may not have the opportunity. If that is the sense of the House, then we can go on. Please, do you still want to comment?
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I take a cue respectfully. Mr Speaker, I overheard my Hon Colleague, the former Deputy Minister for the Interior, advise that we should set up an independent complaints unit. Mr Speaker, respectfully, for the records, I am sure my Hon Colleague is aware that there is a Police Intelligence and Professional Standards Unit, that is, PIPS, so, that could be on record. And they are there to take complaints from the public in events where the citizenry has been offended by any police officer. Respectfully, I want this to be on record, that there is such institution or a section under the Ghana Police Service that exists. Also, with respect to land acquisition and the processes of acquiring land titles in this country, more especially, in the Greater Accra Region, is becoming worrying. So, I would say that in the processes of ensuring and acquiring lands in this country, we would put together mechanisms to ensure that potential investors and the people of this country would acquire lands without fear or favour. Mr Speaker, I believe the process should be intertwined. We need the Ministry of Defence, we need the Ghana Police Service and the Lands Commission or the Lands and Forestry Department to sit up and map out a strategy. There is too much bureaucracy as we speak today. Somebody goes to buy a land and it takes him or her six years to acquire just a yellow card in order to build. People acquire lands and they are ready to build. The State Planning Authority should have the areas mapped out. As we speak, I stand to be corrected, but I can say that if we go to the Lands Commission today, most of the lands are not properly mapped out. There is no layout actually. So, we have double ownership and all that. Mr Speaker, I believe that this is a matter of concern for all of us in this country and the Lands Commission. The Ghana Police Service and the Ministry of Defence should come together, supported by the various Committees in this House, to find a way of making the processes of land acquisition easier for us in this country. I thank you very much, Mr Speaker.
I thank you very much. The importance of the subject matter cannot be overstated and there is a request from the Hon Member who made the Statement, Hon Samuel Nartey George, for some directives to be given and I am going to give these directives to the Hon Minister for the Interior; The Hon Minister for the Interior is hereby directed to take the necessary steps to disarm the various factions who are heavily armed, in anticipation of looming violence in the Ningo-Prampram Constituency. The Hon Minister for the Interior is further directed to institute hearings into the complaints lodged by the affected families against some four police officers and report same to the House. The proceedings of this Statement would be made available to the Hon Minister for the Interior for his information and guidance. I so direct. It is now the turn of the Hon Member for --
Yes, Hon Member?
Mr Speaker, respectfully, is there any timeline?
Hon Member, it would be very difficult to give a timeline considering the complexity, the issues and sensitivity of the matter. I believe we should leave it in the hands of the capable Hon Minister for the Interior. But the important thing is that, there must be a report to this House on the matter. We have had a lot of Statements in connection with these matters and we cannot just always allow them to lie. This is because, they are not “sleeping dogs”. If they were “sleeping dogs”, we would allow them to lie. But they are not sleeping, they are wide awake and they are wild, so we would have to take this seriously. Hon Member, I am sure you are satisfied?
Yes, Mr Speaker.
It is now the turn of the Hon Member for Akim Swedru; Hon Kennedy Nyarko Osei. Carnage on our roads claiming precious lives
Mr Speaker, I wish to thank you for giving me the opportunity to make this Statement on the floor of the House, which is aimed at cautioning drivers and other road users to minimise the rate at which untimely deaths occur on our roads. Mr Speaker, this may not be the first time a Statement has been made on the carnage on our roads because accidents have been occurring on our roads almost on daily basis. What has triggered this Statement is how we are losing focus in preventing these accidents as a country, and the rate at which we are losing lives, especially, the youth to road accidents. Mr Speaker, I do not intend to cause more pain to people who have lost their loved ones, since we all know how it feels to lose a loved one, but these are matters you can talk about by scratching the surface. It may surprise you to know that confirmed media reports indicate that, a few days ago, 19 people perished in three (3) separate gory accidents. What made it
more painful is the involvement of four (4) final year student nurses of the Tanoso Community Health Nursing Training School in Sunyani in the Brong Ahafo Region. From my checks, the four student nurses, identified as Florence Osei Tutu 23, Dora Naza 24, Gifty Yeboah 24 and Vivian Coffie 24, were returning to school after attending a socialisation programme. According to the MTTD in Sunyani, a driver heading towards Abesim offered the students lift at a place called Dreamers' Spot, and along the way, the driver lost control of the steering wheel, somersaulted, hit a number of trees and a culvert before eventually landing on its roof, trapping the four students and the driver inside the vehicle. On that same day, Sunday 12th March, 2017, at Gomoa Mprumeim on the Apam Junction Winneba road in the Central Region, 14 people comprising 12 females and two males died on the spot when an articulated trailer from Accra was in collision with a Mercedes Benz Sprinter which was travelling from the opposite direction to Accra. As if that was not enough for the day, Mr Speaker, another Nissan Primera Taxi driver lost control, hit a culvert before running into a ditch and died later at the Sunyani Municipal Hospital. I dare say that these may be the only few accidents that received media attention, but more innocent people die as a result of road accidents that we do not hear of on daily basis. We are losing more of our citizens due to road accidents but lives can be saved when simple rules are obeyed. By way of recommendation, I want to state that, I have taken the trouble to read some of our road safety regulations and I must say they are standard, compared to other international regulations. Our problem is how to enforce the regulations and sanction recalcitrant drivers. Recently, hell broke loose when the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) decided to implement a policy to make it mandatory to have seat belts in all commercial vehicles. Maybe, the education about the policy didn't go down well, but to all intents and purposes, it would have helped prevent accidents and save some untimely deaths on our roads. First of all, worn-out tyres which are against road safety regulations are always used by our commercial drivers, yet, they are not arrested. Secondly, Mr Speaker, just obeying and limiting our speed on roads, by following the road signs is a problem, and we take these things for granted. I would want to stress that we can have the best constructed roads in the world, but if we do not change our attitudes and comply with our road safety regulations, we would continue to mourn when we don't have to. Thirdly, our enforcement security services must be bold to arrest and ensure safety on our roads by temporarily revoking the license of careless drivers. I also want to suggest that, insurance premiums of vehicles and drivers who drive carelessly resulting in accidents must be increased. Lastly, the DVLA should develop a system to install tracking devices in every registered vehicle as part of the registration process. This, I believe will help the National Roads Safety Commission and the MTTU to monitor careless driving on our roads. Mr Speaker in conclusion, permit me to use this opportunity to express my deepest condolences to all those who have lost their loved ones through road accidents, especially, the parents of the four student nurses, and we pray that never again should we hear such bad news as a country. Thank you, Mr Speaker
Hon Members, let us give an opportunity to the Hon Lady to contribute.
Mr Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to comment on this Statement and also thank the Hon Member who made the Statement, for drawing our attention to the numerous road accidents that we have in our country. Mr Speaker, the causes of road accidents are many, such that, all the stakeholders, including Parliament, should take a second look at some of these causes and see how best we can reduce accidents on our roads. The Hon Member who made the Statement stated some of the accidents that have happened. Quite recently, a former Hon Member of this House, for Akwatia, also lost his life in a similar accident on the Accra- Kumasi Road, where a faulty vehicle had parked on the road and he ran his vehicle into the parked faulty vehicle and lost his life in the process. Mr Speaker, if we take a critical look at the accidents that happen on our roads, one major issue that I would want all of us to take a look at, and see how best we can reduce speeding. If we drive and we reduce our speed -- the warning statement says; “reduce your speed and save your life”. It is important we see how best we can control speeding on our roads. The police can help to enforce the laws to reduce speeding. Mr Speaker, we have road signs that say that when one gets to a town, the speed limit is 50 km/h but who is there to check it? We do not have new methods or systems that we can use to reduce speed on our roads. So, drivers sit in their vehicles and decide without even considering the condition of the road -- For instance, on the Accra-Tema Motorway, there is no need for any driver to drive more than 100 km/h on that motorway; not as it is now. Any driver who drives more than 100 kmh on the Accra-Tema Motorway is speeding. So, we should look at some of these things and see how best we can reduce accidents. The second issue is on driver behaviour. Drivers -- as people tend to accuse DVLA, the Motor Traffic and Transport Department (MTTD) and all that, one important thing we must take a critical look at, is the behaviour of the drivers. We can check and train the driver but as soon as he sits behind the steering wheel, then the behaviour changes. Mr Speaker, as a former DVLA officer, I remember that on several occasions I have retested drivers who are involved in road accidents. If you try to find out what happened before the accident occurred, you would see that the driver did not know what should have been done. When you interview them, you would know clearly that they were aware and knew what they were supposed to do, but they refused to do them and caused accidents thus killing a lot of people. Mr Speaker, laws and agreements we have passed in this House should have been able to help us reduce accidents. For instance, recently, the Committee on Roads and Transport passed a Bill in this House and tasked the DVLA to put a percentage on the road worthy certificate fee, give that money to the National Road Safety Commission so that we would have towing vehicles to tow faulty vehicles on the roads within an hour. But what is happening is that this money has been collected by DVLA and handed over to National Road Safety Commission (NRSC), but there is a friction between the NRSC and the company that brought in the towing vehicles into this country. As we speak now, the towing cars are parked, the owners of the towing vehicles have not been paid and because of that, the company is no more working. If we have a system where the MTTD, the DVLA and this company can take faulty vehicles off the road within thirty minutes or one hour, it can prevent some of these accidents from happening. So, it is important that we take a second look at this. What is preventing NRSC from paying the money to the company for the services that they have rendered to this country? Mr Speaker, the next thing I would want us to look at is lighting on our streets. We all know that when the road surface or the condition of the road surface is improved, we should have reduced accidents. But in this country, the newer the road, the higher the accidents. So, we must ask ourselves -- what is happening? Is it that we should maintain or stop maintaining our roads? I ask this because when the road is bad, accidents are reduced. But that should not be the case; so, what is happening? We must try as much as we can to get streetlights.
Mr Speaker, on the N1 Highway here in Accra, on several occasions, you would see that the streetlights do not work but people are crossing, and vehicles are speeding. One would not know what is ahead. There is a law in driving which says that, if we do not see an estimated 40 metres ahead of us, we should not move. But vehicles move and drivers drive when they know very well that they do not see 40 metres ahead of them. So, it is important we improve the condition of streetlights on our roads, especially when the roads connect towns and com- munities, to reduce accidents. Mr Speaker, the next issue is on the road blocks on our major roads. It is not good to drive on a highway from Accra to Kumasi and then, while the vehicles are on the road moving, one sees these road rumps. We should try as much as we can, to develop overhead bridges so that we stop this road berths and other road blocks that we have on our roads to reduce the accidents. The next thing which has already been mentioned by the Hon Member who made the Statement, which I would want to emphasise, is the law enforcement. Mr Speaker, people normally accuse DVLA. Yes, I agree. But the most important thing is that commercial vehicles visit DVLA twice a year while the private ones visit them once a year. So, if one puts a tyre under one's private vehicle, it would take one a whole year for the vehicle to visit DVLA again. So, those who would be on the road every day to check faulty vehicles and those that are not roadworthy should be the police, the law enforcement agencies, and MTTD. It is important they also help. The law permits them to withdraw roadworthy certificates of vehicles which the police believe are not roadworthy and refer them to DVLA for re-examination. It does not matter whether one's vehicle has been to DVLA for less than six months, or in the case of a private vehicle, for less than one year. The policeman has every right to withdraw the certificate and refer the driver to DVLA for re-examination. This would help to reduce -- I believe DVLA has done a lot by giving this private garages to expand their facilities across the country, so that there would be efficiency in the examination of the vehicle. Though they have a lot of work to do in terms of performance, it is important that the law enforcement agency, MTTD up their game so that they can help to prevent accidents. Mr Speaker, we must also look at another law that I spoke against some time ago in this House. We have vehicles that are 30 years old on the roads of Ghana, but when we travel outside and bring a vehicle which is ten years into this country, we put laws and measures that would prevent those vehicles from coming into this country. Yet, we have vehicles that are 30 and 40 years but are still being driven on our roads. I would suggest that we should soften that law because, a ten year old vehicle in, say, USA or Germany is better than a 30 year old vehicle in this country. The newer the vehicle, the less the damage when the vehicle is involved in an accident. So, it is important that we take a second look at this, so that we bring used vehicles that are better than those that we have in this country, to reduce the overaged vehicles we have. If this is done, we can reduce accidents. Mr Speaker, the last issue I would want to talk about is passenger behaviour. We must take a look at that. We must try to educate -- and this is the work of the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC) and the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE). They should try as much as they can, to educate passengers for us. Some would say the driver is too slow. “We started this journey two hours ago, what type of driver is this?” These words put pressure on the drivers. We must try as much as we can to also reduce those who are selling and preaching in our buses. We must also encourage the public bus system like the Metro Mass Transit that we have and the State Transport Company (STC) and the Aayalolo which came in quite recently. We must try to get more of such buses to reduce, one, the traffic on our roads, and also, to reduce the road accidents as well.
Thank you very much, Hon Member. Let me repeat my earlier caution. We have so many Statements here. The Hon Speaker said I should try as much as possible to do justice to all. They are very important critical subject matters. I plead with Hon Members to be brief in their comments. Unless you would want us to take only two Statements -- This is because, as I stated, I do not intend to extend Sitting after two.
I can see the urge for so many Hon Members to contribute. Yes, Hon Member?
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to contribute to this very important Statement. Mr Speaker, this is not the first time a Statement of this nature had been made in this House. It is true that we cannot prevent accidents from happening, but we can limit the frequency and the extent of damage. It is also important to note that sometimes, when one drives and watches the number of people who drive and talk on the phone, they are not the calibre of my grandmother. They are people who are well dressed in suits and other clothes who should know better. In this country, people do not realise the damage or the potential damage one becomes when one drives and talks on the phone, but we are not meant to do those two things at the same time. So, Mr Speaker, while we all talk about what the police and the DVLA should do, it is important, and as responsible people, we should try and observe and obey the law. I urge everybody, including Members of Parliament, to also
Hon Afenyo-Markin, sit down. [Interruption.] Mr Speaker, the second thing is that --
Sorry, Hon Member, I can see the Hon Member for Effutu on his feet. Yes, Hon Member?
Hon Member, this is a comment on the Statement and definitely, it should not ignite debate. So, move away from issues of controversy.
Mr Speaker, I take a cue from your advice. I would just say that let us all act in good faith. Let our conscience judge us in terms of whether we talk while driving. I would leave it at that -- [Interruption.] Let us move on. Mr Speaker, the second issue is on driving beyond the mandated speed limit. It is quite interesting to note in this country that, when one drives beyond 9.00p.m. and the light goes red, people behind you think we cannot see anybody so we should just drive through. It is quite strange. The traffic light turns red, whether there is a car passing or not, it says red. We should wait until it goes green before we move. So, my Hon Colleague talked about patience. Ghanaians walk leisurely compared to citizens of other countries. We walk leisurely as if there is nothing at stake, but immediately we jump behind the steering wheel, it looks as if we are in a hurry so everybody must drive very quickly. I believe when we observe the speed limit, it would also help.
Hon Member, I would prefer that you do not make such allegations, because as I said, they are comments. So do not make allegations where you would be called upon to substantiate, please.
Mr Speaker, I believe the Hon Member who made the Statement listed speeding as one of the causes of accidents. Indeed, road safety reports
You made a statement that Ghanaians walk leisurely, but immediately they are in a vehicle, they are in a hurry and you compared us with other countries. These are matters that we should avoid.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.
Hon Member, are you debating the Speaker?
No, Mr Speaker.
If you are keeping something to yourself, do you have to tell us?
Mr Speaker, all right. I keep it entirely. [Laughter.] -- Mr Speaker, the next one is routine maintenance of our vehicles. Maintenance of our vehicles should not be optional; it should be mandatory. In other jurisdictions, when a car is serviced, the system recognises it. So, it is not the work of the police to look for the car to check whether it has been maintained or not. The system would alert the authorities that the road worthiness of a vehicle has expired. So, automatically, they can get the driver to do the right thing or punish him. Mr Speaker, there is enough technology now for us to do that. I am sure if we can build a small margin into what we pay for our road worthiness and deploy an ICT system that can record everybody who maintains his car, so that we know whose cars are maintained and those that are not; it would help. Mr Speaker, the last issue I would talk about is drunk-driving. In other jurisdictions, it is possible for the law enforcement agencies to stop a vehicle at random and test whether the driver is driving under substance --
Yes, the Hon Member for Ayensuano?
Mr Speaker, I made a comment in my submission that a person's road safety certificate can be good; it means that it has not expired, yet the condition of the vehicle may be bad. So the police can stop that driver though he has a road worthy certificate and refer him to DVLA for further examination. Mr Speaker, the Hon Member who just resumed his seat said that there is a system that can check whether a road worthy certificate has expired or not so, there is no need for the driver to find out whether the police can stop him to see whether his vehicle is in good condition. We have to understand the fact that, a driver's road worthiness certificate is for six months or one year. So, if it has not expired, and the vehicle is not in good condition, the police can arrest the driver and refer him to DVLA for further examination of the vehicle.
I believe the issue the Hon Member raised is that, he is urging the country to adopt such a system. I did not hear him say there is a system in place now. The only thing he has to take on board is that, if we are able to implement such a system that is no full proof. That is the issue you have raised. In spite of the validity of a driver's certificate, a vehicle could still not be road worthy, so the police could be permitted to stop the driver to check, and not to arrest him.
Thank you very much Mr Speaker. I understand my Hon Colleague is the incoming Chairman of the Road and Transport Committee. So, he is making his presence known.
Hon Member, he is sharing his experience with us, and that is very good.
Yes, Mr Speaker. I believe he can understand what I said. I am happy you explained it. I did not say there is a system. If there is a system, we would all have been better off. Mr Speaker, the last point is on drunk- driving. Today is Thursday, by tomorrow, when it is Friday, we all know that sometimes it is reported that when we embark on sorrowful or joyful events, some people, unfortunately, end up consuming more alcohol than they should. The police reports also say that, sometimes, some accidents are as a result of people taking in more alcohol than they should have taken when driving. The law is that do not drive, if you know you have taken in any substance, especially alcohol. This is because-- that can help. When a person takes in alcohol, he gets the false sense of bravado, which can lead to these things. Mr Speaker, our younger sisters who lost their lives, we do not know exactly why the accident happened. The police have not yet told us what happened. Mr Speaker, I am sure that what my other Hon Colleagues have listed, if we all can observe them - we cannot stop accidents from happening, but we can minimise the frequency and the levels of damage that they cause us. They cause havoc in families and other areas. Mr Speaker, instead of making these Statements all the time and leave them, it would be good for the Road and Transport Committee to get a regular report on what we are doing, with the implementation of the new laws that we pass. One of them is what my Hon Colleague suggested. Are we making any advances in terms of making our roads safer? Mr Speaker, I still do not understand why somebody's vehicle is damaged on the road -- maybe, a tyre gets punctured -- instead of getting the vehicle to a safe place before the tyre is changed, they leave the car and try to change the tyre there. Unfortunately, if the road is not straight enough for persons to observe oncoming vehicles, it can create a situation where somebody can lose his or her life. So, I would suggest that the DVLA and the MTTD should periodically update us on whether we are making any progress in terms of the frequency of accidents on our roads, so that, we know whether we are moving on or we are stagnant on this. On this occasion, Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity.
Yes Hon Leader, you wanted to say something earlier.
Mr Speaker, looking at the number of Statements that you have on your desk, we were trying to confer, that for each Statement, we should take two Hon Members from each side, so that we can finish them before 2.00 o'clock.
Is that the position of Leadership, so that I can be guided by it? Yes, Hon Deputy Minority Leader?
Mr Speaker, I believe that in order to do more on the Statements that we have -- I learnt they are about six or seven -- for today, if we can take a maximum of two Hon Members from each side, apart from the Hon Member who would make the Statement, it would help us finish the rest of them.
Thank you very much. I am so guided. I would want to move to the next Statement on the composition of the membership of the Council of State by the Hon Member of Parliament for Kumbungu, Hon Ras Mubarak.
Hon Member, is the Speaker out of order?
It can never happen, Mr Speaker. I believe the Hon Member who made the Statement on Road Safety -- the Hon Members who contributed made very valid points. So, I expected a referral or some direction from you. This is because, we have all the legislations in place. I am told there is a legal tussel among the National Road Safety Commission, another institution and a supplier, which has left some trucks in a yard. So, I thought you would make a referral to the Committee for report because ninety (90) people have died on the N1 Highway. I do not believe it is a good situation, where we would come and make Statements as Hon Members of Parliament and nothing is done about them. Thank you very much.
Hon Member, you have made a very good point. But you know it is part of the oversight responsibilities of the Standing Committee. You need no prompting or directive from the Speaker to perform your duty. So, once you make these Statements and thereby draw the attention of the Leadership of the Committees to these nagging issues, it behoves the Committee Leadership to take it up at the Committee level and then invite the necessary authorities to come before them, go through it and given these kinds of opportunities, they would brief the House. That is why I did not make the statement. In any case, the Hon Member who made the Statement did not urge the Speaker to give any directive and it is not for us to become masters of everything. The Speaker is a master and also a servant and he submits to the will of the House, and what the House says he should do, that is what he should do. But in controlling and managing the House, he is a master, and that is why I did not want to assume the power that I do not have. So, please, Hon Member, be guided. Yes, Hon Ras Mubarak?
Composition of membership of Council of State
Mr Speaker, indeed, I thank you very much. Mr Speaker, in order to tap into the full potential of the youth, and ensure that the young men and women of our great country are contributing fully to the development of our country, the peace our society, conscious efforts have to be made to promote civic engagement and participation of young people in politics and public life. Mr Speaker, I am a tireless advocate for opportunities for young people, and I look back at my days at the National Youth Authority (NYA) with a sense of pride at the many things we did together to empower the youth. I do not wish to make this Statement about my commitment to youth development in our country and beyond, except to mention one recent landmark change at the NYA. With the support of my colleagues and the leadership of the various groups across the country, we championed the repeal of the 1974 NRCD 241 and quite grateful to this Honourable House and ex- President Mahama, for accepting the National Youth Authority Bill which was passed into law, and given Presidential assent on 30th December as ACT 939, to among other things, strengthen the hand of the NYA and youth generally. Mr Speaker, I believe that not only must youth be consulted on issues that affect them, but they must be given a front row position in decision-making. But Mr Speaker, it is not for nothing that our Constitution, in article 62(b), provides clarity on what age one must turn before one can qualify to run for office as President. A person, as the Constitution states: “. . . shall not be qualified for election as the President of Ghana unless . . . .” “. . . he has attained the age of forty years.” Mr Speaker, as we are all aware, in article 94(1) (a), one is not qualified to be a Member of Parliament if one has not attained the age of twenty-one years. Mr Speaker, the Council of State is a very important and revered institution. We have had instances where people in their twenties and thirties, with zero experience in public life or fresh from school, have picked up nomination forms to contest for membership of the Council of State. It makes mockery of the very principle behind the creation of the Council of State. Just like this House, the Council of State is modelled around the UK's Upper Chamber, the House of Lords and though there are vast differences between the House of Lords and our Council, the principle is the same. The House of Lords has three main functions -- “To question and challenge the work of the British Government; to work with the House of Commons to shape laws; and to investigate issues through committees and debates to help improve the way the UK is governed.” Articles 90 (1), 90 (2), and 91(1) of our Constitution show clear similarities with the UK model. The Council of State may not have the powers to tweak legislations that are passed by this Parliament, but the advice it offers to the President is invaluable. Aside appointed members by the President to the Council, we have persons who are elected in accordance with article 89(1) (c) of our Constitution. In terms of legitimacy, Mr Speaker, one could argue that we are a step ahead of Britain, when comparison is made between their Upper Chamber and our Council of State. In Ghana, we have no room for inheriting public office, unlike the UK. Mr Speaker, unlike our model, the UK puts the age of persons who qualify to be members of the House of Lords at 21 years and above. And they have even gone further to indicate the requirements for membership aside age. Now, theirs is 21 because of the hereditary system, where if one is from a certain family, one could inherit the seat of a deceased relative in the House of Lords. The recent Council of State election has shown us, once again that, there is a need for an amendment to article 89, in accordance with article 289 of our Constitution. Mr Speaker, aside the President of the National House of Chiefs, a former IGP, a former Attorney-General, and a former Chief of Defence Staff of the Ghana Armed Forces, who obviously are Ghanaians per the positions they held or hold in the case of the President of the National House of Chiefs, the Constitution does not say anything about the nationality of the other members and the age of the members of the Council of State. Clearly, a review and an amendment to article 89 is necessary, and I am hoping, Mr Speaker, that the Executive, and indeed, the Council of State itself, and the whole House, would support the following suggestions and take necessary steps in accordance with article 289 of our 1992 Constitution: One, (1) nationality of persons who aspire to be members of the Council of State. Second, (2) age of the members of the Council of State. I think the Constitution also has to provide clarity on that. Mr Speaker, I also think that for the membership of the Council of State, we should include a former Speaker of the Parliament of Ghana. Mr Speaker, it is hard to imagine that a former Chief Justice, a former Chief of Defence Staff, a former IGP, a President of the House of Chiefs will all have a seat at the Council of State and not a former Speaker of this august House. We cannot throw away the experiences of a former Speaker of Parliament. Mr Speaker, since we cannot as individual Members of Parliament push for Private Members Bill, I hope that the Hon Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and Leader of Government Business would take this up for the necessary action. I thank you very much, indeed, for the opportunity
Hon Member, is it the practice that copies of Statements be made available to Hon Members of the House?
So, I expected you to make it in that light, but when you generalise it -- I am sure that you might not have seen an Hon Colleague from your side saying Hon Members from the Minority side have not had access. Maybe, he has seen an Hon Colleague from your side and given him a copy because it is important to have meaningful contributions from both sides of the House.
I can see the Hon Deputy Minority Leader on his feet.
Mr Speaker, I believe that the Hon Member has no basis to say that this Side of the House has copies of the Statement that was just read by the Hon Member. As he said, by individual choice, an Hon Member who makes a Statement would distribute copies to some Hon Friends on both sides of the House. So, if he is sure that his side did not get it, then he has no basis to say that our side got it. I am an Hon Leader, but even I have not had a copy of that Statement. So, it is the choice of the Hon Member who makes the Statement, and for that matter, he should not assume that we had copies of the Statement.
Let me take this opportunity to reiterate the point that, if you are going to make a Statement on the floor, then kindly make copies available to Hon Colleagues that you would want to contribute. This is because they must contribute from an informed position on the thrust of the Statement and also the request that you intend the House to make. It is important, and so thank you for drawing our attention to it again.
Mr Speaker, I am most grateful for the opportunity to contribute very briefly to this Statement. I would want to commend the Hon Member who made the Statement, Hon Ras Mubarak, for raising this very important issue. Mr Speaker, I would want to submit that the proposal that Hon Ras Mubarak made in terms of tapping into other former high office holders -- [Interruption.] I would want to commend him for that proposal of seeking an amendment to consider former Rt Hon Speakers, considering that article 89 of the Constitution has already spelt out the need for a former Chief Justice, if there is one alive, a former Chief of Defence Staff and a former Inspector-General of Police. Mr Speaker, I just want to add that my Hon Brother and Hon Colleague, Hon Ras Mubarak, did not go far enough. I would want him and this House to also consider the addition of a former President of this Republic, and possibly a former Vice President as well. We now have a situation in this country where we have three former Presidents, and we do not have any structured opportunity or forum that would allow the incumbent President to tap into the vast experiences and knowledge of these three former Presidents; His Excellency Jerry John Rawlings, His Excellency John Agyekum Kufuor and His Excellency John Dramani Mahama. We now rely on the loose arrangements, the personal relations and the opportunities that may arise, if the incumbent President finds it necessary to consult them or meet them during State
I could see your Hon Colleague, Dr Appiah-Kubi, on his feet.
Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of clarification. I would be grateful if my Hon Colleague would qualify his suggestion that a former President should be appointed as a member of the Council of State. If he would qualify it, that a former President who does not want to contest again. He is a former President --
It is so far-fetched, but I do not know whether you are talking about the intention of former Presidents. I do not know where you are getting that from. If you want to make a comment on the issue, you would be given the opportunity to do so; but do not be persuaded by rumour mongers. This is a House of records. Hon Member, please, continue.
Mr Speaker, I was also speaking about the concerns that the Hon Ras Mubarak has about the silence of our Constitution -- article 89 -- on age limitation for Hon Members who seek to contest in elections to be elected to the Council of State. There is also article 89(1) (b), which also confers on the President special powers to appoint eleven other members to the Council of State. Here as well, there is no age limit. I would want to support what my Brother and Friend, Hon Afenyo-Markin said, that in this matter of age and experience, age does not necessarily go with experience. We could have some people who are full of age, but may not necessarily have the experience that relatively younger people would have. There are some Hon Members of this House who are in their thirties, like the Hon Afenyo-Markin and the Hon Ato Forson. Some are doing two and three terms already, and with their contribution on the floor of this House, one could see that these are people who have something to also offer. Mr Speaker, I would want to believe that, just as we have within the Executive and within the Legislature, where there is a minimum age of twenty-one and there is no upper limit, we would see that Presidents have relied on a blend. Yes, those who are rich in age and experience have a lot to offer. One cannot buy experience, but there are also those who are relatively young, but may also have some good ideas to contribute. Mr Speaker, in my opinion, we should not bar people who feel that they have a contribution to make, especially as there is provision that they should be elected. Once they are to be elected, let us trust the electorate. Let us trust our country men and women to be able to make the right decision. If the people of this country decide that, in a particular region, they would consider a 24-year old, a 30-year old or a 40-year old, it is good enough to advise our President. I do not think we should question the will of the people. So, I would beg to differ with the maker of the Statement that there is really no need to be fussy about the age. Let us allow the age matter to rest because we know that there are some very young people who could contribute mean- ingfully, and we also have the opposite, where somebody could be full of age, but sometimes, one would wonder what really their contribution is. So, Mr Speaker, I would go for a blend, and I would say that, let us leave matters as they are when it comes to the age matter because, as he rightly said, even with the Upper Chamber in the Westminster system, they have the hereditary peers, and one could inherit if he is very young, and they also have contributions to make. Mr Speaker, but I would want to stress on the need to consider former Presidents, or to consider in this country a structured arrangement where incumbents could rely on the vast experiences and the wisdom of former Presidents to also help us in leading this nation and shaping the destiny of our country. I thank you for this opportunity, Mr Speaker.
Mr Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to also thank the maker of the Statement, the Hon Member for Kumbungu, for a wonderful Statement that draws our attention to the issue of the Council of State, by article 89 of our Constitution. Mr Speaker, I am looking at it from a different perspective altogether. I suggest that we replace article 89 and have an Upper Chamber to replace the Council of State, where after election we have the Majority and Minority. Proportionally, we should look at the Upper Chamber of Parliament with the percentage representation in Parliament to create the Upper Chamber and have the same proportion. Mr Speaker, I am saying this because we have people with experience like yourself, Hon Papa Owusu-Akomah and other Hon Members who have worked in this House, who would be in a good position to be in the Upper Chamber to advise not only the President, but also Parliament. If we take a critical look at elections in the Council of State, it is getting political. Generally, it is getting there. It is important that we take a look at it and make representatives from various political parties to be at the Upper Chamber.
Mr Speaker, I would want to congratulate the Hon Ras Mubarak for his well-researched Statement. Mr Speaker, having said that, I would want to advert my mind to the proposition made by the maker of the Statement, which is a call for an amendment to be effected, relative to article 89 of the Constitution, on the issue of the nationality of the members of the Council of State. In the view of the Hon Ras Mubarak, it has not been provided for in article 89 for members of the Council of State to be Ghanaian, as it is in respect of Members of Parliament, the President, et cetera. However, Mr Speaker, reading article 89 with a critical eye, together with the oath of office of a member of the Council of State, I have a very strong conviction. If we read the Constitution as a whole and attempt to glean at the spirit of it as espoused in Tuffour v. Attorney-General, we would easily come to the conclusion that one cannot be a member of the Council of State if one is not a Ghanaian. It is not for nothing that the framers of the Constitution clearly provided for a retired Chief of the Defence Staff, a retired Inspector-General of Police and the President of the National House of Chiefs. All these former public office holders, by necessary implication, would be Ghanaians. Mr Speaker, if one reads the letter and confines himself to the letter, he would arrive at the wrong conclusion. So, a deliberate attempt must be made to glean at the spirit of the Constitution. When he has done that, he would come to the conclusion that, the eligibility criterion as proposed by the maker of the Statement, in respect of nationality, might not be too necessary. Mr Speaker, I share in the views of the Hon Member who spoke on the other side of the House. But in his view, we may have to probably consider the elevation of the Council of State to a second Chamber. The maker of the Statement said, and I am not sure whether I heard him right. He sort of suggested that the Council of State is a Second Chamber. If that was what he wanted to say, I would say that, no, it is not a second Chamber yet. Propositions have been made for its elevation. I am one of those who believe that the time has come for the Council of State to be elevated to the status of a second Chamber of Parliament. Mr Speaker, like I said earlier, this is a body which already wields some amount of legislative power. It has the mandate, if the President refers Bills to it, to consider and even propose amendments, and refer the amendments together with a memorandum to the President for his consideration. If this is one of the functions of the Council, why do we not elevate it, so that it can take its proper place when it comes to law-making? So so that Bills passed by this House, before they receive Presidential assent, would have to go through the Second Chamber for their review before Presidential assent, as it is done in countries that have the bicameral legislatures. Mr Speaker, I would also state that we should consider the amendment of article 91. This is because if you look at it, what we have succeeded in doing is to provide for a Council of State, which has the mandate to advice the President, but the President is not bound by its advice. Mr Speaker, the Council of State acting suo moto, can pick on an issue that is being handled by the President, Parliament or a Minister of State, and render its advice, but in all these things the President, Parliament or even the Minister of State is not bound by the advice of the Council of State. So, the Council itself is toothless in that sense. It can bark but cannot bite. They advise, and somebody can at will say I would not listen to them. What do they do? Mr Speaker, to make the Council of State very relevant within our times, it is important that we consider elevating it to a second Chamber of the House. Mr Speaker, thank you very much for the opportunity.
Hon Members, it is encouraging that you are warming up for the debate on the constitutional reforms. It is an issue I believe we would soon take up as a country, to make sure we update our Constitution. However, it is important for me to share this information with you. The first headmaster of Ghana National College, Cape Coast, became the headmaster of the school at the age of 22 years, and he joined the Legislative Council at the age of 25 years. That was in the 1950s, and today in 2017, we have not grasped the import of that. Age is a number, and so the fact that somebody may be 18 years does not necessarily mean that the person lacks wisdom. The import of the Statement should be taken critically, because these are matters that, we allow the people themselves to choose who to elect, and we expect that once they are advisory now, along the traditional principle of consulting the old lady, we still allow the people to elect; whether the person is 16 or 18, they would definitely decide. I am sure that they would not be electing people lower than the age that has been given generally by the Constitution. It is also important that State institutions mirror the generality, multiplicity and diversity of the nation. So, we need to have young people in most of these State institutions to be able to make inputs. As much as we treasure wisdom, we also need the energy and vitality to be able to implement the wisdom. So, it is important that we move together as a body. Democracy is moving towards inclusive participation, and so, we should guard against exclusion. This is what I would say for you to take along. Hon Members, but I would plead with you, that we go to the next Statement,
Mr Speaker, Hon Eugene Boakye Antwi is not here, and therefore -
Well, it is evident his lack of readiness to make the Statement today. I would leave it to the Rt Hon Speaker to reschedule. May we now listen to the Hon Member for North Tongu, Hon Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa -- a Statement on the rise in discrimination, intolerance and hate crime. The rise in discrimination, intolerance and hate crimes in the current global context
Mr Speaker, I am most grateful for the opportunity to make this Statement on a rather troubling issue -- the rise in discrimination, intolerance and hate crimes in our world. A few days ago, you admitted a Statement from our Hon Foreign Minister, Hon Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, on the latest incidents of xenophobic attacks in South Africa. While commending the swiftness with which our Government and our Mission in Pretoria acted to protect the estimated 30,000 Ghanaians living in South Africa, what must be clear to us all is that, beyond South Africa, there is a global crisis on discrimination, intolerance and hate crimes, which this House cannot afford to be silent on. There is a great deal of instability in our world today, motivated by bias towards race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender and gender identity. Just this week, the world watched in horror as a white American male, after racial slurs, shot dead an Indian immigrant in a crowded suburban Kansas City bar which left two other men hospitalised. This case is only an addition to the sharp rise in hate crimes, which according to an FBI 2015 Hate Crime Statistics Report -- 7,121 victims of hate crimes were recorded in 2015 alone. Mr. Speaker, on the 26th of February, 2017, thus only a few weeks ago, the German Interior Ministry released a heart- wrenching report on hate crime against migrants in Germany. The report said there were nearly 10 attacks on migrants every day in that country. The Interior Ministry figures for 2016 are as follows: 3,533 attacks on migrants and asylum hostels, 2,545 attacks on individual migrants, 560 people injured, including 43 children, 988 attacks on housing and 217 attacks on refugee organisations and volunteers. On the same day, the German authorities put out this report, a Swedish Asylum Shelter in Vannersborg, which houses 1,200 asylum seekers, was set ablaze injuring 20 people. It may be recalled that, in August last year, the United Nations body -- the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination -- released a report in which it expressed deep concern that some British politicians helped fuel racial hatred during the European Union (EU) Referendum campaign. Indeed, United Kingdom (UK) Police said they received an unusually staggering number of racial reports in excess of 3,000 during the Brexit campaign according to a publication in The Guardian. Mr Speaker, as I make this Statement, the world is grappling with other forms of discrimination and intolerance, including, islamophobia, antisemitism, the targeting and murder of Christians in some parts of the world, and a migrant and refugee crisis all of which forced member States of the United Nations to adopt the historic 19th September, 2016 New York Declaration. In doing so, the General Assembly committed to protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all refugees and migrants, regardless of their status, and to combat xenophobia, racism and discrimination in our societies. The world body has since launched “UN's Together Campaign.” Mr Speaker, in this month of March, our nation will commemorate two auspicious and timely events. First, we will mark 60 years of Independence under the theme, “Mobilising for Ghana's Future”. Undoubtedly, our history as a people who triumphed over older forms of discrimination and human right abuses from the slave trade to colonialism, gives us an important voice as this Parliament rises against the growing intolerance and discrimination in the current global context. Just as our gallant soldiers have established their footprints in peace- keeping operations all over the world, so must this Parliament follow in raising a voice of conscience and courage in condemning all manifestations of intolerance and discrimination. The other event which we have joined the world to observe for decades is the commemoration of the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960, when apartheid police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against the apartheid laws in Sharpeville, South Africa. Since then, every 21st March has been observed as International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Mr Speaker, it is a tragic irony that this year's commemoration will be taking place at a time when black South Africans continue to target African immigrants, since 2008 in bloody xenophobic attacks. Perhaps, the lesson to us is that discrimination and intolerance contrary to popular belief does not always occur between people who appear different and that, ultimately, we should all work towards a fair and just world with opportunities for all. Mr Speaker, it is sad that, despite the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a raft of international human rights instruments, this scourge continues to rise in alarming proportions. It must begin to dawn on us, therefore, that a lot will have to change. Our politics must change; we must end divisiveness, fascism, far right extremism and move towards positive consensus building, and the world must not be afraid to stand up against fascist politicians when they emerge, and no matter where they emerge. International politics must change; exploitation and narrow sectional interests must give way to fair and equity principles. International justice must change; international courts should not carry the perception that some leaders are above its mandate, and that only leaders and perpetrators of crimes against humanity from particular parts of the world can be brought to justice. Media stereotyping must change; terrorism and all forms of crime must be reported as crime with a consciousness that avoids whipping up sentiments against particular religions and other groups.
Mr Speaker, we must all come to the realisation that we need each other and depend on each other to make this world whole and healthy. Imagine a world without chocolates from Ghanaian and Ivorian cocoa, a world without Ghanaian gold, a world without Ethiopian or Kenyan coffee, a world without British tea, a world without coltan from DR Congo or Mozambique for our electronic products, a world without Cuban cigar, a world without Japanese, Korean or American cars, a world without South African or French wine, a world without Saudi, Russian, Iranian or Nigerian oil, and so, the list continues. We all need each other and every country to keep the balance of our planet. Let those harbouring anti-foreign sentiments remember that their own nationals are also living in the home countries of the people they so despise, and therefore, ought to take inspiration from those countries like Ghana, credited with quintessential hospitality towards visitors, even as I will be the first to point out that there are good people in every country and in every community. Mr Speaker, in the meantime, I do hope our Government will take steps that assures all Ghanaian migrants that they have not been forgotten or abandoned in this era of worrisome uncertainty and anti- immigration sentiments in most parts of the world. Ghanaian missions abroad sought to be supported to be more supportive and responsive to our brothers and sisters out there. I thank you for the opportunity to make this Statement. \Mr Second Deputy Speaker: Yes, Hon Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee?
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, I would like to commend the maker of the Statement on this problem that he has spoken about, which is playing on the international scene. Mr Speaker, yesterday, we had the opportunity -- myself and the Committee -- to meet with the Hon Minister for National Security and also the Hon Minister for Foreign Affairs on the issues in South Africa, which was referred to our Committee. I do not want to prelims the content of our Report, which we would lay before this House. Mr Speaker, Ghana and most civilised countries are signatories to a lot of treaties, which include all the human rights treaties and are part of our domestic laws. Mr Speaker, our Constitution also guarantees the rights of citizens and their liberties. The root question that we msut answer or try to answer is, what are the root causes of these hate crimes? We should know whether they are political in nature, religious in nature, and whether they have any socioeconomic bearings or colonial underpinnings. Mr Speaker, I believe the issues that I have mentioned in the area of politics, religion, socio-economic and colonialism, all have a bearing on some of the issues that my Hon Brother from North Tongu raised. Mr Speaker, the United Nations (UN) and other international bodies would always make statements that condemn hate crimes. The Non-Governmental Organisations would organise rallies and demonstrations where there are killings in churches. An example is what took place in Kenya, when Christians were worshipping and were killed. Another is the Boko Haram issues, in Somalia, Germany and the others. Mr Speaker, just last week when the President of Turkey was refused to land his aeroplane in The Netherlands, he used very harsh words on the Dutch people for being fascists and racists. These are some of the things that raises the temperature on the international scene and we all must condemn it. Mr Speaker, if we are able to expand the economies of countries in the third world, some of the things that our citizens go through when they travel abroad would not happen. They would rather want to stay back home and enjoy the comfort of their homes. Mr Speaker, I believe we must do well to ensure that we create enough opportunities in our part of the world, so that we do not go out there to suffer in the hands of our brothers out there. Mr Speaker, there is the issue of law enforcement. Whether migrants or minority groups out there get the best results when they seek justice is another issue which can illuminate some of these hate crimes and other issues that my Hon Collegue raised in his Statement. Mr Speaker, I believe it is an important subject worth discussing on this floor, and I must commend the maker of the Statement and associate myself with it, with these few comments. Thank you very much.
Well, I recognised the -- [Interruption] -- Hon Member, you have not caught my eye, so, you cannot be yielding. Yes, Hon Member for Klottey Korle?
Thank you very much. Mr Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to make a comment on the Statement and also to commend the Hon Member who made the Statement for a brilliant presentation. I would like to make just a few comments on some of the underlying reasons for discrimination, and it is not to condone the existence of discrimination, but it is also to point out the fact that sometimes, the reasons are not as obvious as the differences in our skin tone or religious affiliation. Sometimes, if you peel away the layers enough, you would actually find that it is the discrepancy in the socio-economic status of members of the community that can aggravate such situations. In referring to that, it perhaps should become something that is of concern, to whether it is political leaders or governments worldwide. This is because it is not simply a case of people discriminating against others because they just hate those other people. Perhaps we should look at it as an important part of nation building, regarding the sensitisation of our young people so that by the time they reach that age, they already have a recognition of the fact that our differences are not a reason to hate or destroy one another, but
Just a minute. We would have to extend Sitting just for a few minutes because it is about a minute to 2.00 o'clock. Sitting is hereby extended just for a limited period of time and I would be guided by the Leadership.
I believe you were a student of literature.
Hon Members, we still have one more Statement. I got the information from Leadership that they would want us to take it. Is that still the case? So, let us be guided. I take the second person from the Minority side of the House. That is two- two then we would move to the next Statement.
Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity. I would want to start from where my learned friend, Hon Member for Effutu, Hon Afenyo-Markin left off. Mr Speaker, I would want to concentrate on the tolerance angle of the Statement. We were in this country when Hon Col Agbenaza was appointed as the Hon Minister for the Central Region. We were in this country when we saw Hon Seidu Iddi from the Northern Region appointed as the Volta Regional Minister. We again saw Hon Afotey Agbo, who is an Hon Member of this House, appointed as the Volta Regional Minister. Mr Speaker, such political appoint- ments of persons from different regions to manage other regions engendered tolerance and cooperation. So, Mr Speaker, as stakeholders in the political system, it is important that we ourselves, by our actions display tolerance and cohesion. Mr Speaker it is not sufficient that we meet in this House, deliberate on matters, and then our supporters who are found in the very lowest level of the constituencies and the districts, clash because of political differences, because of religious differences, and sometimes, even on tribal differences. It is sufficient that today we take the opportunity to tell them that they ought to desist from such practices. Mr Speaker, xenophobia does not only mean attacking other persons of different tribal backgrounds or races in other countries. It finds expression in the primariness of everyday activities in this country and the Hon Member who made the Statement is right in saying that it is time that we put a stop to that, so that as a country, we can move forward with a united front. With these few words, I thank you for the opportunity and congratulate my own senior, the Hon Member for North Tongu, Okudzeto Ablakwa. Thank you very much.
Thank you Hon Members. It is really gladdening to hear Hon Members make Statements that would bring the country together. It is very important. We live in a mysterious world and strange things are happening and therefore, it calls for some concerted efforts because “you are because I am, and I am because you are'”. It is important that we tell those who engage in making other people look bad, that it is not a gift. In making people look bad, it is said to be a sickness and people should desist from it. To let us appreciate better what is happening, we should ourselves start looking at how we are ebbing away the values and principles of multi-party democracy. The shine of democracy is dying off because we are not following the tenets, the values and principles of multi-party democracy. That is why strange things are happening now. To assist Hon Members, you may please kindly read some two books: one is titled, “Democracy In Crisis” and the other is titled, ‘Republic on Trial' which is a book on the case for representative democracy and you would understand partly, why strange things are happening. This is because even where they are happening, they are shocking to good people. You saw how Britain itself was shocked when they voted themselves out of the European Union (EU). How America was shocked when Donald Trump won as President. Do not forget the prophecy that was said in as far back as 1920, about democracy. These are some of the things we are experiencing today and so the need for us to come back together to dig deep into ourselves, galvanise and try to rectify the wrongs so that we can move better. Our brothers and sisters outside this House should be made to know that we are friends, we are not enemies. That is the natural course of things, that there must be diversity and that we agree to disagree. It is very important and I want to urge the media to try to convey that aspect to Ghanaians so that we can prevent the unnecessary antagonism of our political culture. Hon Members, we would have few minutes more to take the last Statement which would come from a whole Reverend Minister, Hon Rev John Ntim Fordjour who is the Member of Parliament for Assin South Constituency, and it is on the proliferation of commercial gambling in Ghana. The proliferation of commercial gambling in Ghana Rev John Ntim Fordjour (NPP -- Assin South): Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity afforded me to make this Statement on “The proliferation of commercial gambling in Ghana”. It is worrying to note the wide dispersal of gambling facilities and sports betting shops, throughout the streets and corners of rural and urban areas of Ghana. Availability, convenience and proximity of such gambling and betting facilities, are strong exacerbating factors motivating the youth to engage in gambling activities. [REV. FORDJOUR] [REV. FORDJOUR] In Ghana, gaming activities are regulated by the National Gaming Commission, within the legislative framework of the Gaming Act, 2006 (Act 721). The Ministry of the Interior reports that, as of April 2015, the National Gaming Commission had issued licences to twenty-three (23) casinos, twelve (12) sports betting companies and four (4) route machines (slot machines). However, many gambling and betting facilities exist and proliferate the streets of our country without the authorisation of the National Gaming Commission. The proliferation of casinos, sports betting shops and gaming facilities, come on the heels of expansion activities of licensed companies by way of setting up new outlets in various locations in rural and urban areas, as well as illegal operation of gaming, betting and gambling houses, without the approval of the National Gaming Commission. The regulatory frame of gambling, gaming and betting activities, as by law established in the Gaming Act 2006 (Act, 721), does not provide sufficient control measures for the management of the commerce. Furthermore, the lack of strict enforcement of the gaming laws by the National Gaming Commission and relevant law enforcement agencies, gives room for the proliferation of gambling houses. Research conducted on the Social Impacts of Gambling by Dr. Gerda Reith as published in the Scottish Executive Social Research Report 2006, posits that gambling has tendencies of causing a clinical psychological disorder known as “problem gambling syndrome”. Problem gambling syndrome is a behavioural disorder which is difficult to keep under control and disrupts personal, family, financial and employment relations. It inevitably leads to depression, addiction and in some cases, suicide. It also manifests in other social crises as divorce, financial crises and crimes such as theft and fraud. Commissioned reports of large scale studies into the impacts of gambling reveal that, minimum of sixty-five per cent (65%) of gamblers had been forced to turn to others to seek relief of desperate financial situations caused by gambling. This country does not possess the requisite resilience and capacity to contain the grave ramifications and hazards that the current state of gambling liberalisation potentially poses. There- fore, the proliferation of commercial gambling must be strongly discouraged in our society. Mr Speaker, the principle and practice of commercial gambling and the proliferation thereof, are fundamentally alien to and incongruent with the rich, and bold cultural values of our beloved nation- state Ghana. The out-turn of society in the next thirty (30) years, shall not solely be a function of economic decisions and infrastructural investments, but also significantly, dependent on the socio- cultural decisions and influences we integrate into the society today. In the next 30 years, we do not wish to see a population rather skilful at gambling and objectionable quick-money- genera- ting ventures, flawed with addiction and gambling-related psycho-logical dis- orders. I believe we would wish to build a society of honest, hardworking and productive population, endeavouring within a safe and competitive environment, epitomised by entrerpre- neurial and job opportunities. We should seek to build a society in which our indigenous cultural values are preserved and sustained across successive generations, but not traded for insub- stantial commercial gains. Mr Speaker, in article 39 (1) of the Fourth Republican Constitution of Ghana; the cultural objectives of the Republic of Ghana are stated: “Subject to clause (2) of this article, the State shall take steps to encourage the integration of appropriate customary values into the fabric of national life through formal and informal education and the conscious introduction of cultural dimensions to relevant aspects of national planning”. Clause (2) of article 39 further states that: “The State shall ensure that appropriate customary and cultural values are adapted and developed as an integral part of the growing needs of society as a whole; and in particular that traditional practices which are injurious to the health and well-being of the person are abolished”. Fortified by article 39 of the Fourth Republican Constitution of Ghana afore- stated, I beg to state that the practice of commercial gambling is potentially detrimental to the health and well-being of those who patronise the commerce, most especially our innocent children. Mr Speaker, the liberalisation of the gambling industry has led to increased availability and participation of the exponential growth of the industry itself. As reported by the Ministry of the Interior, the gambling industry generated a revenue GH¢7 million for the government through licensing, between 2011 and 2014. However, the negative effects of gambling on our society cannot be overlooked, neither can we translate such undesirable effects in monetary terms. Mr Speaker, the Gaming Act, 2006 (Act 721), may have to be amended in order to incorporate essential and adequate control measures required to mitigate the proliferation of gambling facilities across the country. While we await a possible amendment of the gaming laws, I wish also to suggest to the Ministry of the Interior, National Gaming Commission, law enforcement agencies and Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs), to collaborate in constituting a gaming regulatory taskforce which would en- sure the conscientious and unbending enforcement of the existing gaming laws. As I conclude, Mr Speaker, may I humbly implore all stakeholders; the media, religious leaders, traditional leaders, relevant State institutions and civil society organisations to join me in the campaign against the proliferation of gambling in Ghana.
Thank you, Hon Member. I would now recognise Hon Agalga.
Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the Statement. I would want to congratulate the Hon Member for that particular Statement.
Mr Speaker, it is true that gaming in Ghana has taken a negative dimension, but at the same time, we should be able to count or tell the successes chalked within the past few years. Mr Speaker, I say this because in 2013, when I was appointed Hon Deputy Minister for the Interior by H.E. ex- President Mahama, and I proceeded to the Ministry to start work, the Gaming Commission, as we had it at the time, was virtually non-existent. So, we settled down to work. What we did was to immediately re-organise the Gaming Commission in tandem with the Gaming Act, 2006. From that time onwards, the Gaming Commission has chalked some successes. At the time we assumed office, the Gaming Commission and its operations were confined largely to Accra and Tema even though we all knew that some gaming-related activities occurred in other parts of the country. So, immediately, we set out on a recruitment drive to enhance the staff strength and capacity of the Gaming Commission. So, largely, the problems that the Gaming Commission is faced with are not directly born out of, maybe, the lacunas in the Act that sets up the Commission. It is largely a question of enforcement of the Act itself. So, without the personnel in place, how do you enforce the Act, which is why we set out on that recruitment drive to enhance the staff capacity of the Commission? As we speak today, the Gaming Commission now has presence in the metropolitan centres of this country namely, Accra, Sekondi-Takoradi, Kumasi and Tamale.
Markin — rose
Yes, Hon Member?
Hon Member, that is the preparatory stage. Normally, experts of various fields and not only lawyers are contracted to assist Government departments to craft these legislations before they pass them on through their Ministries and the long process before they even come to the Attorney-General's Department. So, I think it is lawful.
Mr Speaker, to conclude, I wish to add that gaming per se is not bad. In fact, like the Hon Member who made the Statement rightly put it, it is one of the main revenue earnings of many countries across the world. At the Ministry of the Interior itself, following the reorganisation of the Gaming Commission under the watch of former President Mahama, the Commission was able to rake in a lot of revenue. At that time, it became one of the leading organisations in terms of its internally generated funds for the country. Mr Speaker, so, while we must ensure that the safeguards that have already been provided for in the Act are strictly complied with, we should also look at ways of equipping the Commission very well to carry on its enforcement activities. This is because if we streamline gaming in this country, we stand to benefit. In most countries, a lot of revenue is raked in from gaming activities. With those words, I congratulate the Hon Member who made the Statement. Mr Speaker, lastly, because of the ability of the Commission to rake in a lot of revenue, it was able to wean itself from Government subvention; that speaks volumes about the amount of revenue we could rake in from the Commission if we were able to properly resource the Commission itself, and recruit more, so that it can have presence in all the regions to carry out its mandate. Thank you.
Mr Speaker, I am most grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the Statement made by Hon Fordjour on this gaming issue. Mr Speaker, I think the problem that he sought to raise is more to do with the proliferation of these Chinese games that have sprang up all over our communities in Ghana.
Hon Member, I think that is the angle from which you would want to take it. That is not the thrust of the Statement, but you are allowed to take it from that angle. Shy away from being specific about the
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, the gaming business has been a culture that has been living with us since time immemorial, to the extent that in 1960, the National Lotteries and Betting Act was enacted. In 1961, the National Weekly Lotto Act was also enacted. These were all to regulate the gaming and lottery business to the extent that the nation would benefit and also give opportunities for revenue to be generated among other things to also regulate the lotto business. Mr Speaker, what my Hon Colleague has mentioned raises concern for us to look at, it especially in the area of enforcement, so that the Gaming Act, even though seeking to rake in revenue for the country, we would regulate it to the extent that our children, especially those below the age of 18 years will not participate. But when we go to our various communities, you will find that this game by the Chinese, which they call John Bull, is having a very negative toll on attendance of pupils in schools. Mr Speaker, I would add my voice to that of the Hon Member who made the Statement, that we look at it so that the appropriate bodies to enforce it would come in and ensure that our children do not participate in games which otherwise would have negative effects on their lives. With these few words, Mr Speaker, I would want to associate myself with the Hon Member who made the Statement. Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Hon Members, I would want to give opportunity to those who have not spoken at all today. So, those of you who have had your bite, kindly give way to those who have not had it at all. So, I would recognise -- [Interruption] -- Hon Member, please kindly tell me your name and Constituency.
Mr Speaker, I am Derek Ohene Assifo Bekoe of Upper West Akim Constituency. Mr Speaker, thank you for giving me this opportunity to add my voice to the Statement made by the Hon Member. In fact, this issue of gaming is a major case of concern in our constituencies. This House would have to look at it and make decisions which would change the direction at which it is moving. We are talking of education, education and education. We are finding ways to improve upon standards. But with the advent and emergence of this gaming in our various constituencies, it is directly affecting the performance of our children especially in the basic schools. As a District Chief Executive in Upper West Akim, we conducted a survey and the Assembly made a move to stop this in the constituency. You can find these machines in every corner, in front of shops and we know that by the act of gaming, they are supposed to be in areas that are protected, of which children under 18 would not have access to participate in this gaming exercise. But unfortunately, the adverse is the case. Mr Speaker, we can find these games all over this country. The owners come weekly and collect the moneys and nobody assesses the gains that they make in terms of profits and the taxes that they are supposed to pay. They are causing a lot of harm to our children. Mr Speaker, let us once again look at the Act. By looking at the Act, I know it protects children and there is a penalty to this, but unfortunately, the enforcement is not there. All over our communities, we have these games in all corners. Are we building a nation? Are we trying to protect our children for the future? Mr Speaker, however, it is unfortunate to note that, if this House and the country as a whole should ignore this caution of regulating the gaming exercise, as the new emergence in our society, then we are fighting a lost battle when it comes to our education. On this note, Mr Speaker, I would like to add my voice to let this House act and take very serious measures to this issue so that the trend could change for us to have a positive outcome in our educational sector.
Is the Hon Member on her feet to contribute?
Would the Hon Second Deputy Majority Whip want to contribute? [Interruption.] All right. Then, that would be the last.
Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Statement ably read by our Hon Colleague. Mr Speaker, the Act governing gaming has given the opportunity for the country to regulate and at the same time make revenue. At the end of it all, we are also experiencing that other aspects of the gaming is affecting our school-going children and youth negatively. Mr Speaker, affection for science and mathematics has become a challenge for this country, and any time that is needed to make sure our children are gathered so well to learn is very crucial at this material moment. Mr Speaker, I would want to believe that parents and everybody in this country must be guided. We have seen it in our constituencies, especially at odd times or hours that we expect our children to be at home and learn. These are the times that our children get into these areas and do these illegal gaming we are all talking about. I believe that opinion leaders, assemblymen and women, unit committee members, and Members of Parliament in our communities must consider this as a very serious thing. Mr Speaker, in my constituency for instance, where I grew up, we all know that it gets to a time when children are supposed to go back home and do some chores. At the Commonwealth Hall in the University of Ghana, Legon, one would realise that, children came out on time because there was a point where one saw them playing around the trees within the hall, but within 30 minutes, one would not see any child around again. They would have gone back home to do what is very important.
Mr Speaker, if gaming at this material moment is taking the crucial hours of our children and students from learning, then I believe that this Statement is timeous and as a House, we must take it seriously and move forward from it. Let us work hard and make sure that we do whatever we can to regulate and also implement efficiently and effectively the laws, to make sure that the revenue we are generating would not be at the expense of the future generation of this country. Mr Speaker, with these few words, I thank you for the time and opportunity.
I thank you very much, Hon Members. I agree with you that it is a very important Statement and the contributions have shown that we have a rich store of knowledge and experience in that sector. Therefore, let us take advantage of the new leaf of life in the interpretation of article 108, by taking up the matter ourselves and submitting a Private Member's Bill. That definitely we can do with what I have heard from Hon Members. You have that ability and we should encourage Hon Members to do that. It is a matter of amending an existing Act and updating it. I am sure you can do that. So, let us try and submit a Private Member's Bill on this matter. But it is important, in my view, to add that, quality of life is not by chance; it is by choice. So, we should try to educate the youth, that people do not just reach where they are by chance. Every successful person has a painful story and every painful story has a successful ending. So, please, let us accept the pain and get ready for the success. That is what life is about. It is not by chance. Again, I would want to urge Hon Members to let us work on these things ourselves and not depend on the Executive to be submitting Bills to us. With these, I believe, I have the power and authority to adjourn the House till tomorrow, Friday. The House is so adjourned.
The House was adjourned at 2.45 p.m. till Friday, 17th March, 2017 at 10.00 a.m.