General News of Tuesday, 15 January 2013
Source: The Republic
...IDEG, GBA take over Supreme Court’s Job
The New Patriotic Party’s flagbearer, Nana Akufo Addo and his legal team appear to be clinging on the last straw after their post defeat intrigues hit a rock last weekend in their attempt to impugn the integrity of the Justices of the Supreme Court who are set to decide on his election fraud claims before it.
Even before the dust settles on his quick u-turn from citing reasons they opposed the membership of the panel assembled by Her Lord Chief Justice, Georgina Theodora Wood to hear their election petition, the Ghana BAR Association and the Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG) have offered themselves to be used as their grey-knight.
The two groups heavily perceived to be politically aligned to the NPP has announced their intention to embark on a series of public education under the disguise of sensitizing the public on the mandate of the Supreme Court.
With Nana Akufo Addo himself a former President of the Greater Accra Branch of the Ghana BAR Association, it is obvious that the so called campaign by the GBA and its surrogates is not in good faith.
More worrying is the concerns by a section of the public that the intended public education by IDEG and GBA would in lieu of enhancing public knowledge on electoral adjudication, be pouring more fire in the already polarised public discussion of the matter which has already been laid before the Supreme Court, and thereby raising fears of prejudicing the court’s proceedings.
Coming at the heels of last Thursday’s drama at the Supreme Court where the NPP had requested an In-camera hearing after questioning the credibility of a panel member only to turn down an order to state the protestation, it is suspected that the intervention by IDEG and GBA is a ploy, calculated to undermine the eventual verdict of the Court and as a way of preparing the minds of the Public to reject the outcome of the court’s decision.
The legal teams of both NPP and NDC met at the Supreme Court on Thursday, January 10, 2013 to argue out the case in which the NDC has applied to join the NPP's petition challenging the results of the December 2012 presidential election but the hearing could not come off, as counsel for the NPP raised an issue with the composition of the panel.
The matter was adjourned to enable lawyers for the petitioners to file a formal application stating why they objected to the composition of the nine-member panel.
The nine-member court was made up of Mr Justice William Atuguba (Presiding), Mr Justice Julius Ansah, Mrs Justice Sophia Adinyira, Ms Justice Rose Owusu, Mr Justice Jones Dotse, Mr Justice Annin Yeboah, Mr Justice P. Baffoe-Bonnie, Mr Justice G. S. Gbadegbe and Mrs Justice Vida Akoto-Bamfo.
But the next day, the NPP retreated, withdrawing its opposition to the composition of the court.
In a letter addressed to the Registrar of the Supreme Court, it stated its decision not to continue with its earlier objection to ensure a speedy determination of its substantive petition before the court.
Despite vehemently denying any wrong motive for the ‘Educational Campaign’, Dr. Emmanuel Akwetey in an encounter with the Republic on Tuesday exposed the motive of the campaigners when he disclosed that both IDEG and GBA intends to provide a non-partisan insight to electoral adjudication in the Ghana.
Asked whether their so called intervention would not be prejudicial to the petition placed by the NPP before the Court, Dr. Akwetey responded in negative and stated that what they are seeking to achieve is to help the public understand the role of the Supreme Court and not the substantive claims by the various parties.
Reminded that, the role of the Supreme Court includes deciding as well of the form and procedures taken by the parties, the affable and often gentle looking Dr. Emmanuel Akwetey insisted that the concerns are unfounded.
Earlier on Joy Fm Monday January 14th morning show, the Public Relations Officer for the Ghana Bar Association (GBA) Tony Forson had announce that the GBA, in cooperation with other groups, has undertaken a public education campaign to spread awareness of the election adjudication process.
Former Judicial Reform Director, Sandra Thompson explained that that the initiative aims to help the public better understand the roles of the Supreme Court, which can serve as an appellate, review, and constitutional court, and who its members are, namely, a set of highly trained individuals.
Mr. Forson announced that the initiative, which is in collaboration with the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG) and the Civic Forum Initiative, would include public events, one of which takes place in Koforidua on Monday. It will also include messages broadcast from a variety of the media.
Forson and Thompson appeared on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show, where Mr. Forson explained that too often, lawyers and other figures speak to the media on private details of active cases, effectively moving cases from legal courts to the court of public opinion, where members of the public are too easily influenced by these one-sided representations of cases.
Speaking of the New Patriotic Party’s ongoing challenge of the 2012 presidential election result, he said that both sides have conducted themselves poorly in this regard, and Ms. Thompson added that in some cases, members of the public who speak publicly on matters currently before a judge could be prosecuted for contempt.
Ms. Thompson lamented the fact that many Ghanaians comment on cases before they even reach court and tend to assume that judges are incompetent.
She said that because judges can only speak publicly on cases when issuing their decisions, they cannot defend themselves against public criticism and therefore become easy targets.
Furthermore, she explained, the judiciary is endowed with an air of mystery, but Chief Justice Georgina Wood has worked to demystify it through a variety of initiatives. Notably, she has written and revised a manual to guide judges through a timely adjudication process and to inform the public about the nature of the judiciary.
The GBA PRO reminded Ghanaians that in cases of traditional conflict resolution, a chief sets a date for the issue to be heard at his palace, and before that day, the concerned parties do not discuss the case in the media.
He urged Ghanaians to treat the country’s national legal institutions with the same reverence and respectful silence.
Unfortunately, Ms. Thompson said, many Ghanaians only truly come to understand the importance of the court when they have been cheated or wrongfully accused and their DCEs, MPs, and government fails to help them.
Mr. Forson pointed out that legal issues are complicated by nature and that while the education campaign will simplify them as much as possible for the public’s sake, they will nonetheless remain somewhat complicated.