On the question of whether or not, the President can withdraw the amendment bill on Article 55(3) of the 1992 Constitution and cancel the December 17th referendum:
Generally, I agree that an amendment bill can be withdrawn at anytime in Parliament by the sponsoring Minister before it is passed.
However in my opinion, same cannot be said when the amendment processes travel or proceed beyond the remit of Parliament.
A careful look at article 290 of the 1992 Constitution, specifically clause 4 which states that: “after the bill has been read the first time in Parliament, it shall not be proceeded with further unless it has been submitted to a referendum……shows clearly, that the work of Parliament on an amendment bill for an entrenched provision of the Constitution is suspended after the first reading of the amendment bill in Parliament and resumes only after the conduct of a referendum.
In other words, after the first reading of the bill, the amendment process leaves the jurisdiction of Parliament and enters the domain of the People who are to decide on same through a referendum.
Question is, has the bill amending article 55(3) been read in Parliament? If YES, then I think that Parliament is precluded from “proceeding further” with the bill, unless it has been submitted to a referendum as provided by clause 4 of article 290.
This means that any attempt to subject the amendment bill to any further Parliamentary proceedings or processes before a referendum is held on same will be unconstitutional.
If Parliament is barred from “proceeding further” with the amendment bill unless after a referendum, then on what basis, at what forum and under what authority can the bill be withdrawn by the sponsoring minister acting for and on behalf of the President?
Again, the conduct of the referendum is within the mandate of the EC who per article 46 of the 1992 Constitution are not subject to the direction or control of any person or authority in the performance of its functions.
Hence, unless the amendment bill is withdrawn by the sponsoring minister in Parliament (And, I contend that it is too late for the bill to be withdrawn at this stage as per clause 4 of article 290), only the EC can postpone the December 17th Referendum on the basis of compelling practical reasons.
My humble thoughts. Mr. Sammy Gyamfi is National Communication Officer of the NDC.