The Minority has filed a motion in Parliament calling for the outright rejection of the new Constitutional Instrument (CI) the Electoral Commission (EC) laid in Parliament to make Ghana Card and the Ghanaian passport the only legal identification documents for registering people in the new biometric voters’ register.
The motion was filed by the Member of Parliament for Bawku Central, Mr Mahama Ayariga, on behalf of the Minority, seeking the two-thirds of legislators to reject the Public Elections (Amendment) Regulations 2020 CI 126.
Following the filing of the motion on May 19, 2020, the Business Committee of Parliament will have to decide on a date Mr Ayariga will be allowed to move the motion on the floor to put up argument for the rejection of the C.I.
After that, legislators from both sides of the House will be allowed to debate the motion and a vote taken.
If the majority of MPs (two-thirds) vote in favour of the motion, the Minority’s call for the new C.I. to be rejected would hold but if majority legislators kick against it, the motion will automatically need to go through the 21 continuous sitting days to mature and come into force.
The C.I. was first laid before the House on March 16, 2020 but was withdrawn and relaid on two occasions.
As of Wednesday, May 20, 2020, it had spent 10 sitting days in the House after it was laid for the third time.
Per the instrument, those who do not have either of the two national identification documents can, however, go ahead to register, on condition that they can be backed by two persons who have already registered.
The C.I., which will amend the relevant law or C.I. 91, was signed by the Chairperson of the EC, Mrs Jean Adukwei Mensa, and laid before the House by the Majority Leader, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu.
Rationale for motion
Explaining the rationale behind his decision to file the motion, Mr Ayariga said when a C.I. was laid in Parliament and matured after 21 sitting days when there is no objection, it would come into force.
However, he said should there be an objection to it becoming a law, there should be a two-thirds of members of the House voting to reject it.
He said strongly objected to the C.I. coming into force, hence the proper procedure was to come by a motion and make a case in the House why legislators needed to vote by a two-thirds majority to reject the C.I. to prevent it.
A former Chairman of the Subsidiary Legislative Committee, Mr Ayariga said when an L.I. or C.I. was brought and laid in the House, no action by the committee, including writing or refusing to write a report on the instrument, would not affect its coming into force after 21 continuous sitting.
“Whether the Subsidiary Legislative Committee meets or not, presents a report or does not, after 21 days the C.I. that, had been validly laid, automatically comes into force,” he said.
He said while the committee could make recommendations for the proponents of the C.I., the EC, to effect changes, under the Constitution the committee could not amend the C.I., saying that “you can accept it whole or you reject outright as a whole.”
“After the C.I. had been laid, there is nothing the committee can do about. The committee can decide not to meet and Parliament can decide not to debate it and after 21 days, the C.I. automatically becomes law,” he said.
“So the only way that anybody can arrest the C.I. is not to wait for committee’s report, but moving a motion, calling on MPs to reject it and having the Speaker admit the motion and have it debated for me to argue why the C.I. must not come into force, after which MPs will be given the opportunity to debate and vote on it,” he said.
Mr Ayariga pointed out that Article 42 of the Constitution required that any citizen of 18 years and of sound mind was entitled to be registered, and therefore questioned why the EC brought a C.I., which in the past had had the birth certificate as one of the documents that could be used to establish one’s eligibility but currently took out the same birth certificate which was the only primary source of verification of one’s age.
He also questioned why the passport office would accept one’s birth certificate as a determinant of one’s age, nationality and eligibility yet the EC would not accept the same birth certificate but would accept the passport which was a secondary document.