PARTICIPANTS at a symposium in Accra today (Tuesday) concluded that the Ghana Police Service has failed to demonstrate to the general public its neutrality in the pending elections.
The basis for that conclusion was that the Service had not taken opportunities of public forums and discussion platforms to engage the public, on a one to one basis to discuss concerns and dispel fears, but rather puts out high profile stories in major news papers and electronic media on their activities.
This, among other issues, was raised at the symposium organised by the Graduate School of Governance, Leadership and Public Management of the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) in Accra today.
The topic for the forum was “Towards violence free elections: The role of the EC, security agencies, political parties and civil society.”
It brought together representatives of four political parties, officers of the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF), representatives of civil society organisations and constitutional civic and human rights organisations.
The Ghana Police Service, organisers said, was invited like all the other stakeholders, but did not show up.
There was general agreement at the symposium that the Ghana Police Service was the key institution in ensuring the rule of law, peace and security of prior to, during and after the December 7, 2008 polling.
The first to take the police to task was the Executive Director of the Institute for Economic and Democratic Governance (IDEG), Dr Emmanuel Akwettey.
He said through an initiative that brought together a number of civil society organisations to ensure credible elections, called the Civic Forum Initiative (CFI) attempts had been made to engage the police service to engender dialogue and public trust.
However, all their attempts to get representatives of the service had proved futile.
Dr Akwettey said the police of all security agencies, was the institution that had to be closest to the public particularly during the elections.
He said opportunities for the Service to dialogue with the public, dispel misgivings on police action and inaction, all helped to promote peace and not the organisation of mock drills.
“Mock drills and front page stories in newspapers will not dispel the perceptions of the partiality of the Service, but talking directly in forums like this will help build the public’s confidence in their work,” he added.
The General Secretary of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Mr Johnson Asiedu Nketiah, said the Ashanti Regional Police and the Volta Regional Police Commanders had made public statements to the effect that they were against some political parties and were focused on supporting the party of the ruling government.
He said this and the fact that the clashes in Gushiegu about a month ago had appeared not to have yielded any response from the ruling government and the police were worrying.
The Deputy Director General of Joint Operations of the Ghana Armed Forces, Col Ben Gborglah, when he took his turn emphasised that the Ghana Police Service was the “lead” institution in ensuring the rule of law, peace and security, at all times and in elections.
He said it was only when the police were overwhelmed by circumstances that the military would come in to support.
Col Gblorglah said in the plan of action for the elections, a rapid deployment force would be deployed at strategic areas in all districts nation-wide.
Although they would be out of sight, they would be readily at hand to support in the quelling of any disturbance at short notice.
He expressed the hope that that would instil confidence in people and be enough deterrent to trouble makers.
The acting Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Mr Richard Quayson, said 350 observers and monitors of the commission had so far been trained.
He disclosed that as part of the Commission’s initiatives to ensure the intergrity of the electoral process, the print and electronic media would be monitored to find out whether they adhered to best practices during elections.
Mr Quasyson said CHRAJ would also do a post election monitoring and a conflict resolution mechanism for any conflicts arising after the process.
Other speakers at the forum were the Deputy Chairman of Operations of the Electoral Commission (EC), Mr Sarfo Katanka, a Deputy Chairman of the National Commission on Civic Education, Mr Baron Boafo, the national chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Mr Mac Manu, Mr Ekow Duncun of the Convention People’s Party (CPP), Mr Emmanuel Wilson, the National Youth Organiser of the People’s National Convention (PNC).