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General News of Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Source: Daily Graphic

Halt Money Politics - Chief Justice Declares

The Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Georgina Wood, has called for a sustained crusade against the infusion of money into politics at all levels in the country. She says the practice has the greatest potential of breeding corruption in the national development engagement.

She notes that money injected into politics in that fashion could not be clean money, could only have been acquired through corruption and would be recouped in like manner.

The Chief Justice also called for vigorous enforcement of the laws related to corruption in elections, including the relevant provisions in the Criminal Code.

Justice Wood was speaking on the topic: “Integrity, elections and democratic governance in Ghana”, at the maiden quarterly lecture on ‘Integrity in governance’ in Accra.

The lecture, held under the auspices of the Central University College, was in honour of William Ofori-Atta, a member of the ‘Big Six’ of Gold Coast politics who also served as a Minister of Education and later Foreign Affairs in the Second Republic.

According to the organisers of the programme, Paa Willie, as he was affectionately called, epitomised sincerity, modesty, honesty, humility and ambition, self- actualisation, commitment to decency, integrity and high ethics in public life, dedication to public duty and, above all, diligence and fortitude in the service of God.

Known as “Mr Clean”, Paa Willie’s record as a lawyer and incorruptible statesman of distinction and repute was unassailed.

He contested the 1979 presidential election on the ticket of the United National Convention (UNC), a party he founded, but lost to the eventual winner, Dr Hilla Limann.

Justice Wood said perhaps Ghana’s greatest challenge as a burgeoning democracy was to stop the infusion of money into politics at all levels and ensure that the vote of the citizen “is a clean vote cast in good conscience and not affected by any improper considerations”.

For Ghana’s democracy and good governance to thrive and elections in the country to be truly free, fair and transparent, she said, there was also the need for all stakeholders to ensure that there was no cheating in elections and that the professionalism of police personnel and members of the other security agencies was enhanced to ensure that they played their roles effectively, without fear or favour.

“We must also explore the possibilities, as has been suggested by others, of a hybrid form of proportional representation in our electoral system in order to reduce the adverse impact of the winner-takes-all system that is excluding many segments of the populace from effectively contributing to governance,” she added.

Justice Wood also called for a halt to “the politics of immediacy” by which political decisions were made based largely on the immediate personal or partisan political benefits and spoke in favour of state funding of political parties.

She advocated integrity in public office and among the citizenry to enable democracy to thrive and the nation to develop, adding that integrity was the most critical factor in good governance and national development.

Lack of honesty and trustworthiness in public office, she said, would breed corruption and make Ghana go down the abyss of poverty and under-development.

The Chief Justice said Ghanaians must raise the bar of integrity by raising the capacity of citizens to practise and demand integrity in politics and other sectors of public life.

“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. But we must not vilify state institutions when we have no evidentiary foundation.

“For, when we do so, we nibble away at their integrity. When people lose confidence in the Judiciary, for instance, we risk a resort to self-help and descent into anarchy. That is a sure path to losing our collective national sovereignty, she noted.

Justice Wood said democratic governance must promote integrity, of which transparency and accountability were cardinal elements, and added that those were the vital tools for fighting corruption and one of the most trusted means of delivering Ghanaians from disease, squalor and want.

To strengthen democratic governance, she said, there was the need for credible elections and individuals of high integrity in key roles, as well as the credibility of election management bodies such as the Electoral Commission (EC).

She said the conduct of political parties was also crucial in democracy and good governance and added that in Ghana, the legitimate concern of many citizens was that political parties created specialised communication units whose utterances undermined the reason for the existence of parties.

The Chief Justice said if the understanding that the creation of political parties was to assemble men and women to prosecute the development agenda was correct, then the insults that characterised political discourse in the nation from time to time were unnecessary and inimical to democratic development.

“We must restore civility to discussions on radio as a necessary first step to enhancing integrity in our governance structure,” she added.

She said unfair practices and incitement to violence by politicians, even when such actions were broadly supported by the party rank and file, were inimical to electoral integrity.

“Equally, attacks on the EC, which include besieging its offices during elections, undermine electoral integrity. Intimidation is not and has never been known to be an acceptable tool of persuasion in a democratic society. Decorous speech and demonstration of trust in the electoral system by politicians, on the other hand, transmit to supporters confidence in the electoral system,” Justice Wood said.