Referendum To Amend Constitution In The Offing

Ghanaians would soon be called upon to decide in a referendum on the three critical reviews of portions of the 1992 constitution which are abolition of the death penalty, declaration of war by the President and the swearing- in of the President before parliament by the chief Justice.

The proposed amendments will replace the death penalty with life imprisonment whilst the declaration of war by the President will be subjected to parliamentary approval within 72 hours with two-thirds majority endorsing and that the President, under certain circumstances, should be sworn-in anywhere not before Parliament but by a high court judge.

Mrs. Estelle Appiah, a member of the Constitution Review Implementation Committee (CRIC), said this at the Central Regional edition of CRIC’s regional stakeholder briefing on the recommendations for amendments of the constitution held at Elmina.

Mrs. Appiah said the referendum would be held alongside the local and district assembly elections to cut down cost and at least 40 percent of the total voting population was expected to take part out of which 75 percent votes would validate a particular position.

The entrenched constitutional provisions required a referendum where the general public would have a say, while those made under the non-entrenched clauses only required representatives of the people in parliament to endorse.

Other recommendations for amendment under the entrenched clauses are that the Prerogative of Mercy in offences such as high treason, armed robbery, murder and narcotic related offences would no longer be a reserve for the President but be determined by an independent committee to reduce favouritism and abuse of that power on the part of the President.

Mrs. Appiah said Parliament would soon be empowered to vary the retiring age of certain categories of public servants if article 199 of the 1992 constitution is amended as recommended by Constitution Review Commission (CRC)

Even though the commission is not against the current retiring age of 60 years and recommends that it is maintained, it believes that the variation would reflect the specific needs of individual public services such as medicine and academia, where it takes a long time for one to specialize yet retire soon after.

Mrs. Appiah said the commission further recommends the establishment of an Independent Emolument Commission (IEC) as an independent constitutional body to determine the emoluments of all public officers, including retirement benefits, pensions and gratuities.

She said these recommendations and others were drawn out for amendment after consultations with stakeholders following the submission of inputs from the public to the CRC.

Mrs Appiah said the comprehensive nationwide consultation process yielded oral, written as well as individual and collective submissions to the Commission and that the total number of submissions received, proceed, coded and stored in a data base were 83,161.

The Director of Programmes of the National Commission for Civic Education, Mr. Samuel Akowah Boateng, said the review was to strengthen the constitution to be practicable and urged the public to go out in their numbers and vote during the referendum.

Some participants at the briefing raised concerns about certain aspects of the review such as the abolition of the death penalty and the declaration of war arguing that the abolition of the death penalty could lead to high armed robbery cases.