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Opinions of Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Columnist: Lungu, Prof

Atuguba's Chariot of Contempt Citations ...

....isn't Worthy of Respect!

"//...Respect is a positive feeling of esteem or deference for a person or other entity (such as a nation, public institution, or private religious facility)...Respect can be a specific feeling of regard for the actual qualities of the one, thing, or institution respected. Respect is both given and received for the one and the institution by active agents who in turn expect others to respect the one in return for the respect they show others, even as public servants. Respect is commanded of subjects and slaves. Respect cannot be bought or traded by, or between citizens, and is earned and built over time. But Respect can be lost with one brainless, inconsiderate, or selfish act, gestures, or command....\\ (WIKIPEDIA+Prof Lungu on "Respect").

Even as depositions, arguments, and pleadings have ended at the Supreme Court with respect to the 2012 nation election litigation, and professionally-challenged Ghanaian lawyers are croaking Atuguga's contempt eyes are still watching, WE must still address this rather unfortunate case of Atuguba's contempt citations, imprisonment of free citizens (among then members of the press), and real and latent fears and apprehension created among many citizens, among them lawyers, as a result.

Sadly, it is still common for many readers and commentators on Ghanaweb to ascribe partisan influence to columnists and other commentators who disagree with them on important public policy matters, including legal questions such as the contempt citations being meted out to citizens by the Justice Atuguba and his panel. Prof Lungu has not been immune to some of these distractions.

Such a question was asked of us by Al Gashari ..... , and Agya_Manso during the discussion of the 14 July essay by Professor Kwaku Asare, titled, "Is the Supreme Court Panel Hearing the Presidential Petition Above the Law?" As Agya_Manso will have readers understand, "Until recently...Prof Lungu was merely a FOI advocate until he 'outed' himself in one of his postings..."

Obviously, we do not understand what "'outed' himself" means. And so, we were obliged to respond to set the record straight, so to speak. We asked those concerned to go back and review our position essays on Ghanaweb since 2007. Fact is, we've always approached cases with a Ghana-centered perspective, and a critical mind set every time.

With respect to the election litigation, we've never commented on who won, who may have won, who must win, or who would win when the verdict is finally announced. To the point, we've never had a dog in that "fight", and never will. In fact, Ghana-centeredness requires that it ought to matter little to us who is declared/confirmed winner in the end, just as long as the Supreme Court panel is widely seen as reflective, thoughtful, and above all, impartial!

The idea is 100% of our statements on the petition have been related to the saga of the contempt citations being hurled with reckless abandon by Justice Atuguba. We've argued that it is illegal and a total waste of the Peoples' time. In fact, we will hazard that one does not need to be a lawyer to realize that the panel is abusing the power and trust of the people.

Upon further review, Al Gashari came back with "One thing I can say of Prof Lungu is that he is not pro-NPP, neither is he an NDC man. He is, actually, a CPP man and seems to like a good and fair argument..." Just the other day, Al Gashari came back with "die-hard" CPP man, to which we responded.

If Prof Lungu is CCPer, Prof Lungu is CPPer to the extent that party has a history that, more than any political party, strongly influenced the unity of Ghana, right from the foundation. Further, we've always believed that a strong third party is desirable for the continued political, social, and economic development of Ghana. The CPP has for a while had that potential, an uncommon nation-building vision and record. Even so, we have absolutely no affiliation. In fact, we have been equally critical of the CPP and its leaders, current and past. Again, the reader can review our record on Ghanaweb and other media going back to 2007, or earlier. (But, we digress a bit, here!).

And so, to our second point: "Respect"!

Our critique of Atuguba's platter of contempt citations is neither a bias against, or support for NPP, NDC, or any other party. Simply, our critique is merely another brawny bollard in the middle of the rocky road the Atuguba Chariot of Contempt Citations is recklessly traveling in their futile search for "Respect."

As Justice Atuguba would have us believe, the matter of contempt citations is related to the respect he, Atuguba, demands for himself and other members of his panel even as they are more than fairly compensated by the Commonwealth of Ghana to timely adjudicate the presidential election litigation.

We will have Al Gashari ..... , Agya_Manso, Justice Atuguba and other members of his panel understand that the objective, critical mind in us tell us the question of contempt citations ought to be evaluated independent of the protest/litigation.

In fact, given the "One Ghana" identity engineered and chartered by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and other leaders at the time of the foundation, the contempt citations potentially have a far bigger influence on the future development of Ghana, compared to whoever is declared winner by the Court. More important, these contempt citations probably have far greater implications for the independence of the judiciary and real respect for that institution, perhaps more than Justice Atuguba and the panel appreciate or recognize.

Therefore, here is some useful education for Justice Atuguba and other members of the panel still riding the Chariot of Contempt Citations on the rough road!

Respect is demanded of slave and subjects!

Respect is not commanded of citizens, if one believes fellow citizens are equal before the law!

Respect is not requested through threats, intimidation, or suppression of the free exercise of speech and association outside the court house!

Respect is earned!

In conclusion, as active, conscientious, and even-handed agents, the independence of public servants, including Supreme Court judges, assumes restraint and an acute sense of self-reflection that persistently informs the agent they alone do NOT have answers to key public policy or legal questions. More important, they alone cannot combine all functions of government and decide who has freedom of speech, freedom of association, or liberty to sleep in their own bed, at a time and place these same publicly-funded agents themselves prescribe.

©Prof Lungu is Ghana-centered, Ghana-Proud. Prof Lungu is currently based in Washington DC, USA. Prof Lungu is brought to you courtesy © 19th July, 2013.