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Opinions of Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Columnist: Sodzi-Tettey, Sodzi

Reflecting Over ‘Operation Kill Tsatsu’

Waiting patiently for the opportunity to assess the fierceness of the public response, if any that might greet any further high profile criticism of the Supreme Court ruling on the Presidential election petition took much shorter than I expected. This posture was against the backdrop of the spontaneous uproar and condemnation that Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata’s stinging criticism of Justice Anim-Yeboah sparked.

Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata, lawyer for the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) accused the Supreme Court Justice of lack of judicial balance in his rulings. For an example, he cited his own case during which he had argued that the International Finance Corporation (IFC) should not be immune from prosecution. Justice Anim-Yeboah, sitting as an additional Appeal Court Judge allegedly ruled against Mr. Tsikata using rules of an entirely different entity, the International Monetary Fund, to back his ruling. This, in Mr. Tsikata’s view, constituted lack of judicial balance and among its associated factors; he hypothesized that perhaps the honorable Justice might have allowed his political affiliations to cloud his judgment, citing his appointment by President Kufuor.

Hell literally broke loose in Ghana! Within twenty four hours, President Kufuor issued a strongly-worded statement in condemnation. Tsatsu’s former colleague lecturers at the Ghana law school roasted him. Mr. Sam Okudzeto, former President of the Ghana Bar Association (GBA), cut him to size asking, “Because he says he is a law teacher? I’m also a law teacher!” The GBA or at least elements within it threatened further disciplinary action against him. The Chairman y of the National Peace Council nailed Tsikata further and observed just how low he had sunk. The Minority in Parliament held a loud press conference to call for Tsikata’s head. He had scandalized the Supreme Court, they all seemed to agree!

With ‘Operation Kill Tsatsu’ in full gear, I wondered what to do with Mr. Tsikata in my column. Of course, similarly roasting him would have been by far the more popular course of action. In the end, I decided to give myself time and space before plunging myself. I would wait. If another high profile lawyer made similar remarks and if it attracted similar criticism, then I would judge the uproar against Tsatsu to be righteous. I will happily conclude on Mr. Tsikata’s guilt and finish him off. If however, any such criticisms were met with a muted response, I will conclude that the criticisms against Mr. Tsikata were motivated by reasons other than his guilt. In that case, I will not join ‘Operation Kill Tsatsu’ since doing so will in my view, amount to allowing myself to unwittingly become a tool in an agenda to give a dog a bad name and hang it when that dog’s fate has been long decided.

It did not take long.

A week ago, the Danquah Institute organized a forum to subject the written judgment of the Supreme Court to strict analysis. Mr. Sam Okudzeto was its leading speaker. He reportedly expressed his belief that the Presiding Judge, Justice William Atuguba, gave a “wrong” analysis of the judgment. Contrary to the 5-4 judgment given in favor of the respondents, he was of the opinion, having read the entire judgment that it was actually 5-4 in favor of the petitioners. He further accused the President Judge of “misreading" the judgment of his other colleague Justices. Now, let us look at this serious matter in this way; if Justice Atuguba deliberately turned the final judgment on its head while his eight other colleagues sat hearing and seeing no evil, then ‘misreading’ will be his lesser crime. The possibilities ranged from misreading through senile dementia to frank diabolical fraud perpetrated on this country by Presiding Judge William Atuguba fueled by political bias! Another speaker concluded that the ruling of the Supreme Court had taken Ghana back to the stoneage. Subsequently, I waited and waited to hear the proponents of ‘Operation Kill Tsatsu’ to similarly raise accusations of scandalization of the Court against the speakers. I heard nothing. I listened hard…. After more than a week, I still heard nothing!

I have now concluded that I was right not to join ‘Operation Kill Tsatsu’. I would have crucified a man who was destined for crucifixion anyway only to realize after his death that others guilty of similar offences, were walking free.

I reflected further back. When Tsatsu Tsikata was railroaded into prison in the Kufuor era on a day he had not been told was judgment day –something lawyers tell me is an aberration – I do not remember hearing proponents of ‘Operation Kill Tsatsu’. Who knows what Tsatsu would have done had he known- worn his favorite red underwear and given his beautiful wife a more powerful kiss perhaps! When Tsatsu sought to assert his right to proper legal representation, did not the Judge remind him the he Tsatsu was a lawyer and so should represent himself? Did I hear proponents of ‘Operation Kill Tsatsu’ try to assist him to assert his rights? When the President of the Ghana Bar Association at the time – Nii Osah Mills - visited his member in prison to offer him succor and encouragement as any professional body might do, was he not impeached for expressing views not representative of the Association?

Whatever the underlying reasons and motivations for ‘Operation Kill Tsatsu’ are, I wish to leave to your fertile imagination and to our collective national conscience. It is gradually dawning on me that in this country, one of the quickest ways to being seen as objective is to criticize certain individuals and groups. Express support for some other sections of society and you are viewed in certain quarters with suspicion. This too, I leave to our individual and collective conscience but I will not be part of this selectivity.

Perhaps as Tsatsu Tsikata responded, his comments were nothing more than a “call for judicial balance and a demand for judicial accountability” in much the same way that apart from describing anyone who does not appreciate his comments as “ignorant”, Sam Okudzeto’s comments are nothing more than “an academic critique to which he is entitled and obligated.” The rights of both Tsikata and Okudzeto to free speech, academic analysis and to demand accountability should be upheld at all times non selectively. May both these individuals and all other citizens that have applied their minds to the historic ruling walk free.

Sodzi Sodzi-Tettey

3rd October, 2013

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