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General News of Tuesday, 7 November 2000

Source: Reuters

TV Presenter Held For Criticizing President

Ghanaian security officials on Monday arrested and charged a television presenter who criticised President Jerry Rawlings for going on his knees at a political rally at the weekend to canvass votes for a parliamentary candidate.

Felix Odartey-Wellington, 29, speaking during the newspaper review segment of "The Breakfast Show" on the West African nation's state-run Ghana Television, described Rawlings as fraudulent and "a con man who wants to pull the wool over our eyes."

The presenter who also works as a barrister in the capital, Accra, was charged provisionally with insulting behaviour, and given a 50 million cedi (10,000 pound) bail and ordered to report to police on Tuesday.

Odartey-Wellington's father, Major-General Neville A. Odartey-Wellington, was killed by soldiers loyal to Rawlings on June 4, 1979, when Rawlings overthrew a military government in the first of his two military coups which preceded his conversion to an elected civilian president in 1992.

Rawlings was reported in the state-owned Ghanaian Times daily on Monday as having gone on his knees to plead for votes for Emmanaul Baah-Danquah, the incumbent for the Asutifi-North constituency in Brong-Ahafo administrative region in the middle belt of the country.

Odartey-Wellington said Rawlings had failed to deliver on his promises to the Ghanaian people but he tried to make them believe otherwise through political gimmicks.

Elections are due in the cocoa-exporting country on December 7. Rawlings is ineligible for a third term but is canvassing for votes for candidates of his governing National Democratic Congress (NDC).

Odartey-Wellington said Ghanaians had shown Rawlings more sympathy during a motorcar accident involving the president a week ago, than he had shown for "the orphans he had created." Four presidential bodyguards died in the accident.

Opponents have accused Rawlings of conducting a reign of terror during the 1980s, with threats to pursue him in the courts once he leaves office.