General News of Thursday, 25 October 2012
Source: Kojo Smith
Former President Jerry John Rawlings says it is regrettable that people want to misconstrue his recent unprecedented meeting with Flagbearer of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Nana Akufo-Addo as an endorsement for the opposition party.
He was speaking at the 3rd Freedom Power Lectures on the topic: “Corruption; a threat to democracy and national development,” at the Coconut Groove Hotel in Accra on Wednesday.
It was under the auspices of the Centre for Freedom and Accuracy.
The former President also used the opportunity to explain what he meant when he said the NDC is afraid to go into opposition at the National Democratic Party’s congress.
“I want to be properly understood that whenever I am saying to my people [NDC] that why are you afraid of going into opposition? I am not saying that I want them to go into opposition. I will want them to win, but if you were to lose and go into opposition can you enjoy any safety or security from the judiciary system; the laws of the country?” he asked.
Read the Full speech below
ADDRESS BY H.E. JERRY JOHN RAWLINGS, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF GHANA. CENTRE FOR FREEDOM AND ACCURACY FREEDOM POWER LECTURES – 2012. COCONUT GROOVE HOTEL – OCTOBER 24, 2012
Mr Chairman, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Let me first thank the Centre for Freedom and Accuracy for the opportunity to deliver the latest edition of the Freedom Power Lectures under the topic: Corruption; A Threat to Ghana’s Democracy and National Development.
Corruption as defined by Wikipedia says: “In philosophical, theological, or moral discussions, corruption is spiritual or moral impurity or deviation from an ideal. In economy, corruption is payment for services or material, which the recipient is not due, under law. This may be called bribery or kickback. In government it is when an elected representative makes decisions that are influenced by vested interest rather than their own personal or party ideological beliefs.”
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, for the purposes of my lecture I will define corruption as spiritual or moral impurity because I am of the opinion that corruption permeates all facets of our society and it is simply because of the deep-rooted spiritual and moral impurity that is currently embedded in our society.
We Ghanaians take pride in describing ourselves as friendly, hospitable, peace-loving and tolerant. To a large extent it is true that we possess these nice attributes, but how many of us recognize the danger inherent in too much tolerance?
How many of us tolerate the intolerable?
There is a culture of corruption reaching down to the very roots of our society, in which anyone with some kind of power uses it to extort money or favours from others; from the petty official who demands a bribe to do his job to the lecturer or employer who demands sexual favours from young women in return for high marks or a job.
Sadly the vulnerable are compelled, in their quest for survival to fuel corruption by willingly ‘greasing’ the palms of persons with influence in other to receive a favour, goods or services, which under normal circumstances should be available to all members of the public through an equitable standard.
It is this willingness to tolerate the intolerable that gives the motivation or momentum for persons or institutions with influence to perpetuate acts of corruption within our society. Corruption at the level of government directly affects the rule of law and debases the moral right of political leadership to serve as a respected regulator of the affairs of the state.
Corruption in our society is more prevalent whenever the private sector meets government over transactions of state – construction of roads, procurement of goods, equipment and services and provision of various forms of services for the state.
Currently pending in court is the case of Alfred Woyome and other state officials. It is clear that the Woyome case led to the exposure of multiple payments in millions to various individuals and organisations in what is now popularly referred to as the judgement debt saga.
It is strongly argued and perceived that some have demanded and received payments under fraudulent circumstances, with the excuse that contracts have been blatantly abrogated by a previous government and monies owed to individuals or organisations been left outstanding for unholy lengths of time.
It is also perceived that some members of government have quietly turned into front men for some of these aggrieved institutions and played influential roles in seeking out of court settlements leading to huge payments.
Several questions arise. Why did we allow the state to face so much legal pressure from individuals and organisations seeking compensation for so-called abrogated contracts, unpaid contractual fees and a host of others?
Why have we allowed the processes of state as pertains to the award of contracts and subsequent payments to be hijacked by political authority without due recourse to an institution of state that is independent of political influence?
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, we all need to do some deep thinking on how to prevent this albatross from snuffing the very life out of our country. Someone might suggest that we put in place structures that will criminalize actions by political appointees who out of political expediency abrogate state contracts and expect that subsequent governments will be held responsible for the fallout. What other structures do we need again? Is it not just a question of putting one’s foot down, exercising appropriate authority and making sure that people do not get away with such nonsense?
We also have to remove the ambiguity that pertains within our legal framework as far as award and procurements by governments are concerned. I see no reason why if judgement debts have to be paid those directly responsible for incurring such debts are walking free.
We live in a global world, which means we have to adopt current practices with respect to the combat of white-collar fraud. A few days ago a court in Italy convicted six scientists who erroneously informed the people of Italy that an earth tremor was not going to manifest into an earthquake. These unsuspecting scientists never envisaged that an act of indiscretion would lead to conviction for manslaughter. Here in Ghana we even grapple with what charges to prefer against people who have gone on air to incite violence.
LEGAL & JUDICIAL
Ladies and gentlemen, I will return to corruption in government before I conclude this lecture, but let me move on to the judicial sector.
The judiciary as an organ of the state is the most important organisation in fighting and prosecuting corrupt persons and organisations. Unfortunately over the almost six decades of political independence, the judiciary has increasingly been tagged as corrupt. Though reports abound of errant judges, court officials and even lawyers perpetuating corrupt practices, the power of the judiciary to arrest and jail any accuser for contempt of court is intimidating enough to stop even those with evidence to come forward. Indeed attempts by the late Larry Bimi and others to challenge the judiciary to concede there was corruption in the service led to the service virtually trying to cripple their right to appear in court as legal practitioners.
But corruption is very present within our judicial service – reports abound of whole dockets vanishing sometimes hours before a crucial case is heard in court, judges, including some very senior ones receiving huge cash inducements to sway judgements, and even innocent suspects found guilty and sentenced.
In 2011 the Chief Justice sacked two magistrates in a bid to prove that errant members of the judiciary will not be protected. The Chief Justice has on several occasions cautioned the judiciary and public officials to be above reproach and protect the sanctity of public service. From an institutional point of view more needs to be done to create a more decent image for our judiciary. Many Ghanaians fear to use the courts because they do not believe they will get a fair hearing.
In Kenya the constitution mandates the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board to take action against judges who fail to exhibit professional competence and independence as exhibited earlier this year when the Board sacked four judges some of whom failed the litmus test as far back as, the Arap Moi era. Even though members of the Board are appointed by the President in conjunction with the Prime Minister, potential members apply for vacant positions through the Public Service Commission and are vetted by a selection committee whose composition is also stipulated in the constitution.
Ladies and gentlemen, the ruling in Kenya, surprising as it was has raised social awareness and confidence in not only the judiciary but institutions of state, giving true meaning to the fact that a well-thought out constitution can always serve as a major checks and balance on institutions of state that are meant to operate independently of governmental control. Perhaps it is time we took a cue from the Kenyans.
Nothing stunts the growth of a society or nation as seriously and sometimes as dangerously as the corrupting of the word.
Not only do we corrupt human reasoning but violate our own dignity. We violate the spiritual rhythm of the nation; the power of reasoning suffers, and the culprits and clever clowns are simply too shallow to appreciate the damage they are doing to the national psyche, our growth and development - And these people get paid, rewarded and sometimes decorated to continue sounding clever and convincing in the media all the time.
A fine opportunity to lift the creative energy of our people in unity through the priceless power of truth and reason is being used to corrupt the voices of reason; to shamelessly attempt to destroy human centres of moral authority.
Then of course there are those who attempt to use words – write books with the soul aim of assassinating the characters of patriots in our society. This is not freedom of speech. It is the irresponsible use of freedom of speech. It is the irresponsible use of freedom to corrupt, to distort, to deface, to defame and destroy the spiritual elegance of our noble citizens.
Why are they so frightened of the truth and reason? That journey that day must have been a very long, tortuous and lonely one for Christ. But so long as it is the cross of truth there is no fear; bring on the crucifixion!
Talking about the word once again, there are those who also use the irresistible name of God to inflict their own ignorance and limitations on their church members.
Are some of our politicians any better? I leave that to your judgement.
Mr Chairman, one of the institutions that have the inherent capacity to help expose and combat corruption, is the news media.
The news media is responsible for disseminating information through various news channels to members of the public.
Traditionally they are known as watchdogs of society and also have a gate-keeping role in ensuring that whatever information is delivered to the general public is responsibly couched, truthful and devoid of the potential to have a negative effect on society. In other words the media has to apply strict ethics in the distribution of news and should desist at all times from being under the influence of third parties as far as quality and balance of their reports are.
The Ghanaian media has for a considerable period been seen as vibrant with some excellent journalism exhibited in the not too distant past.
Unfortunately like many sectors of our society the media have also caught the bug, and petty competition, monetary and material influences, open political bias and falsehood have eaten into our media practice.
Under the guise of independence of the media, responsible media has given way to irresponsible and sponsored reportage and this has to be curbed by the media fraternity itself if it is to win back the confidence of the ordinary Ghanaian who is often confused by the contradictions he is fed with daily.
The advent of talk radio has led to all sorts of characters with no capacity to discuss issues of national importance being given the opportunity to shout hoarse on our airwaves, throwing abuse and insults and feeding us with shallow arguments that further misinform our society.
Given that we are looking for ways to combat corruption it is imperative that machinery is put in place to raise the standards of our media practice and also tighten disciplinary procedures (through the Ghana Journalists Association and the National Media Commission).
The Media Commission should be equipped to operate like the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) in the United Kingdom. The PCC operates on the basis of an editors’ code of practice, resolves disputes between media and members of the public, sanctions media personnel when they break the code and ensures that the highest standards are maintained at all times.
I commend those media people who still maintain the standards and do not allow petty influences to cloud their judgement as far as news dissemination is concerned. The height of excellent journalism is when you can report what is newsworthy without having to consider a third party whose influence may compel you to twist the facts. And when the general public is better informed it drives national developmental initiatives.
Ladies and gentlemen, we speak of leadership by example, implying that a leader, whether at the national or local level, must not merely talk about truth, integrity and accountability but must demonstrate those qualities in his or her daily life.
However, a leader may be a person of impeccable probity and honesty and yet this alone is not enough.
Around every leader there are people who will try to work themselves into the leader’s confidence in order to enjoy their own little piece of importance and influence. If they succeed, they will wrap the leader in a defensive wall, controlling the flow of information, which reaches him and blocking access to anyone whom they perceive as a threat to their position. They become manipulators, using the ‘leader’ to preserve their own positions and influence.
Ironically, the easiest target for such parasites is the ‘good’ leader – affable, tolerant, unwilling to believe ill of others until it is too late.
If corruption is not to creep in and become institutionalised at the higher levels of government, the leader in addition to personal integrity requires the courage to deal firmly with the first signs of unprincipled behaviour among his supporters.
Ladies and gentlemen, zero tolerance must begin at home, whether home is the family unit or the corridors of power. We all spend too much time discussing the faults, crimes, commissions and omissions of opponents and supposed enemies and not enough time acting to correct the seeds of corruption within our own communities, organisations, parties and governments.
Fellow countrymen; corruption is theft. It is a crime. But what of perceptions of corruption which may or not be true?
Visitors to our cities are astonished by the mansions, which have sprung up like mushrooms and luxurious new vehicles, which clog our roads. They ask, “Where is all the money coming from?” To the average worker who lives with his wife and children, struggling to pay his bills and children’s fees, it seems that Ghana is made up of two different worlds. It is hardly surprising many ordinary Ghanaians assume that all the opulence around them is the fruit of corruption when in a good number of cases it is the result of hard and honest work.
Ladies and gentlemen, corruption is and has caused a lot of harm to our institutional framework to the point that our political process has been so monetized people see election periods as harvest season or cocoa season as some call it.
Our democracy and national development cannot progress if we do not counter this cancerous growth. Right from constituency primaries for party executives to regional and national executives and even the election of presidential candidates huge monetary and material inducement of offensive proportions are employed to sway elections in favour of the highest bidder. How can we then elect genuine, incorruptible leaders if right from the grassroots we have introduced influences over and beyond the competence and integrity of candidates?
Prior to the 2008 elections I am told a survey at one of the universities on what role graduates will prefer to play after school elicited a majority response – political party delegate. These students having hosted party events in their auditoriums had witnessed firsthand the sheer abundance of financial influence during party congresses and were yearning to be quick beneficiaries.
Our dear parliamentarians have awarded themselves salary increases with retrospective effect from 2009. But what do they think the electorate is saying in the streets?
Some MPs have tried to justify it by referring to the many who besiege them daily, asking for help with school fees, medical bills, jobs and even the basic, money for meals.
I know the feeling, Mr Chairman. For over 30 years, my office has had to deal with a steady stream of petitioners. Whilst we each do what we can, the real solution does not lie in charity but in ensuring that the institutions established to provide health, education, security, and other social needs work more efficiently, effectively and transparently. This is where our MPs should concentrate their efforts both in their constituencies and nationally to build sustainable systems so that people do not have to rely on random acts of charity.
Ladies and gentlemen, our democracy is threatened if it is not founded on truth, integrity and transparency. If we look on as our political process is abused with monetary and material inducement as the basis of determining who wins elections at even the grassroots level wherein lies the basis for the sacrifices many made with their lives to guarantee a decent political development for Ghana?
Chief Justice Georgina Wood at a lecture earlier this month hit the nail right on the head when she called for a stop to the infusion of money into politics. She said we must ensure that every citizen’s vote “is a clean vote cast in good conscience and not affected by any improper considerations”.
She added: “The youth must constructively challenge the leadership of political parties and governance institutions to perform better. We must assist in the creation of a democratic society of integrity by being courageous and sincere in our criticism of those we have reason to believe are corrupt.”
The biggest threat to democracy is the ‘Monetization of the Electoral Process’. Mr. Chairman, the practice of using money and other resources to entice voters are worst forms of threat to the social and economic development of Ghana.
Mr. Chairman, how can we ensure development if most District Assembly members are elected because they are able to provide money and drinks to the community leaders beyond what tradition demands?
How can we ensure that competent candidates have been elected when money is used to buy votes? For example: Primaries are being held in a strong hold of political Party A. Delegates are selected to vote and represent the people. A particular candidate manages to camp the delegates and provide each delegate with 300 Ghana Cedis and a full piece of cloth. At the end of the day he spends a huge sum of money. He is elected and ultimately wins the elections to become a Member of Parliament. His opponent who may be more competent is unable to make it based on the fact that he did not have the resources to influence voters. The winner goes to Parliament and performs abysmally as Legislator. His MPs Common Fund goes to contracts won by his financiers. Where are we leading the constituents?
Situations such as above are happening at some levels of the political leadership. Mr. Chairman, the people’s will and interest cannot always be suppressed. These are the real threats to democracy and development. Unfortunately, civil society and other interest groups appear to be indifferent.
Mr. Chairman, one other significant threat to democracy and development is the perpetuity of corruption and injustice, from one administration to the other. Ghana’s continuous development will suffer if the wrongs in previous administrations are not diligently identified and punished. ‘Scratch my back, I scratch your back’ can only be for some of the people some of the time but not all the people all the time.
To conclude, Mr. Chairman, we must all work had to fight corruption at all levels of the society. The people’s power and anger cannot be under rated. We must not provide incentive for the disruption of democracy. Vigilance is significant. Dismissive attitude and indifference to the complaints and concerns of the masses can be expensive.
Combating corruption is not beyond us. Imagine the effect on our nation and our future if for just a few months, all decent Ghanaians would put aside their own convenience, apathy and faint-heartedness and challenge every corruption, no matter how petty, which comes their way.
Imagine the effect if we began to realize that instead of looking to government, the religious bodies or some other authority to “do something” about corruption, we must all, as individuals take responsible action.
Only then can integrity and probity become the norm. Only then can corruption shrink and become treated as a social aberration.
Mr Chairman, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen: Thank you once again to the Centre for Freedom and Accuracy for creating the opportunity for this lecture.
Thank you to all present and do have a good evening.