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General News of Wednesday, 8 January 2003

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It is within the right of Rawlings, Mills to reject gifts - JAK

President John Agyekum Kufuor Tuesday said at the People's Assembly that it was within the rights of Former President Jerry John Rawlings and former Vice President John Evans Atta Mills to accept or reject the State's Christmas gifts.

Responding to a question on how he felt about the refusal of the gifts by his predecessor and the flagbearer of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), President Kufuor said his government would continue with the tradition by offering presents to statesmen.

"It is a worthy tradition, which we inherited and we would continue to uphold it," he said. He expressed the hope that Ghanaians would appreciate the gesture. The rejection of the gifts on political grounds by Former President Rawlings and for personal reasons by Prof. Mills has been widely condemned in the media as well as some members of the public.

Aides of Former President Rawlings have said he refused to accept the gifts because of the not-cordial relations between him and President Kufuor. Prof. Mills, who has rejected claims that he was instructed by his former boss not to accept the gift, said his action was in line with a personal decision he took about a month ago not to receive gifts and parcels in his home.

The People's Assembly, the second since the New Patriotic Party assumed office, gives the platform to the citizens who normally do not have access to the executive to ask questions on governance.

President Kufuor, Vice President Aliu Mahama and Ministers of State answered several questions on personal, politics, social, economic, chieftaincy, religion, tribalism and chieftaincy issues from a cross-section of Ghanaians and an American businessman, Subhash Neuir, who complained that he had been defrauded in a gold deal.