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Opinions of Thursday, 16 June 2005

Columnist: Kwamena, Ato

A Twisted Nation

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Friends, there is an occult, but cancerous mole in the character of our beloved nation that needs to be brought to our collective cognizance.

Otherwise, this insidious but malignant trait, if allowed to perpetuate unabated, will grow to such gargantuan proportions, that we will be overwhelmed by its sheer enormity and its incapacitating metastases will evade our entire national fabric. The prognosis is very poor without any intervention. Hence, we ought to stop this cancer of a trait in its tracks and totally uproot it! We are a country that prides ourselves as the bastion of democracy in the chaotic West African region. True, we are the only oasis of peace and stability in the vast desert of instability that surrounds our frontiers. For over 13 years now we have been practicing multiparty democracy. Our democratic culture has grown quite a bit. We started of when extrinsic and intrinsic forces forced democracy on us by demanding that the regime at the time institute a time-table for a democratic transition. That was done successfully, albeit with reluctance from the ruling class at the time. So starting from 1992 we had ?some form? of a democratic government. I say, ?some form? because the military junta which had been ruling for about a decade at the time, transformed itself in outward appearance, and retained power. The constitution guaranteed freedom of the media, yet it took a ?stubborn? man, Dr Wereko Brobbey, to force the then government to free the airwaves. Today, our airwaves are replete with thousands of conflicting opinions. We all enjoy and pride in our free media. We love the variety of FM stations available to us. But let?s not forget the history of its genesis. They did not become spontaneously free, but some people fought for it, even in the face of threats. Funny, how today, the members of that regime try to twist history by claiming credit for the free airwaves! But as a nation, we?ve moved on. Our country has never been this free! The current administration has done well to entrench certain democratic culture in our society, which will make it almost impossible to turn back the clock. For the people of this country will rebel against any such regime that tries to curtail the freedoms we now have. In fact, when it comes to freedom the only way out for us as a country, is more freedom.

Now, since we all agree that democracy is the only way out for our country; we must be willing to abide by ALL the tenets of democracy. We cannot pick and choose certain democratic tenets and reject others. For example, freedom of the press is not mutually exclusive to freedom of the judiciary, under a democratic dispensation. You cannot say that you will free the press but yet gag the judiciary and still claim to be practicing democracy. So either we all agree to play by the rules of democracy or choose to go back to the times of lawlessness. We can?t have it both ways.

Now one of the cardinal foundations on which a democratic society is built is the Rule of Law. Without which there?s no such thing as democracy. And fundamental to this Rule of Law is the principle of Presumption of Innocence. Without Presumption of Innocence human rights abuse is the order of the day in any country. Now let me explain. Presumption of innocence basically means that an ACCUSED person is presumed or taken to be innocent until he or she has been declared GUILTY by a court of law. To declare GUILTY the court has to be convinced that the ACCUSED person has infringed the law. But who does the convincing? Obviously, the court cannot convince itself, so some other person has to do the ?convincing?. This person is the ACCUSER. It is the accuser who must present EVIDENCE that the ACCUSED has infringed or broken the law and based on that, try to convince the court to declare the ACCUSED as GUILTY. Therefore, in democratic law the BURDEN of PROOF is on the ACCUSER. Again, I repeat ?it is the accuser who must present the EVIDENCE that the ACCUSED has infringed or broken the law?.

Let?s try to forecast a scenario where this very important principle is not being practiced and has basically been thrown overboard. Under such a situation, an ordinary person could rise up one day, and ACCUSE you, dear reader, as having committed murder. Since the principle of Presumed Innocence does not apply here, you?ll be taken to court and declared a murderer even before the court sits on your case. Since you are already declared a murderer, what is the use of evidence? It?s of no use! So you?ll then be sentenced by the court to imprisonment or death according the dictates of the law. So you see, if we try to remove the principle of presumed innocence from our culture, law, social fabric, etc, we are setting the stage for the fall and total collapse of our democratic experiment. We must therefore, move heaven and earth to enshrine this principle into our national character.

Sadly, for quite sometime now, many people in our country have fallen victim to such human rights abuse. They have had their hard-won reputations shattered because of unsubstantiated allegations. What makes it even more dangerous is that in our case, we are not even letting the courts of law pronounce these people ?guilty? but have been using the airwaves to vilify people and assassinate their characters. And we do it with such impunity that, it becomes so obvious that behind these acts are people who are using the system to wage personal vendettas against their perceived enemies. Most of these people attack other people?s character out of pure hatred and jealousy. Take for instance, Dr Wereko-Brobbey. This was a man who was basically pushed out of office because he made some people uncomfortable. He was stepping on toes. People could not do ?business as usual?. He was changing the status quo, hence ?he had to go!? So they resorted to making wild allegations. Of course, the Chronicle provided them a free platform to carry out their ?pull-him-down? agenda (an agenda which, sadly, is so common to us ? people of the black race). When investigations were, however, carried out not one iota of misappropriation of funds was found. Yet the dent on his reputation still remains, although he was innocent of all the charges of malfeasance heaped on him.

Today another innocent man is being proclaimed GUILTY without any shred of evidence. The National Democrat (in this case the ACCUSER) ACCUSES a businessman of breaking the law, and we all jump on the investor without even allowing an important tenet of democracy to take its natural course. Instead of giving Chief Kufuor his constitutional RIGHT of presumption of innocence, people possessed by sheer hatred, jealousy, and love of power have already pronounced him GUILTY. ?Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man's sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true? ? Dr Martin Luther King Jr. But ?Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere? ? Dr King Jr. And it is such injustice to one innocent man, that motivates some of us to stand up and speak. I say ?innocent? because not until he?s been declared GUILTY in a court of law he is innocent. That?s what the democracy that we say we are practicing tells us to do. We will not circumvent our laws. And we will not allow people with questionable characters to throw dust into the people?s eyes. ?In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends? ? Dr King. I am a Ghanaian and a friend of all Ghanaians, and I refuse to be that silent friend who does not speak for the truth out of fear or favor. I do not know Chief Kufuor, neither do I care a hoot about him, but I hate it when people try to subvert our democratic principles and pry on the ignorance of the people to destroy other people?s character. More especially I abhor it, when it comes from people whose history is clearly questionable. I know some of you will vilify me for taking this stance: ?The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep's throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as his liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty.?- Abraham Lincoln. That is the beauty of democracy. We will not all agree, but we must agree to disagree. And hear these people. They go about on our airwaves and tell us that Chief Kufuor should bring out documents to prove his innocence. What nonsense! What twisted sense of logic is this? How would you feel, if ?some? person walking on the street was arrested by the police and declared GUILTY of killing the Yaa Naa and was asked in court to prove to the whole country that he did not kill the Yaa Naa? What then would be the essence of having investigators or detectives, the police, and prosecutors if all that they did were to ask people to prove their innocence? Have we gotten our sense of logic twisted? Instead of the prosecution or the accuser bearing the burden of proof that the accused is guilty and presenting EVIDENCE to prove thereof, we have twisted it to say that the accused should bear the burden of proof that he is innocent. Ridiculous indeed! And the saddest thing of all is that we have our so-called intellectuals joining the chorus that Chief Kufuor should come out with the evidence that he is innocent. ?My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge? Hosea 4:6. ?Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity? ? Dr King.

Friend, do not think that this issue is just about the hotel. Far from it! Think deeper! For this issue is a re-enactment of our recent history. There are some Ghanaians who sadly dislike the recall of our history. But a people without a clear sense of their history are nothing but a bunch of misguided fools. ?History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, however, if faced with courage, need not be lived again.? ? Maya Angelou, US author & poet. We ought to know our history if we are to stay straight on the path of progress. For our history will guide us to prevent repeating the mistakes of the past. And our very recent history tells us that some men, who professed themselves to be ?men of integrity? imposed themselves on us by force, confiscated the life earnings of poor Ghanaians alleging that they were stolen, shot and killed people because they had borrowed money from the bank, stripped and whipped our mothers in the marketplace because they were trying to eke out a living by selling stuff for profit, overthrew a DEMOCRATIC government accusing it of ineptitude and misusing the state coffers to buy Peugeot 504s, and bulldozed a newly constructed and fully furnished $5 million hotel because the owner was sympathetic to their political opponents. Ironically, these self-professed ?men of integrity? when they forced their way to power, preferred not Peugeots but Pajeros and Land Cruisers. They borrowed state money and used that money to start their CashPros. They sold state properties to their cronies including the 31st December Movement using state money to pay for it, for which they have consistently refused to pay back the capital or interest. Their character is tainted with greed, jealousy, avarice, hatred, love of power, and they have blood on their hands and on their conscience. Yet they still call themselves ?men of integrity?. And it is these same men who are trying to force themselves to power by using the president?s son?s business transaction, which so far no one has bothered to prove that it is illegal, as bait to force themselves on the people.

That junta was able to abuse our very own blood relatives because they (our loved ones) were denied the right to DUE PROCESS. They (the accused) were pronounced guilty even before they could be summoned to their (the junta?s) kangaroo courts. Some even were never taken to any sort of court but received instant justice from some vagabond thugs. The principle of presumed of innocence until proven guilty in a court of law was thrown to the dogs. And they are trying to do that again clandestinely.

Knowing their history and their true character, what do you think they would have done if they were still in power? I?m sure Chief?s very God-given life would have been in jeopardy. Their history tells me so! Look at them! Even as members of the minority when they do not have political power, look at their feeding frenzy. They are like ravenous wolves, thirsting for the blood of the innocent to devour. Just look at the way they are twisting all logic to blind the ignorant and confuse the masses, hoping that they will bring that man down along with his father, and come back to power. But thank God, millions of Ghanaians see through their chicanery. And we will not keep quiet. For ?our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter? ? Dr King. To those who still insist that Chief Kufuor should disclose the business transaction, I say not so fast! Democracy-loving Ghanaians should not sit down for an absurd trend to become part of our daily routine?where people?s right to privacy and their right to own property will be violated by corrupt and faceless politicians. For if we should allow this to become the order of the day, then our future will be very bleak. Privately-owned businesses do not disclose their funding to public scrutiny or curiosity unless they are listed on the stock exchange, and therefore publicly owned, or they have been subpoenaed by a court of law to disclose those statements because of a prima facie. I do not want ?Big Brother? ? the government or the public ? prying its ugly nose into my private affairs. Neither do I want that nose in my bank statement. It?s none of the government?s or public?s business! And no Ghanaian or any other person should be allowed to have their rights infringed to satisfy a blood-thirsty bunch of misguided people.

There are some who cite a conflict-of-interest as a prima facie ? enough reason ? to launch a public enquiry into Chief Kufuor?s business transaction. They state that since he?s the son of the president there ought to be some violation of ethics in the whole deal. But friend, don?t forget that initially these same people portrayed the whole saga to make it appear that the original owner of the hotel was forced or coerced by President Kufuor to sell it. It was only after the man who had acted on behalf of the original owner and actually sold the hotel to Chief Kufuor?s consortium had vehemently denied any coercion that that allegation died down. Now they have shifted posts. ?If coercion did not work, then let?s try ?conflict-of-interest and abuse of office?? they probably thought. Let us get this straight. Business is about contacts and connection. Ask even the retailer on the street whether he or she does not have to establish contacts and connections in order to succeed. Say, if that trader does not have cash for a product, he or she might still be able to purchase that item on credit, if he?s known to the seller. Would that be unethical? Let?s get serious here, friends! It will be foolhardy for anyone to deny that by virtue of the fact that Chief Kufuor?s father is the president he?ll have more contacts or connections. That is a fact! George W. Bush, might never have owned a baseball team, might never have become a governor of a state, and might never have become president of the United States if his father had not been President before him. So would you say that is also a conflict-of-interest, or you would say it was unethical for him to become president? What sort of twisted logic is this? Such spill-over advantages that Chief Kufuor has would only become a conflict-of-interest or unethical if he had used his father?s office as leverage in the transaction. So far there?s not even one statement to substantiate this.

When George W. Bush became president, he bought a huge ranch at Crawford, Texas where he often spends his weekends at and sometimes hosts foreign dignitaries. I wonder what Ghanaians would have said, if he were our president. For sure, the opposition would have accused him of using state funds to buy that huge property, as if he was a pauper before he became president. The Ghanaian opposition party would have definitely been totally against the CIA using state funds to fortify the president?s security to keep him alive. We are so far behind. Our sense of patriotism is nil. Our logic is twisted. God save us!

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