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Opinions of Sunday, 22 August 2010

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

Mr. Pratt, the bishop and my right to write crap

We must hand it to smart people without a fuss whatsoever, Jomo, if for no other reason than their resolute determination to stay ahead of the rest of us all the time.

There is a snag they must contend with though: Every adjective has a comparative and superlative and there will always be people smarter than the smart who in turn, must contend with the smartest around:

The result is a society where everyone is right and truthful all the time apart from everyone else, and where searching for the truth with a lit lantern in broad daylight at high noon won’t help one bit in solving the riddle.

Try it: Talk to leading members and supporters of the opposition and the ruling party about corruption and you will discover that everyone is very corrupt apart from everyone else.

If corruption is not your favourite subject try the right to freedom of speech and expression. An exercise of the right to freedom of expression is quite fine as long as it is one group of people which exercises this right but not when another group does the same.

In other words, I am entitled to my opinions and views but you are not entitled to any critical opinion about my opinions regarding your opinions. That is the way democracy seems to work around here!

Take the case of radical political and human rights activist Kwesi Pratt: Mr. Pratt raised the hackles all around this week with a declaration that there was a secret cult in Ghana's judiciary which has kept monkeying about with the administration of justice.

Two coded words in Mr. Pratt’s comment about the judiciary threw the comment out of contextual joint and hid its substance and meaning from recipients of media information who are of the younger generation:

In dropping the two words “odd fellows” where he dropped them in his argument, Mr. Pratt was implying the intrusion of one of the oldest secret societies on the planet into the ranks of the judiciary and by further implication, the administration of justice in Ghana. Got it buddy?

Mr. Pratt was accused by some, of leading a virtual assault on the integrity of the judiciary but it appears he is really in good company. I met a chap who said it had always appeared to him that there existed in the administration of justice, a traditional networking system in which justices of the courts, defence lawyers and prosecutors appear to look out for each others’ interests.

The last thing any judge wants is to have the quality of his judgments constantly questioned but then, even the average man in the street who has had only the barest minimum of formal education has a fair sense of justice.

Have you not heard an ordinary fellow question why a bloke who steals a neighbour’s cat to cook cat-meat-in-pepper-soup {a delicacy in some parts of our great republic}, should be sentenced to two years imprisonment while someone who steals millions of cedis is sentenced to a term of less than six months?

Some things are certainly very difficult to prove but we can raise bright red flags over them by asking questions where two and two stubbornly refuse to add up no matter how much we try.

How come for example that some criminal cases drag on and on because of hearing delays, until a time comes when police investigators, witnesses and prosecutors, have either retired from service, been transferred far away, migrated, died or plain vanished?

Any available witnesses are no longer able to recall evidence with the clarity needed for prosecutors to secure a conviction. Then there are the recurring strange stories about vanishing case dockets!

The initial reaction of the NDC to the string of cases the Attorney-General has lost in recent times was to question the competence of the Attorney-General. Now, with a little help from Mr. Pratt, the NDC reckons the problem must lie with the questionable rulings of judges affiliated to the opposition after all!

The administration of justice is sacred. Anything resembling its subversion or miscarriage invites a non-partisan investigation by competent authorities in jurisprudence, don’t you think?

Then there was the case of the former Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Ghana, the Rt. Rev. Samuel Asante-Antwi who attended a thanksgiving service for the New Patriotic Party’s recently elected presidential candidate Nana Akuffo-Addo and nearly started a war by the time he was done with his sermon.

He criticized and accorded President Mills’s administration a poor performance rating and urged voters not to give Mills a second term in 2012.

As you might expect, it was one big bonanza of a propaganda pay-day for activists and mass media affiliated to the political opposition. As far as the opposition was concerned, the clergyman was speaking for them as well and all who criticized Rev. Asante-Antwi’s comments were enemies of free speech.

If you do anything evil, wrong, or damnable in this country and you are smart enough to put a partisan political spin on it, you will have an army of animated political creatures trooping to your defense should you come under severe criticism. I am not lying, Jomo.

Should clergymen and women be involved in politics? Yes! Issues of health, education, social welfare, agricultural development etc are all political issues.

The clergy has a responsibility to point out or criticize specific policies and policy actions that are detrimental to the welfare of the people or programmes that appear not to be working.

An open declaration of support by a bishop for one of two opposing or rival groups is another bowl of cornmeal porridge altogether. The clergy has a sacred duty to promote peace and cordiality among dissenting and sectarian groups in society.

The Moslem community and the Church are made up of large numbers of supporters of the ruling party and the opposition at any given time.
Take a nap over the matter and when you wake up, try to picture what would happen if Imams and Bishops across the country openly declared their partisan support for particular political parties and called on their congregations and mosques to do the same.

Religion would clash phenomenally with politics and chaos take on a whole new meaning in mosques and church congregations, don’t you think?

A physical footnote to all this crap: The World Cup octopus was doing quite fine predicting wins for Germany until he predicted their defeat. Some angry German fans tried breaking into the aquarium where the octopus lived, to grab and send him to one restaurant whose specialty, I gather, is octopus meat in tomato sauce.

Morale: Folks only want to hear what pleases them. That is one big challenge for freedom of speech and expression!