ISSUED IN ACCRA (MAY 18, 2016)
Dearly Beloved citizens and men and women of goodwill resident in Ghana, we, the members of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the Christian Council of Ghana, send you our warmest greetings of peace and love. We believe that the joy of the Risen Lord still remains with you and continue to fill you with hope.
Deliberations of the 2016 Joint Meeting
We have just concluded our May 2016 Annual Joint Meeting, held at St. Theresa Catholic Church, Kaneshie, Accra, during which we prayed and discussed issues of both Church and national importance. At the end of our meeting, we deem it appropriate as Christian religious leaders of our land to bring the following pertinent issues affecting our nation to the attention of our Government and our citizens so we can all participate in the process of addressing them together as one united and peaceful people.
National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS)
The state of the National Health Insurance Scheme continues to engage our attention and consideration. We are worried that after almost ten years of its implementation, the Scheme continues to grapple with teething problems such as the continuous and repeated failure to reimburse healthcare facilities on time, the incessant threats of court action and service withdrawal by service providers, among others. This situation is making the sustainability of the Scheme very precarious. Needless to say, our health facilities are collapsing under the Scheme and the frustration of both staff and patients is unbearable.
We reiterate the appeal we have been making all this while that as a matter of urgency, Government should collaborate with all stakeholders to come up with a clear and workable roadmap for the sustainability of the Scheme. Our institutions pioneered health insurance schemes in the country before it was adopted as a national policy and so we are ready to lead the process.
Proposed National Secretariat for Health Training Institutions
We strongly reject the fact that Religious Bodies which own and manage some Health Training Institutions in the country were ignored in the proposal to set up a National Secretariat at the Ministry of Health to regulate operations of such institutions in the country. Considering the fact that Christian Health Association of Ghana (CHAG) institutions owned by us provide about 40% of all health service delivery in the country, we consider it unfortunate that we were ignored in this exercise. We wish to state that Churches with Health Training Institutions will continue to maintain ownership and management of such institutions as per the existing Memorandum of Understanding and any attempts to compel us to do otherwise will not be welcomed.
Memorandum of Understanding on Church – State Partnership in Education
Religious and other Bodies with schools have partnered the State in education service delivery over the years, a partnership which has ensured easy access, academic excellence and holistic moral upbringing of students in schools. Unfortunately, the absence of any mutually accepted signed document to guide this Partnership over the years has led to the gradual and systematic weakening of our stake in education delivery, evident in the lack of collaboration with our Educational Managers, the withdrawal of their Government grants and the general frustration of their work by some officials of the Ghana Education Service. Recent efforts by Religious and Other Bodies to formalise a partnership Agreement has received no positive response.
We are aware that there are plans to formulate a new Education Bill. We strongly recommend that the Bill should take into consideration the proposals contained in the draft Memorandum of Understanding on Education Partnership submitted by us and currently before the Ghana Education Service, the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service Council.
In the light of past and recent studies, we urge Government to take a second look at the issue of the 3-year and 4-year duration at the Senior High School (SHS) level. We recommend the adoption of a two – tier approach as contained in the Prof. Anamuah-Mensah Committee report.
We deplore and condemn the perennial problem of examination malpractices and call for swift action to deal with it to eliminate it completely. Making attempts to explain the problem away does not help in any way to resolve the problem but rather worsens it, leading to the situation where some teachers, students, parents, schools and education officials think that the best way to pass examinations is to cheat or assist students to do that.
We urge all stakeholders in Ghana’s education delivery to help bring perpetrators to book to serve as a deterrent to others. Those charged with the conduct of examinations in the country should see it as their bounden duty to lead the efforts and to collaborate with all stakeholders to nip the problem of examination malpractices in the bud.
We note the efforts being made by Government to put Ghana’s economy in good shape and pray that these efforts will yield their intended results. We also commend Government and the National Development Planning Commission for initiating the process to develop a 40-year long-term National Development Plan for our country. We, however, think that Government can still do more to save the economy of our country from its current unstable and precarious state by creating more jobs for the youth and following prudent economic policies. Government needs the support of all Ghanaians to fight the canker of corruption which has pervaded every sector of Ghanaian life.
We pray that in taking social and economic decisions, Government will always be guided by the principle of Ghana first at all times.
Sanitation and Environmental Destruction
In many parts of the country, there is monstrous and reckless exploitation of our forests and land resources, indiscriminate mining activities, pollution of rivers and other water bodies and general lackadaisical attitude towards sanitation. We urge fellow Ghanaians to understand that we have a God-given duty to care for the earth our common home for our own good and for the good of the generations of people to come after us.
2016 General Elections
We note with worry and anxiety the current political atmosphere leading up to elections later this year and wish to call on all politicians and their supporters to be circumspect and decorous in their utterances and actions. We are distressed and worried by the current display of political impunity and complacency evident in intimidation, accusations, counter-accusations, hate speeches, intra-party and inter-party violence, threats of kidnapping and murder, among others. These acts are poisoning the political atmosphere and so we call on all politicians and their followers to exercise restraint and help calm the emerging political tensions in the country.
The problems associated with the recent limited registration exercise have convinced us that some politicians and political parties will do anything and everything to win political power at all cost. We are ashamed by the reported cases of violence, the transportation of foreigners to register and the registration of minors during the exercise. This is a sad commentary on our acclaimed democratic credentials and we call on those involved to bow down their heads in shame. We urge our politicians to cease making elections a matter of life and death for Ghanaians. We equally urge our citizens to reject those who come to win their support with propaganda, money and gifts because such people will not do anything for them when they win political power.
The Electoral Commission bears the primary responsibility to conduct free, fair, transparent and credible elections in Ghana. Therefore, we expect the Commission to engender confidence among all players and continue to remain neutral, fair, honest and transparent in all its actions and decisions. The Commission should continue the process of engagement with all political parties and other stakeholders on the way forward for the elections. Pertinent issues such as the problems associated with the limited voter registration exercise, the cleaning of the Voters’ Register as ruled by the Supreme Court, biometric verification, among others, need to be addressed now. Related critical issues, including what the EC intends to do with the proposed Steering Committee as well as the needed reforms to the electoral system as submitted by the Reforms Committee and the way forward for the recommendations of the 5-member Prof. VCRAC Crabbe Committee must be made known now.
The proposed November 2016 elections may seem to be far but they are not. Thus, we appeal to the EC to act expeditiously and come up with a clear roadmap for the impending elections. We pledge our support and prayers for the process.
Power Outages in Ghana (Dumsor)
We welcome the progress made so far to resolve the unfortunate situation of dumsor which has seriously affected the overall economy of the country in the past three years and more and pray that in the not too distant future, dumsor will be a thing of the past. We, however, note with worry the “unstable” power supply situation as well as the frequent system failure and astronomical electricity tariffs and call on the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) and Northern Electricity Department (NED) to address these concerns.
Religious Fanaticism and Threats against Religious Leaders
We note with sadness and grief recent threats against some Religious leaders in the country and strongly condemn these threats and call on all Ghanaians to do the same. We believe in the ability of the police and other security agencies to deal with these issues and call for their swift action to apprehend and deal with those involved.
The issue of religious fanaticism and fundamentalism which has reared its ugly head in Ghana in recent times is regrettable. Some so-called men and women of God are blatantly displaying their religious prowess and making gullible people believe that they have answers to all their problems. We urge all Ghanaians to beware of these charlatans so as not to fall prey to their machinations. Our various Religious Bodies are ready to help address the religious excesses and other such negative activities of these so-called men of God.
Migration outside Africa
We are saddened by the news of many African migrants perishing in the deserts of northern Africa and the Mediterranean Sea and call on African states and Governments to institute proactive measures to curb this tragedy. Migration of Africans to South America is also becoming an emerging danger. We strongly urge African governments to do all they can to create the necessary conducive political and socio-economic environments and employment opportunities for our teeming unemployed youth. We equally encourage African youth to stay in their home countries and work hard to earn their daily keep. They must not assume that Europe and other places outside Africa guarantee automatic comforts and pleasure.
The threat posed by Fulani herdsmen
Inasmuch Ghanaians respect and abide by the ECOWAS policy of free movement of persons, goods and services, they equally are obliged to protect their lives and properties from the negative effect of the invasion of Fulanis and their cattle in some parts of the country. We therefore urge our Government to do well in dealing with the menace posed by the negative activities of Fulani herdsmen in the country.
Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunication Messages Bill 2015
We think that the proposed Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunications Messages Bill 2015 is unnecessary and call for it to be withdrawn. According to the memorandum accompanying the Bill, the Bill is to combat crime, suppress organized crime including money laundering and terrorism, and protect national security. We believe that there are existing laws which deal with these issues. These laws, including the Criminal Offences Act 1960, (Act 29) the Postal and Courier Services Regulatory Commission Act 2003 (Act 649) and the Narcotic Drugs Law (Control, Enforcement, Sanctions)1990 (PNDC Law 236), all deal with acts envisaged in the Bill. Besides, the proposed Bill risks infringing the fundamental human rights and freedoms of people as enshrined in the 1992 Constitution, and giving unfettered powers to the National Security Coordinator who could use the powers conferred on him to interfere with persons perceived to be “enemies” of the state. For these reasons, we think that Parliament must not pass this Bill but rather find ways to strengthen the existing laws meant to achieve the same ends envisioned in the Bill.
As people who cherish peace, harmony and unity, we must continue to act and speak in ways that will lead to peace and unity. In all our actions, we must put Ghana first, doing away with whatever tarnishes the good name of Ghana but working hard in all circumstances to promote the wellbeing of our country and to develop the motherland today and the years to come.
We pray that the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit may be with us all.
God bless our homeland Ghana and make our nation great and strong!
MOST REV. JOSEPH OSEI-BONSU
PRESIDENT, GHANA CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE
MOST REV. TITUS K. AWOTWI PRATT
VICE CHAIRMAN, CHRISTIAN COUNCIL OF GHANA