Four days ago, the nation was ushered into a new life by the proclamation of the Republic of Ghana. Today, the first formal meeting of the Republican Parliament takes place in changed circumstances, both in regard to the physical arrangements of the House and to the spirit of excitement which possesses us all at this moment.
These are great times in the history of our country and you who are the chosen representatives of the people, have a glorious and unique opportunity to render service to the nation by endeavouring to change the state in which colonialism and imperialism have placed us and to create a society of men and women eager to give of their best in order to raise their country to a position of eminence and prosperity and enable her to give material help to other African countries.
By the voluntary act of our people, we have chosen the path we wish to tread. We have done so in the utmost belief in our ability to shape our destiny by our own sustained efforts.
Mr. Speaker, we of this generation must reflect on the extraordinary good fortune, we have enjoyed. We do not merely live in exciting times. We are creating the history of our nation as we translate into practical reality, the dreams and visions of our fore-fathers. In twelve years from the fateful days of 1948, we have witnessed a remarkable transformation in our national life and have through tenacious effort, worked steadily to our goal. We have, moreover, started a movement that has set the whole of Africa ablaze and which aims to blast the last bastions of colonialism, imperialism and racialism from the face of the African continent.
Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, I am conscious of the gravity of the responsibility which the highest office in the nation has placed on me, but in the discharge of this responsibility, I am comforted by the knowledge that I can rely on the support, cooperation and loyal service of Members of the National Assembly, in the fulfillment of the great expectations and trust which our people cherish under this new regime. We must remember, however, that our struggle is not yet over. We have merely moved into a new phase. Our efforts must be constantly devoted to the aim of giving every individual, the opportunity of living a fuller, richer and more useful life to prepare himself for greater devotion to the service of Ghana and of Africa. From each citizen will be expected loyalty, hard work, and the conscientious application of his talents to the nation.
The new era we have entered into, therefore, calls for a solemn pledge to ourselves to perform selflessly, the duties entrusted to each one of us. We must resolve to dedicate our efforts towards the realisation of the twin objectives of happiness and prosperity for our people within Ghana and a peaceful future for Ghana within a United Africa.
Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, I am confident of the ability of this House, to bear the heavy responsibility which has been imposed upon it by our new Constitution. I must emphasise, however, that today, Ghana has been reborn. I trust that this new spirit may guide and influence you in all your deliberations and infuse you with a determination to reach yet greater heights in your supreme efforts to transform this country into a place worthy of the part it is destined to play in the future of the human race. Mr. Speaker, Members of the National Assembly, since this is the first formal meeting of the Republican Parliament, it is my duty to outline to you the policies which the Convention People’s Party Government will follow during this session.
I will start by making it quite clear that, the operation of the Republican Constitution will not in any way involve a change of policy as far as our foreign relations are concerned. Ghanaian foreign policy will continue to be one of positive neutralism and non-alignment. As I have explained many times before, this does not imply that the Government of Ghana will be a mere silent spectator of world events.
On the contrary, the Government will continue to take positive steps through the United Nations Organisation to promote and maintain peace and security among all nations. We shall always adopt whatever positive policies will do most, to safeguard our independence and world peace.
To that end, the Government solemnly re-affirm their faith in the Charter of the United Nations and undertake to be friends with all nations and enemy to none. The Government will continue to denounce the arms race, and the manufacture and testing of nuclear weapons anywhere in the world. In particular, it will, in concert with other Governments of Africa, find ways of persuading the French or any other Government to desist from such tests on African soil. Secondly, the stand we have taken on foreign policy will steadily add impetus to the role that Ghana has to play in the projection of the African personality in the international community.
At an early stage, we intend to urge, that the independent African states should agree to the formation of a free African non-nuclear bloc, independent of East or West, on the basis of refusal to allow their territories to be used as military bases and particularly, the rejection of alliances dependent upon nuclear weapons.
I will even be bold to offer the proposal that all uncommitted non-nuclear countries of the world particularly of Africa and Asia should summon themselves into a conference with a view to forming a non-nuclear third force - a war preventing force between the two blocs of the so-called East and West. I have stated elsewhere that, we in Africa have a vested interest in peace. There must be an enduring peace in the world to enable us, the new emergent countries, to consolidate our hard-won freedom and to reconstruct economically and socially, the possessions of our heritage devastated by colonialism and imperialism.
As far as Africa is concerned, I have long ago stated a postulate that Ghana’s Independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of Africa and with the projection of the African personality in the international community. Our resolution on this issue is unshakable and the Government will continue to give every support to freedom fighters in all parts of Africa.
I would like to pay tribute here to the gallant men and women who have laid down their lives for the liberation of Algeria, to the victims of apartheid in South Africa, and to all those struggling against the degradation brought about by colonialism and racialism.
The Government will therefore continue to work for African unity and independence and will endeavour in accordance with that objective to make the political union of African States a living reality. It is against this background that we must view the significance of the presence at the celebration ushering in the Republican Constitution of my brother, President Sekou Toure of the Republic of Guinea. Together, Guinea and Ghana will continue to wage war on the old and the new colonialism until both the independence and unity of Africa are achieved.
Before African Unity can be achieved, however, it is necessary for there to be real and genuine independence. As I said in my broadcast speech to the nation: "The current of African nationalism and freedom is flowing so strongly that no colonial power can hope to swim against it and survive in Africa."
Turning to South Africa, the Government is unalterably opposed to the inhuman policy of apartheid practised by the South African Government and will relentlessly continue to fight against this policy. Our delegation to the Conference of Independent African States held at Addis Ababa was instructed to give very strong support to the plan for the boycott of South African goods together with the taking of economic sanctions against South Africa.
The Government will give every support to the Political Bureau which the leaders of the banned African nationalist organisations of South Africa have decided to set up here as the mouthpiece of their people. As I stated recently in London, it will be extremely embarrassing to Ghana to remain indefinitely in the Commonwealth with a Government that recognizes and practices apartheid and racial discrimination. I will now turn my attention to our domestic policy.
The Government will embark upon an intensified programme of industrialisation which, with the diversification and mechanisation of agriculture, will provide the main basis for the transformation of the economic and social life of this country. The momentum of this development will increase, so that in a relatively short period, Ghana will become a modern industrial nation, providing opportunities for all and a standard of living comparable with any in the world.
For industrial development and the establishment of factories ranging from steel mills and aluminium smelters to sugar refineries, we shall need abundant and cheap power. That is why the Volta River Project is foremost among the many schemes which we have for increasing our industrial productivity. Negotiations are now reaching the critical stage for the construction of the dam at Akosombo and the establishment of the complex industries associated with the project.
The Government will continue to safeguard and expand the cocoa industry. Furthermore, the Government intends to put new life into agricultural development not only by the diversification of agriculture through the growing of other cash crops, or by tackling the problems of food deficiency through the production of foodstuffs and protein foods sufficient for our needs, but also by seriously embarking upon active mechanisation of our agriculture.
The industrial and commercial infrastructure of the country will continue to be given attention as one of the conditions for ensuring increased agricultural and industrial production. Roads, river communications, harbour facilities and other communications will be developed in accordance with the present plan.
The Government attaches great importance to educational advancement as one of the means of transforming the society of Ghana to a higher standard. Our goal is to achieve a free universal primary and middle school education within the shortest possible time. A commission is being appointed to investigate and report upon university education and the Government intends that a University of Ghana will be created which will not only reflect African traditions and culture, but will also play a constructive part in the programme of national awake and reconstruction.
The Government has embarked on a complete reorganisation of the health and medical services of the country and greater impetus will be given to research and health problems, the attack on endemic diseases, health education, nutrition and development of hospitals and health centres.
Mr. Speaker, Members of the National Assembly, the Government intends to give new orientation to our financial policy, to expand trade between Ghana and other countries, to pursue plans for increased economic co-operation in Africa and to give encouragement to the establishment of co—operative enterprises as one of the means of modernising the economic and social life of Ghana. The last year has been a remarkable record of freedom from industrial and other disputes. This vindicates the policy which the Government has pursued for re-organising the trade unions. It will be an important element of the Government’s policy to help to establish and develop the All-African Trade Union Federation as an expression of the African personality and the solidarity of all the workers of emergent Africa.
It will be the policy of the Government, not only to maintain and consolidate the existing organisation of the Armed Forces and the Police Service, but also to embark on a steady programme of expansion to match the growing need to safeguard the external and internal security of Ghana.
Mr. Speaker, the estimates of the Public Service will be laid before the House later in the season.
The Government is determined to ensure that a sound base is provided for the modern and stable society which we are endeavouring to build for our people in J Ghana. For that reason we will adopt a most ruthless attitude to stamp out all corrupt and mercenary practices. Greater vigilance also will he exercised in maintaining and ensuring internal security and in rooting out all subversive elements.
Other measures for implementing the Government’s policy of development economic, social and cultural- for securing a stable Government and for strengthening the local government services will be laid before Honourable Members in the course of this session.
Mr. Speaker, Members of the National Assembly, in the earnest hope that Divine Providence may guide your deliberations and further the welfare of our people, I now leave you to the successful discharge of your duties.