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Dishonouring Our Honourables
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Opinions of Tuesday, 26 September 2006

Columnist: Kukubor, Kofi B.

Dishonouring Our Honourables

I read with little enthusiasm the ordeal that Honourable David Apasera, MP for Bolgatanga, suffered at the hands of some immigration officials, at one of the airports in Germany. More interestingly, it was also alleged that our Honourable Speaker of Parliament, Mr. Ebenezer Sakyi Hughes went through similar airport ordeal. However, it was when I heard Hon. David Apasera narrating his ordeal on one of the private radio stations that my five-year-old son drew my attention to the seriousness of the matter.

Earlier on, Hon. Stephen Kunsu, MP for Kintampo North Constituency, was also reported to have lamented on the same issue, and further commented on how difficult it is for Members of Parliament to acquire visas from the High Commissions and Embassies in the country, for their official and private journeys abroad.

According to Hon. David Apasera, he was rudely asked to display his “personal gadget” that was supposed to have been the preserve of only his wife, at one of the airports in Germany. It was alleged that, the Honuorable was suspected of carrying illegal drugs on his person. Despite his protestation that he was a member of our august Parliament and for that matter travelling on a service passport, the officials went ahead to ‘tamper and tinkle’ with his private parts. It was at this point that my five-year-old son whom I thought could not comprehend the story being narrated surprisingly asked me this question, ‘so Daddy, they did you some when you traveled to London’? (i.e. have you been subjected to the same ordeal the last time you traveled to London?)

My dear readers, I began to realise how gruesome and humiliating the whole incident might have been. Imagine if you or your wife came home to narrate such a story to the family, it would definitely be most embarrassing. At first I quickly attributed it to an act of racism and the work of some skinheads. Nevertheless, when I recomposed myself, I began to ask very fundamental questions. Why should a Member of Parliament or Speaker of Parliament find it extremely difficult to acquire visa for his travels? Why should some young white boys in immigration uniforms, order an MP or Speaker of Parliament, travelling on a Ghanaian service passport to display his vital statistics without due regard to his social status, position, and gray hair? For Christ sake, we are talking about our legislators, and the Speaker of Parliament, who is the third in command of the governmental hierarchy of Ghana, being subjected to ordeals reserved for hardened criminals. Why is it that in few years past, both officials of state and ordinary citizens of this country holding genuine documents traveled freely without all these hassle and ordeals?

Hon, David Apasera, was fuming over Parliament, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ inability to impress upon the German authorities to bring the immigration officials to book. According to the Hon. MP for Bolgatanga, he wrote a protest letter and presented it on the floor of Parliament over his bad treatment to which no action has been taken. He contended that until Parliament brought the German immigration officials to order, Ghanaians would suffer more of such humiliations.

I fully share in Hon, David Apasera contention that more Ghanaians would suffer more humiliation if this unacceptable phenomenon is not quickly curtailed. However, I would opt for a minute to critically examine the possible causes of this creeping and dangerous phenomenon.

The former Director of Bureau of National Investigation (BNI), and Narcotics Control Board, Mr. Kofi Bentum Quantson, made very profound statements when he appeared before the Georgina Wood Committee. He said, ‘drug barons had intelligence services of their own, which surveyed the terrain of their countries of operation to identify the humans, the infrastructure and institutions of state that they could corrupt because they cannot survive without corrupting them.’ He further posited that ‘POLITICIANS were the first target of the barons in their corrupt trade.’ Reference Daily Graphic, Friday, August 25, 2006. There is no doubt that Ghana is tagged as one of the major conduit for drug trafficking in the West Coast of Africa by the international community. This is a succinct Central Intelligence Agency, CIA report on Ghana. Ghana is an “illicit producer of cannabis for the international drug trade; major transit hub for Southwest and Southeast Asian heroin and, to a lesser extent, South American cocaine destined for Europe and the US.” According to Transparency International reports, it is also widely perceived that government and government institutions in Ghana are very corrupt.

It would therefore be safe to conjecture that, the international community has placed official documents of Ghana in relation to acquisition of visas, and government officials, under strict scrutiny. Why this conjecture? We shall examine some of the events or scandals that had happened vis a vis government attitude in responding to them.

Eric Amoateng heroin & other Cocaine saga

Eric Amoateng’s heroin saga is one of the issues that have brought our parliamentarians under the watchful eyes of the international community. Amoateng has been indicted in a court of competent jurisdiction in the USA for drug offences. A similar episode happened in South Africa lately. Deputy President Jacob Zuma was axed from the presidency when he was indicted of corruption and other charges. The South African government did not necessarily believe that Zuma was guilty, but his dismissal was necessary to preserve the sanctity and integrity of the presidency. In Amoateng’s case, Parliament has not boldly come out with a statement to condemn and disassociate itself from Amoateng. Even in ordinary day to day administration, workers are interdicted when suspected of a crime which would compromise the integrity of the company. How much more an indictment? The majority in parliament is still guarding and preserving Amoateng’s parliamentary seat for him. Where lies the sanctity of our Parliament? Where is the honour that must always be preserved in order to safeguard honours due our legislators?

Furthermore, some NPP members, some in official capacities, on some infamous occasions accused each other openly on some radio stations of allegedly doing drugs. These and other issues such as the handling of the MV Benjamin saga and the missing 77 parcels of cocaine, and the alleged involvement of top Police officers, convey critical messages to the international intelligence and security. The call by the minority in parliament to set up an independent commission of inquiry that shall have the powers, rights and privileges of the High Court to holistically deal with the drug menace, has been ignored by President Kufour. This singular act would have sent a very strong message to the international community about the government’s seriousness, political will, and comprehension of the drug problem that is confronting the country.

The ignominious case of the three Dzorwulu NPP branch women executives busted at the KIA airport for possessing drugs has become an albatross on the neck of the NPP administration. It has been alleged time and over again that these three women were released from Police custody on the instructions of the First Lady, Madam Theresa Kufour, and the whereabouts of these three NPP branch executives continue to be a mystery. To date, there has never been any official statement from the government or the Presidency denying this allegation. Parliament which has the mandate of the people to demand at least an official statement from the executive or the H.E. President Kufour to clear the image of the Presidency and the country has also failed in carrying out its duties. The first ever statement made by H.E President Kufour on the whole drug scandal, which could have sent a strong message to the international community about his government’s position and actions in dealing with the drug problems facing the country, rather turn out to be “a party matter” and an absolute disaster. Again, what was Parliament’s reaction? Deafening Silence.

Visa and Passport Scandals & Missing suspects

Musa Moctar Bamba, a former Deputy Minister at the Office of the President was alleged to have on several occasions abused and misused the Office of the President to fraudulently acquire visas for NPP activists; duped unsuspecting prospective investors; and has used letterheads of the Office of the President to issue fraudulent Government Guarantees to foreign and local businessmen. Other staff close to the presidency and some parliamentarians were also not immune from these visa fraud allegations. The general public at large has not been happy with the way these allegations were handled by the government. One other scandal which was quickly swept under the carpet and which was not investigated was the allegation of passport acquisition deals and shipment of large quantity of Ghanaian passports to some unknown people in other countries. It was alleged that the Deputy Director of Passport office was deeply involved in such deals. It was alleged that the High Commissions and Embassies have caused the arrest of some dubious people using the seals and letterheads of the presidency in applying for visas. Some of these people have allegedly been traced to be close associates to some government officials hence the inability of the police to prosecute them. This is a difficult situation for any High Commission and Embassy. The practical truth is that, the emissaries have lost confidence in our official documents hence their refusal to grant visas to our parliamentarians.

At the Georgina Wood Committee, it was reported or alleged that the data of the Venezuelan suspects, who entered the country through KIA airport, could not be found in the computerised records of Immigration Service. Meanwhile these records can only be accessed by security code. The Head of Immigration and other top Immigration officials are still at post. No one is asking questions.

Developments at the Media front

According to the former BNI boss, “drug barons could even influence the media with huge sums of money in order to kill stories on suspects who were arrested.” The signs are here with us. Some sections of the media have the penchant to distort and divert public attention on issues bordering on drugs. Journalists, who are desirous to expose the truth to the general public, are assaulted and brutalised, and their equipments forcefully seized by close associates of these suspected drug barons. Sadly, these brutalities took place on government premises and under the full glare of the police. What was the position of the government, parliament and other responsible bodies in the country? The Ghana Journalist Association (GJA), which is responsible for protecting not only journalists but is also custodian of press freedom, free expression, and democracy, has not taken any court actions against such barbaric acts.

Mr. Honourable Member of Parliament we are confronted with a problem which is debilitating the very foundation of this country and the attitudes of governments and institutions that are established to fight this cancer is not helping address the problem. As Mr. Quantson stated, “we are dealing with a corruptible society and with ruthless people whose survival depends on corruption…… and drug trade festered in an environment of weak economy and a society where people glorified the rich without questioning the source of their wealth.”

I have drawn the attention of Hon. David Apasera and other MPs to these developments because, I am of the strong opinion that, government, Parliament, Religious Bodies, and the nation have failed to effectively manage some of these scandals that have caused so much damage to the image and integrity of our country. The inaction and actions of both the executive and the legislature in handling some of these scandals have sent wrong signals to the international community and thereby exposing both officials and ordinary citizens of Ghana to many embarrassments. The bone of contention is not with the embassies or foreign immigration officers. Events that have occurred in our dear country might have precipitated such reactions. We have to redeem the image of this nation and the power to do it is in the hands of our legislators like you. Let us realise that in politicising such serious scandals over the years, we have rather created a web for ourselves and we are becoming preys to the very web we have created.

Hon. David Apasera, as much as I sympathise with your predicament, no responsible government would ignore these dangerous signs and signals emanating from this country. They are obligated by the mandate of their citizens to protect them from harm. If a five year old child is much concerned about the sanctity of his father’s bedroom “accoutrements” then as people elected into position of responsibilities are much more obliged to preserve and protect the integrity and sanctity of our dear country. Otherwise, you would soon return from a journey and be asked by your child ‘so Daddy, they did you some when you traveled to …….’? What therefore, is the position of the Priviledges Committee of Parliament on the falling international status of State Officials of in Ghana?

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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