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Opinions of Friday, 15 May 2015

Columnist: Mawuena, Emmanuel Kwasi

Ban on noise making: another looming lawlessness!

Even though we live in a country with very good laws on paper, these laws are like toothless bulldogs that bark at best and never bite. Consequently, the epitome of lawlessness is at its best. Some say it pays to do the wrong but cost to do the right things. If you are poised to do the right thing you are often asked, ‘are you the only stranger in Jerusalem?’ As a law abiding citizen who wants to do what is right and trust the system for results, I am sorry to tell you that most often you may not get the justice you expect. So the temptation is to descend into the gutters to get instant justice or avoid being taken for granted in the first place.
Once again we have come to the annual month-long (11th May to 11th June) ban on drumming and noise making by the Ga traditional authority. Hindsight, it is important to note that excessive noise making is a national concern that must be addressed by the right authorities through the Public Order Act. It cannot and should not be the duty of a traditional authority in courtesy to some gods- the good people of Ghana deserve better.
Now to the point. The constitution of Ghana is unequivocal on freedom of worship, yet it is equally important to live at peace as people of different religions. It’s therefore in the right direction that the government has brought the traditional authority, Christian bodies and Muslims among other together in conjunction with security services to ensure a peaceful and orderly ban. A joint monitoring task force is therefore made up of the security services and a delegation of the traditional authorities to ensure compliance.
However, the ugly head of lawlessness always surfaces. There are all kinds of groups made up of lawless miscreants who go about homes and churches seizing people’s personal electronic gadgets and churches’ instruments with impunity. Last year there were several reports of groups invading homes and seizing electronic items and extorting money from well-meaning people who were in no way disturbing public peace. Churches were not left out – in my church during a mid-week service, when there were only few people, a group came and took away some musical instruments even though they were not in use then. Though these instruments were unlawfully taken by unlawful task force, it found its way into a legal Chief’s palace where they are demanding huge sums of money for their release. Another Sunday they attempted the same thing but this time round they were not successful as they were met by a formidable force and have to retreat.
What kind of country are we living in? Are we expected to be our own enforcers of the law as it is increasingly becoming clear that in times like this that one cannot trust the system and the security for protection? And is the country ready for the ensuing chaos?
The issue is becoming worrying as the Ga traditional authority seems not to have control over its people who are all over town harassing people. By this the activities of the Ga traditional authority appear to be outstretching its boundaries. Why do I say this? Even though the ban has to do with the level of noise and not the absolute absence of drumming and noise, some unlawful groups often discerns on residents with the slightest sound within their premises once they are able to overpower them. Moreover, this year some groups within the traditional authority are insisting not only on drumming and noise making but the absence of hand clapping. The Ga Traditional authority should therefore be mindful of the constitutional right of people to religion and worship and be reasonable in their demands. If this is proving intolerable, perhaps there will be need to test the legality or otherwise of the issue in the highest court of the land.
But for now, there is a need for a better collaboration among stakeholders to set an agreed and mutually acceptable do’s and don’ts on the ban. The Ga traditional authority, which cannot pretend to be unaware of the many wrongs during such seasons, should sit up and expose these unlawful activities of their people. The security forces should also be up to the task this time round and deal speedily with any miscreants. As it stands, churches must obey the set rules and, without recourse to violence, stand firm against illegal task forces who come without police escorts to confiscate items. Long live Ghana.

Emmanuel K. Mawuena