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Gov't is neutral in referendum process to create six new regions-Dan Botwe

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The Minister for Regional Reorganization and Development, Dan Botwe says at this stage of the referendum process to create six new regions, the ministry has taken a neutral position so that government will not be seen as advocating for the process to go a particular direction.

He said government is neither spending any money nor is campaigning ahead of the December 27, referendum.

He noted that government is only facilitating the process by linking institutions for a smooth process.

Speaking on the maiden show of ‘‘We The People’’ on GTV, Mr. Botwe said the EC has done enough sensitization for the proposed new regions to meet the threshold of at least 50% turnout on the referendum day and 80% of the voters to vote ‘‘YES’’.

He added that it behoves the petitioners to campaign extensively to get the eligible voters to go out in their numbers and vote.

“We the People ‘ premiers on GTV, GTV Govern; A GJA STAR Ghana partnership to deepen citizens participation in local governance

The show is a monthly programme which will be telecasted live on GTV. It is a platform aimed at bringing together experts and various groups including journalists, civil society actors, and persons with disabilities (PWDs) to discuss critical local governance issues.

The maiden edition which was moderated by the Executive Director of the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG), Dr Emmanuel Akwetey focused on the topic ‘‘ Creation of New Regions: YES or NO’’.

Dr. Akwetey said the referendum on the creation of new regions reflects the ambitious plan of President Akufo-Addo to devolve more power and resources to regions, districts and communities across the country.

He appealed to Ghanaians to ensure that the referendum is peaceful and it should reflect the best interest in the will of the people.

On the show was the Minister of Regional Reorganization and Development, Dan Botwe who noted that the President was purely responding to the demands of the people to create new regions hence the need for the referendum.

Explaining the process, Mr. Botwe said the Constitution says that people can petition the President to either create new regions, alter the boundaries of existing regions or merge two or more regions.

The President can also without petition from the people, on his own, trigger the process. He added that in this case, it was the people who petitioned the President to create the proposed six new regions.

He said seed money of 20 million Ghana cedis has been approved by government for any new region that will be created after the referendum.

In total, 120 million Ghana cedis has been set aside for the six proposed new regions. He assured Ghanaians particularly those at the proposed new regions that the police and other national security operatives are on the ground to ensure a peaceful, free and fair referendum.

The other panelist on the show, Dr Kwesi Jonah who is a Senior Research Fellow at IDEG, said the petitions that were sent to the President for the creation of new regions were as a result of grievances of the people in the area of the referendum.

He said some of the grievances include difficulty in accessing services, poor road infrastructure and neglect in political appointments.

On the issue of neutrality on the part of government, Dr Jonah argued that government can remain neutral as far YES or NO vote is concerned but cannot remain neutral in the matter of intimidation and violence. He said anybody eligible to vote must be allowed to vote in peace.

Opportunity was also given to the studio guests to either contribute or ask questions. Three questions were asked and the panellists addressed the issues.

First, a legal practitioner, Samson Lardi Ayenini asked ‘‘If you get a No instead of a YES vote, what happens? Will the process be started all over again to secure a YES vote or the petitioners would have lost and therefore the dream of a new region would have been abandoned’’?.

In response, Mr. Botwe said if a region doesn’t get YES then the region lose out and they may go through the process again.

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