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Feature Article of Friday, 31 July 2009

Columnist: Osimi, Breda

The Georgina Wood Movies, Part 1

: “Robocops and the Unknown-knowns”

'So justice is far from us,
and righteousness does not reach us.
We look for light, but all is darkness;
For brightness, but we walk in deep shadows.
Like the blind we grope along the wall,
Feeling our way like men without eyes.
At midday we stumble as if it were twilight;
Among the strong, we are like the dead.
We all growl like bears;
We moan mournfully like doves.
We look for justice, but find none;
For deliverance, but it is far away.

For our offences are many in your sight,
And our sins testify against us.
Our offences are ever with us,
And we acknowledge our iniquities:
Rebellion and treachery against the Lord,
Turning our backs on our God,
Formenting oppression and revolt,
Uttering lies our hearts have conceived.

So justice is driven back,
And righteousness stands at a distance;
Truth has stumbled in the streets,
Honesty cannot enter.
Truth is nowhere to be found,
And whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.’

Isaiah 59:9-15
Holy Bible, New International Version.

I am writing this piece only because of some communication that I have come across in last Saturday’s newspapers on the position of the Police Council on the recommendations of the Georgina Wood Committee as espoused in their Report which was presented to the government. More importantly, this piece had been conceived in my head but may never have been written but for the challenge that was posed by one of the people I respect very much in this land of ours, Pastor Mensah Otabil. Last Sunday, I listened to his message on JoyFM and felt challenged enough to find inner peace by asking a question that has agitated my mind since the Wood Committee Report was released on September 22, 2006 and the subsequent consequential developments that have taken place.

In writing this article, I also want to acknowledge all the people who in their good hearts, felt compelled to tell me to keep my thoughts to myself because I risked my life and that of my family, my profession and indeed all my associates if I dared exercised my right to free speech in today’s Ghana. To all of you, I say thank you. My only apologies go to my manager and my two boys, who through my desire to be as principled as I can in my professional life, have had to endure needlessly, such pain and hurt. Yet we still believe. If there’s anyone to blame, it has to be Kobina Krakye, who imbibed in me the will to stand up for the truth and for my rights as a citizen of this beautiful land of ours. It is this same desire to make standing up for this nation and for truth and principle fashionable again that led me to seek the support of some friends to set up ThinkGhana. The dream is to build up a credible organisation that will uphold corporate governance principles and also stand up for the ordinary Ghanaian who is “stupid’ enough to do right by our dear nation and seek to do the right thing. It is a long, lonely, stressful road to travel. We in ThinkGhana however believe that if we do not travel that road, our nation will be the loser ultimately. Now before I commence my main piece, I want to –re-state that throughout my 4th Republican life, I have been riding the elephant. I still believe in the elephant. But especially as we get into 50, I would wear my red, gold and green, with my black star. In these days when ‘fashion designers’ will sew an apparel and clothe you appropriately as soon as you express an opinion, I am ready for the apparel that will be designed for me. Just don’t sew it tight. I prefer loose clothes!!! But I digress!

On Saturday, November 25, 2006, almost the entire Ghanaian media carried a statement by the Minister of Interior to the effect that the government has decided not to sanction the Inspector-General of Police, in relation to comments in the report of the Justice Georgina Wood Committee which probed the recent cocaine scandal.
According to news reports, the Police Council had advised government that in their opinion the IGP had not done anything to show that he acted wrongly or was at fault and, therefore, was unable to recommend the application of any sanctions to the IGP.

It will be recalled that the Minister of Interior had indicated on September 22, 2006 that although there were no adverse findings or recommendations against the IGP, the Ministry decided to refer to government, comments contained in the report about the police boss.

In the light of the foregoing, “government has carefully considered the committee’s report and the advice to the Police Service council and has decided to accept the recommendations of the council.”
It is instructive to note the opinion of the Police Council on the matter. According to the Minister, the Council had advised that “jumping into conclusion, without evidence that the IGP is at fault reflects seriously not only on the personality of the incumbent IGP but also on the integrity of the Ghana Police Service as a whole.” The Council had found no evidence that the IGP’s associations had brought his office into disrepute. On the Asibi case, the Council felt that anyone who called on the IGP could be a potential ally or informant. “The IGP’s advice to Asibi that she could go to court through a lawyer was probably the most classic response from a seasoned officer and the Council was therefore of the view that the IGP did not err in that regard”.

Now get up and give the Police Council a big salute! It is one of the few institutions that refuses to be cowed by public opinion and kowtows to such opinion without much thought to the implications for our national growth and development. I have recently come to know that the Council is headed by my former lecturer, Justice Sam Baddoo. Although I do not know the composition of the Council, I believe that the members are of equally high standing. The Council based its advice on the same Report that the Wood Committee had submitted to the government. On the evidence in the Report, was it necessary to even make those comments about the IGP? What if the Police Council had also bowed to the public pressure and decided that the IGP had to leave his office based on what? Having a friend called Alhaji Issah and also allowing Sister Asibi to visit him in his house during the pendency of an investigation into criminal activities of her boyfriend should not be enough to make any IGP to lose his office. The Council had advised that jumping to conclusions without evidence that the IGP was at fault, reflected seriously not only on the personality of the incumbent IGP but also on the integrity of the Ghana Police Service as a whole. “For this reason, a comment like that should only be made when adequate grounds have been established. According to the statement of the Minister, the government had therefore decided to accept the recommendations of the Police Council. Thank God, IG, for the Police Council!!! The Council is dead right on the evidence available to it, which is the Georgina Wood Report. You are a fine policeman and you deserve to keep your job.

But therein lies the catch! The Georgina Wood Report does not reflect accurately the evidence that was adduced before the Committee. I have personally read the Report and I have marvelled at portions of it. I dare say that anyone who reads the Report alone will not be able to make a fair, accurate determination of the facts that came before the Committee. I am particularly baffled about the essence of taking an oath and the evidence that is led further to the said oath. What is an oath? Are oaths necessary at all? The President takes an oath. The Speaker of Parliament takes an oath. The Chief Justice takes an oath. My colleagues and I take an oath when being called to the Bar. Every witness that appears in any matter before our law courts takes an oath. Does it matter that a witness takes an oath before testifying?

Which factors did the Committee consider before determining one’s credibility as a witness? What if a witness said something in his evidence in chief and was forced by the fire of cross-examination to make a 180 degree turn and contradict earlier testimony. Is it a matter of fact that the IGP gave evidence that he did not know Sister Asibi in his evidence in chief and under cross-examination had to admit both the fact of Asibi’s visit and knowledge of her. Or is it an inconsequential matter, indeed, so inconsequential that the Report makes no mention whatsoever of the fact? What happened to principles? As a young professional, these are matters that have been agitating my mind for a long time and I would welcome some answers.

It is an acknowledged fact that the Wood Committee had a herculean task which they discharged to the best of their abilities. However, the Georgina Wood Report can only be best appreciated in the light of the Record of Proceedings!!! There are unknown-knowns!!!

Where critical sections of the proceedings have not been reflected in the Report itself and the Record of Proceedings has not been made public, all other institutions should make bold like the Police Council and do right by all citizens of this land as the Report reflects. Recently, there was the rather unfortunate event of a member of the Committee going on radio to make assertions that were essentially untrue. I am still at a loss as to why that effort. As a nation, all of us have to admit that everyone involved in the process may have tried to do their best. However, on matters of fact, there can be no compromises (emphasis mine). Anyone reading the Georgina Wood Report will not be able to fully appreciate the facts that were adduced before the Committee. I therefore encourage the Minister to cause the publication of the Record of Proceedings. Indeed, by the Attorney-General deciding to prosecute based on the tape recording, it is only a matter of time before these matters become public knowledge. Publication of the Record of Proceedings will also help all institutions which are being pressured to make decisions based on only the Report, without more, to be better informed about the issues such that we do not sacrifice any more of our citizens on the altar of political expediency. In my personal opinion, “my government” took a very brave political decision, in the midst of the terribly polarised politics of today, to institute a public probe into the cocaine saga. The Georgina Wood Committee, despite all the reservations, tried to do its best. Their Report epitomises their work though in my opinion was not wholly true to the facts. My government should be able to say, like the Police Council have made bold to state, that some critical evidence has been received but that evidence may not stand in a court of competent jurisdiction. Georgina Wood is an inherently flawed process at law which in my opinion need not be taken into a court of law. Putting the Georgina Wood process under the scrutiny of law has the potential to undo the very good work that the government and indeed the Committee tried to do. It is absolutely unnecessary if it is meant as a sign that my government is serious about fighting the drug menace. The actions of my government clearly show that it is serious about tackling the drug menace. My government must be wary of populist moves aimed at scoring political points but which essentially may be hurting the fundamental human rights of citizens of this country. Otherwise, what will happen to the new converts at the Pentecost rallies? When we were kids, I recall that at such rallies, after an “altar call” had been made, you could get some sinner who would come forward and give his life to “Yeshua Amashua” (copyright Archbishop Duncan-Williams). Overcome by the redemptive power of the blood, the sinner states before the congregation “me Kwasi Mensah, me kum nyimpa ebasa nanso sisia dze, me de me kra ama onyame” to wit, “I, Kwasi Mensah, I have killed three people but I have now given my life to Christ”. Conventional wisdom in Ghana now is that if a police man was also seeking Amashua’s face there and he did not cause the arrest of this convert or report him immediately, he ought to lose his job. The arrest is the simplest cog in the wheel. There must be evidence linking him to the alleged murders outside of his statement to convince me on the necessity for any trial. Bodies must be found etc. In the absence of all that, why waste State resources on such a person just to assuage “Salem”? We must all work to prevent justice from being driven back, truth stumbling in the streets, righteousness standing at a distance and honesty too afraid to enter. Standing up for truth and principle is too costly in Ghana. Whoever shuns evil, must not become a prey. Ghana Deserves Better!!!

Finally, I wish to recommend that all who can should try and read Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”. It will definitely put the Georgina Wood Movies into perspective.

"I will not do that which my conscience tells me is wrong upon this occasion, to gain the huzzas of thousands, or the daily praise of all the papers which come from the press. I will not avoid doing what I think is right; though it should draw upon me the whole artillery of libels, all that falsehood and malice can invent”.

- Lord Mansfield, in re John Wilkes, 1763.

Conclusion

“I, Joe Aboagye Debrah
Do hereby swear
That the evidence I have given
Was the truth
The whole truth
And nothing but the truth
So help me God”

S.O.B. in English!

Joe Aboagye Debrah Esq.
CEO, ThinkGhana

P/S: This article was written more than two years ago in the wake of the release of the Georgina Wood Report and the clamour for heads to roll. When I look at all my past articles, I certify myself as a prophet. On Friday July 24, 2009, the Court of Appeal quashed the convictions of Alhaji Issah Abass and Kwabena Amaning a.k.a Tagor. The Court of Appeal rightfully excised the cancer of the original judgment for the law to heal the wounds it wrought. It is my hope and prayer that ACP Kofi Boakye will be allowed to resume his duties as a senior Police Officer. The ruling of the Court of Appeal must definitely have made some people very very uncomfortable. If the truth outs, SO HELP US, GOD!!!

Breda Osimi
270709

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