Canberra, 6th March, 2013
Your Excellency the Chief of Protocol
Your Excellencies Heads of Diplomatic Missions
Ladies and Gentlemen
I wish to thank you all for making the time to attend this reception in commemoration of the 56th Anniversary of Ghana’s independence which brings to mind the historic date of 6th March, 1957 when the Gold Coast, as it was then called, under the leadership of the visionary founding father, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah of blessed memory, liberated itself from British colonial rule and began life as a sovereign nation under the name Ghana in the international community. On 1st July, 1960 Ghana became a Republic headed by an Executive President. It is a time for the nation to reflect on the past, celebrate its achievements, and look to the future with its perceived potentials and challenges.
As I have said on every such occasion, Ghana has had a chequered history of nationbuilding, as would be expected of any colonial territory acquiring sovereign status. Thankfully, the socio-political turbulence that the nation underwent during the period reached a watershed with the adoption of the 4th Republican Constitution in 1992, which marked the advent of Democracy and the Rule of Law in Ghana. The free and fair elections that were held that year have been followed by five more successful democratic elections, the latest being the Presidential and Parliamentary elections held on 7th December, 2012.
In this context I wish to highlight one significant, albeit sad and unprecedented event in the political history of Ghana, which occurred in the course of 2012, and which ironically served to buttress the democratic credentials of the nation. As some of you may recall, on 24th July 2012, Ghana for the first time in its history lost a sitting President, when the Head of State, HE Prof, John Evans Atta Mills suddenly passed away, after battling unsuccessfully with throat cancer. The massive outpouring of grief that gripped the 2 nation at the outbreak of the news, transcended all political rivalries and divisions, and brought the population together to respectfully mourn and farewell a fallen leader. In the same breath, I wish to express profound gratitude, to all the friends and wellwishers, here in Canberra, who came over to the Mission to sign the Condolence Book that was opened, and also joined the staff at the Memorial Service that was organized, in the late President’s honour. What was even more impressive was the dignified solemnity of the ceremony, in an emergency session of Parliament convened in the evening of the same day of the President’s passing, presided by the Chief Justice, Mrs. Georgina Wood, at which the Vice-President, HE Mr. John Dramani Mahama, was sworn-in as President, to complete the term of his predecessor, in conformity with Article 60, Clause (6) of the 1992 Constitution. Ghanaians all over the world felt justifiably proud at the entrenchment of the Rule of Law in Ghana when they watched the ceremony live on national television. I was in Accra on my annual leave at the time and felt the same. As earlier mentioned, the Presidential and Parliamentary elections scheduled for 7th December, 2012, were duly held, and adjudged by all the observers, both local and foreign, as free and fair. The National Electoral Commission after collating all the results declared President John Dramani Mahama as the winner of the Presidential race in the first ballot, and the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), as the party with the majority of seats in Parliament. Good governance and the Rule of Law have created a conducive environment of peace and stability within which succeeding regimes have striven and continue to strive to promote the accelerated economic and social development of the country.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is heartening to note that the bilateral relations between the Republic of Ghana and the Commonwealth of Australia have continued to grow steadily over the last year (2012). 3 Here in Australia, the High Commission continued to perform its essential functions, without let or hindrance, even though it has had to temporarily close down the Ghana Honorary Consulate in Sydney since August last year, owing to the retirement of the Honorary Consul, who had served in that position continuously for the past nine years. Pending his replacement by a suitable candidate, the consular services for that jurisdiction have been assumed by the Canberra Mission, in a seamless transition that has ensured their delivery without the slightest hitch. A. Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development It may be recalled that in 2010 Ghana became the first African country to be included in the Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development (AYAD) Programme, when a total of 13 AYADs were sent to Ghana for the first time. The Programme has continued steadily since then, with a total of twenty-five Australian Youth volunteers being assigned to Ghana in 2011 and 2012, to work in fields related to health and nutrition, fresh produce management, food security, education, communication, and climate change adaptation, among others. This year the first batch of two (2) Youth Volunteers completed an orientation course in Canberra in February, and will leave for Ghana this month to commence their 12-month assignments. Five intakes of Youth Volunteers are envisaged this year, and the expectation is that the numbers deployed to Ghana will increase in the course of the year. This further reinforces Ghana-Australia relations which were boosted in 2010 with the first ever full formal bilateral visit by a Ghanaian Foreign Minister to Australia. At the end of that historic visit, Ghana and Australia agreed on a Plan of Action to be actively pursued by the relevant authorities of both countries. Already the Australian Government has awarded scholarships to a number of Ghanaian students for postgraduate studies in Australian Universities in priority areas relevant to Ghana’s socioeconomic development. Other Ghanaian government officials have also participated in short-term capacity building activities in Australia, all in pursuit of the objective of Human Resource Development in our bilateral development co-operation. 4 B. Australian Visa Application Centre in Accra, Ghana Regarding the activities of the Australian High Commission in Ghana, it is worth noting that, the Australian Visa Application Centre established in Accra, the capital city of Ghana, on 8th February, 2012, to ease the burden of applicants desirous of visiting Australia, whose applications hitherto were submitted by courier mail to the Immigration Office within the Australian High Commission in Nairobi, Kenya for processing, has celebrated its first anniversary, and from all indications is fulfilling its objective. The Centre, a service delivery partnership, operated in collaboration with the Visa Facilitation Services (VFS) company, which also manages the Visa Application Centre for the British High Commission in Ghana, collects paper-based application forms, supporting documents and biometric data, from clients in Ghana, regardless of nationality, and transmits them electronically and simultaneously to the DIAC in Australia, and its Office in the Australian High Commission in Nairobi for processing and decision-making, thereby speeding up the process of visa acquisition. Furthermore, the Australian High Commission itself has also expanded significantly since it first reopened in 2004. It now houses two other Australian Government Agencies, apart from DFAT, representing Australia’s diverse interests in the West African subregion. These are the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), and the Australian Trade Commission (AusTrade). Indeed, the first ever Australian Trade Commissioner to West Africa, commenced work in the High Commission in September 2012. These positive developments seem to set up Ghana as a “de facto hub” for Australia’s diplomatic, consular and commercial activities in the West Africa sub-region. C. Visit by the Assistant Secretary/Africa Branch of DFAT to Ghana Concerning official visits, I wish to mention that, the Assistant Secretary/Africa Branch of DFAT, Mr. Dave Sharma, visited Ghana last year and paid a courtesy call on the Chief Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, on 20th November. 5 • To express the Australian Government’s gratitude to the Government of Ghana for supporting its candidature for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council; • And to discuss the security situation in Africa in general, and in particular the sub-regional concerns regarding developments in Mali.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A. The Africa Downunder Conference As you may be aware, Ghana is home to a number of Australian mining and mining services companies, and in line with this relationship, official delegations from Ghana have been regularly attending the annual Africa Downunder Conference in Australia, which is the foremost international mining industry event which focuses on Africa, and offers opportunities for strengthening commercial ties in the mining sector between Australian mining and mining services companies and African Governments and institutions. Last year’s edition, which assembled 2,500 delegates in Perth, Western Australia from 29th to 31st, August, 2012 was attended by a sizeable Ghanaian official delegation. III. CONCLUSION I wish to state in conclusion that it is quite clear from the foregoing that the bilateral relations between Ghana and Australia are in good health, and it is our expectation that they will be further expanded and strengthened in succeeding years for the mutual benefit of our two countries. To my compatriots living and working in Australia I say congratulations for continuing to play the role as worthy ambassadors of Ghana in the Australian society through your impeccable conduct. In this regard I wish to pay glowing tribute to those who have acquired Australian citizenship, and distinguished themselves through duly recognized outstanding service to the Australian society, and to make special mention of Ms. Juliana Nkrumah, who was awarded the “Australian Medal” by the Governor-General for Meritorious Community Service, on Australia Day. Another name worthy of mention 6 is Mr. Francis Owusu, who also received the ACT “Local Hero” award for service to the Youth and Cultural Development. As we begin our journey into the New Year 2013, I believe we all have great expectations of accelerated development for our cherished nation Ghana. To translate these expectations into reality we all have to re-dedicate ourselves to the patriotic values of selfless honesty, hard-work, discipline and sacrifice for the common good. It is this resolve that will enable us to harness the human and material resources that exist in the country, as well as in the diaspora, coupled with the assistance that friendly countries like Australia may offer us, for the durable socio-economic development of the country. Long live the Republic of Ghana! Long live Ghana-Australia Development Cooperation! I thank you. Canberra Mission 6th March, 2013