A private legal practitioner has cautioned the Electoral Commission (EC) not to use the issue of undocumented Ghanaians as an excuse to delay the implementation of the Representation of the People Amendment Act (ROPAA).
Samson Lardy Anyenini said the fate of the illegal persons residing abroad cannot be tied to that of those who live in those countries legitimately.
“If you use unorthodox means, unlawful processes to find your way abroad, we shall not count you and you shall have no right to say you ought to vote. So why are some people thinking about that class of people?
“If you decide that you will travel abroad in a way that you are not documented and you live in a country illegally, why should we be interested in entertaining you as one of us for which reason we should wait and not implement a law for those who are living in those countries lawfully,” he queried.
Mr Anyenini made the comments while he addressed a programme organised by the Centre for Social Democracy on the theme ‘The way forward for the implementation of the Representation of the People Amendment Act’.
The ROPAA passed 12 years ago by Parliament will provide an opportunity for Ghanaians living abroad to participate in general elections.
However, the EC has since its passing failed to implement the Act. An earlier reason given by the Commission when it was chaired by Charlotte Osei for its failure to implement the law was the unavailability of the required resources.
Not even a suit and an order by the Accra High Court in 2017 for the Commission to begin the process of implementation has caused it to act.
In that case, the Presiding judge, Justice Anthony Yeboah, chided the EC for breaching the rights of Ghanaians living abroad by failing to give them an opportunity to vote.
He thus condemned the EC’s failure to address challenges preventing Ghanaians living abroad from voting, and specifically asked them to ensure that arrangements are made for such people to vote in the 2020 elections.
If the processes had started as the court had ordered, the EC should have completed the process by the end of 2018.
Jean Mensa is Chair of the EC
The Commission now chaired by Jean Mensa attributes its failure to implement the law when they took over from the previous administration to the December 2018 Referendum and the creation of the six new regions it has had to oversee in the early days of its tenure.
However, five citizens who have questioned the EC’s failure to implement the law filed an application at the High Court citing all seven members of the Commission of contempt.
The applicants; Dr. Kofi Boateng, Agyenim Boateng, Nellie Kemevor, Obed Danquah and Christian Sillim; are praying the Court to commit the EC Chairperson, Jean Mensa and six others to a jail term for disobeying its order.
Mr Anyenini who represents the applicants is unhappy with the EC over how it has handled the issue so far and casts doubts on the Commission’s commitment to ensuring the full implementation of the Act.
“No amount of convincing by the EC will get me to believe that they are committed. They have gone to sleep from day one, except setting up a committee.”