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Opinions of Thursday, 19 October 2006

Columnist: Adin, Kwame

In the Matter of Tapes and Names: Let Justice Prevail and Let Sanity Prevail

The government's inaction or anemic response in the face of the Judge Georgina Wood Committee's report leaves much room for breeding cruel rumors. It is not fair to leave hanging those whose names have surfaced during the hearings of the Wood Committee, while the government takes no steps to exonerate them or find them culpable. The health of a democracy is contingent on the ability and willingness of the government of the day to apply the law promptly without fear or favor, irrespective of personalities and social rank.

We must not, however, prosecute ordinary citizens or public figures in the domain of public opinion before they ever get the opportunity to defend themselves in a legally constituted court. In essence, we must protect the rights of all citizens, including the personalities mentioned on tapes during the Judge Wood investigation. We must be deliberate with our public utterances whenever the names of public figures crop out in investigations. It is incumbent upon us to be circumspect with our pronouncements. We should uphold our traditional institutions.

At the same time, too, we must not gag ourselves when we find that the “emperor wears no clothes.” We must refuse to say amen to those who claim it is sacrilegious to criticize our traditional rulers when they fail to uphold the sacred oaths they took upon anointment. We cannot be lulled by our sense of complacency or misplaced loyalty to pretend that we do not see the stains on the fine cloths our leaders wear. We must not defend the indefensible. A repugnant act by an ordinary citizen or a revered leader should draw moral outrage from society.

It is inexplicable why the government cannot institute a body of respected citizens with legal expertise (a bipartisan commission) who could pose written questions to the current Asantehene whose name was mentioned on tapes during the Judge Wood investigation. This commission must act with discretion with no assumption of guilt or innocence. The mere citing of the name of a major traditional ruler on a tape does not translate into guilt. Normally, I would not give much credence to a group of accused drug dealers who out of bravado mention the name of an august traditional ruler. Rogues and shady characters are notorious for dropping names in lame efforts to throw off investigators. Crooks often add the names of respectable people to their murky brew. Well-trained investigators, however, do not allow those charged with crime to circumvent the process.

The public must show restraint and have good faith in the commission. Until that commission comes out with adverse findings, the media must show prudence in their pronouncements. The public must have trust in such a bipartisan commission and accept their findings. I can understand the Asantehene’s frustrations as indicated in his recent public statement. There is justification for his umbrage. The media must not subject citizens, most of all a major traditional ruler, to ridicule without cause or proof of guilt. The government is not being responsible or fair to allow such an uncomfortable situation to continue.

Through all these trying times about the cocaine debacle, it is inexcusable that the President of the country has not come out with a major statement about the rapid incidents of illegal drugs in Ghana. The President’s diatribe about Rojo was divisive, needless, and disingenuous. Predictably, Rojo’s response was just as unfortunate, immature, and ill advised. The President must rally leaders of government and opposition, religious leaders, educational institutions, civic organizations, traditional leaders, etc. in a concerted outcry and outrage against incidents of drug abuse in the country. We as a nation are at a cross road, as the problem of illegal drugs is everybody’s.

The government has the responsibility to come out with a drug policy that will lead to a comprehensive education of young people from K to tertiary levels. The government must be firm and harsh in punishing drug offenders. Religious bodies, parents, health care personnel, traditional rulers, etc. must inculcate positive messages about healthy life style. Let us have an unequivocal message that while we all desire wealth, we as a society are most interested in the means by which citizens acquire wealth. Wealth acquired by illegal means is not acceptable. Wealth by untoward acts must be shunned. Wealth must come through legal and ethical means. We welcome wealth through hard and honest work.

We are alarmed at what these spates of incidents of illegal drugs have done for Ghana’s image on the international scene. Most Ghanaians, however, have yet to see the tragedy that the stems from drug abuse. Most Ghana families have yet to experience the devastating impact of drug abuse. Drugs have the tendency to reduce humans into walking shadows who drift from street to street. Drugs would wreck rampage, with no end, on our society. Ghana is in a cataclysm. How we emerge from this abyss would determine not only what nation we are but also what nation we want to be. Targeting a particular traditional leader only deepens the mire we are struggling in. The only thing worse than that is government inaction in launching a national crusade against drug abuse and illegal drug trade. The government can begin this process by bringing specific charges against those arrested in the cocaine debacle. The government must also act candidly and fairly in clarifying the allegations regarding the mentioning of the Asantehene’s name on a tape during the Judge Wood’s Committee’s hearing.

A non-partisan commission of legal experts can be empowered to help resolve this ugly cloud hanging over the nation. We need the help of all traditional leaders in the fight against drug abuse. We cannot win that war when we vilify public leaders who have not been charged and proven guilty. The government has a responsibility to the citizens of Ghana to show that the laws of the country work. In a democracy, no one is above the law. In the same measure, we must not prosecute in the public domain. It must rest with the court of law to bring specific charges against citizens we violate the laws of Ghana. We must have faith in the laws of the country and the government’s prompt and decisive action in this matter would strengthen that faith.

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