Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Review 1992 Constitution - Meissner

Even though Ghana's present democracy owes its strength to the 1992 Constitution, it needs to be reviewed to deepen the democratic understanding and identification in the society. Miss Kathrin Meissner, Resident Director of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), a German political foundation FES, who made the call, said "Reviewing the Constitution is a great opportunity to create and affirm the consensus for the country's political system".She was speaking at a public lecture, organised by the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (GAAS) in collaboration with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), a German political foundation, on challenges identified in operating the 1992 Constitution in Ghana, under the theme: "Constitutional Review in Ghana", in Accra on Monday.Miss Meissner expressed regret that in many countries the constitution had been formally formulated merely on paper but the situation on the ground did not reflect the reality of its adherence. Speaking on the topic "Challenges Identified in Operating the 1992 Constitution," Prof. Samuel O. Gyandoh of the Temple University in Philadelphia, USA, described a constitution as a living organism that must grow with the times and like human conditions there was more room for improvement."We can adapt the constitution to changing times by timely amendments and judicial interpretations," he said.Prof. Gyandoh said compared with the previous constitutions of Ghana, the 1992 Constitution was unique in terms of the structure of government machinery that it has created.He mentioned the Independence Constitution of 1957, First Republican Constitution of 1960, the Second Republican Constitution of 1969, and the Third Republican Constitution of 1979 as constitutions that preceded the 1992 Constitution.Prof. Gyandoh noted that the 1979 constitution separated the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary, and provided a flexible system of checks and balances.He said the 1979 Constitution, however, abandoned the "unstable cabinet system of government under which the idea of ministerial responsibility to parliament was subjected to national election." Comparing the 1992 Constitution with the 1979 Constitution in terms of Executive Presidency and Parliamentary Governance, Prof. Gyandoh noted that while the 1979 Constitution required a Member of Parliament nominated for ministerial appointment by the President to resign from Parliament, the 1992 Constitution provided that the majority of ministers of state should be appointed from Parliament."This unnecessarily weakens Parliament while correspondingly creating what looks like an imperial Presidency," he lamented. Prof. Gyandoh said the provision had skewed the architecture of the Constitution but he expressed the hope that it could be easily corrected by restoring balance and proportions to the 1992 Constitution. He suggested that "We can simply remove Article 78(1) from the Constitution and then take care of any consequential refinement of the text to conform to the excision".Prof. Mike Oquaye, Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament, said there was the need for the 1992 Constitution to lay foundation for affirmative action to provide appreciable quotas for women in areas such as education, public life and political representation. He said "Some wrong has been done to females from childhood to adulthood for so long that the fundamental law should provide a sound basis for action".Prof. Oquaye called for the extension of maternal leave from three months to six months to enable mothers adequately care for their babies. On the issue of transition from one government to another and end of service benefits, he recommended "tight provisions" to be made in the Constitution streamlining all entitlements with the wisdom of hindsight. Prof. Mike Oquaye said "One clear provision should be made, that is, no public or civil servant or minister should be entitled to purchase a duty post vehicle in the future under any circumstances". He also noted that the constitutional position of the Electoral Commission relating to its being answerable to the courts for its work was problematic."The ambiguity, if any, should be removed on the occasion of constitutional reform before it rocks the Republic in future, as it nearly did early 2009," Prof. Mike Oquaye said.The three-day public lecture was to mark the 50th Anniversary of GAAS and the 40th for FES.

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