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Opinions of Saturday, 19 November 2005

Columnist: Asomaning, George

Open Letter To My Lawyer Friends In Ghana


Hello Guys,

I hope you are all well and prospering in your lives and careers.

I have been prompted to write to you all due to recent events in Ghana reported on Ghanaweb both from GNA. These two articles have really saddened me and I am sure all of you. I know you are able to do something about these developments that is why I am writing to you all.

The first event is a GNA report of 8 November that farmers at Abirem had been shot by the police for demanding that the right method be used in calculating compensation for their cocoa trees that are to be destroyed by Newmont Gold Ghana Limited. The shooting apparently resulted in the death of one person and three people sustaining serious wounds. From the GNA report, their protest was to protect their right to the payment of prompt, fair and adequate compensation in the event of compulsory acquisition of lands for mining as provided in the Minerals and Mining law of Ghana (PNDC LAW 153).

I also understand that a group called WACAM is deeply worried about the ease with which the security agencies especially the Police and the Military are used to protect the interest of mining companies as against the protection of the rights of mining communities. In WACAM?s view, the security agencies are not sensitive to the rights of poor mining communities. They also made reference to a few specific cases to support their concern about the human rights violations in mining communities in particular against AngloGold Ashanti : among the abuses shooting of innocent people, beatings, unlawful arrest, harassment and the invasion of homes of residents without warrant.

I take my hat off to WACAM and its Executive Director Mr Owusu Koranteng and wish them every success in what they are doing to bring dignity back to our nationals.

The second incident is another GNA report also on Ghanaweb concerning Bogoso Gold Limited (BGL), where workers and management are currently locked in a dispute regarding payment of their end of year bonuses resulting in holding the Senior Staff hostage for almost 18 hours. What a desperate and unlawfully dangerous way to settle an industrial dispute?

Guys my plea to you is very simple. You can do something about these and transform our country. We grew up at a time of dictatorship, but now fortunately for the last 16 years and particularly the last 8 years we have witnessed the steady growth of our young democracy and we ought to further deepen these gains by using legal means to ensure the triumph of the rule of law. These workers must have lawyers who will sit with them and negotiate good deals with their management, then take the management to task when they go back on such agreements. No worker must be left to adopt such desperate measures.

In the same manner we should be visiting our rural folks in New Abirem, Prestea, Bogoso and other places and advise them, sit with them and talk to the mining companies to ensure that such incidents are from henceforth consigned to history. Help them set up legal frameworks for compensations, dispute resolutions and hold them to account need be through the courts. We have fantastic judges in post.

Guys, you know the law more than I do so I have no right lecturing. I just want to encourage you to take these cases on. If you don?t do it who else will? I am sure some of you will be asking what I am doing about these. My answer is simple: I definitely would if I was in Ghana and you know that I would, but I am not. However I am able to help raise funds if need be to defend our people. We owe this to our generation; they gave us free education, far better than what this current generation is enjoying. We dreamed of helping the poor, we loved the rule of law and talked among ourselves how we would defend the rights of every person irrespective of social or economic means. Let us carry this great message of rights and obligations to our people; we have the means and the ability to do it. Let us give them dignity. Let us protect them and make them feel proud to be Ghanaians. Rise up guys; they are waiting for us!!!

I would love to hear from all of you.

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