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Opinions of Saturday, 24 December 2005

Columnist: Seshie-Vanderpuije, Alex

The Statesman ? An Editorial under Scrutiny

Newspaper editorials are one of the many writing styles used to express an opinion on topical issues or to react to timely news and events. It is also regarded by its readership as it normally reflects the political outlook of the newspaper.

In the course of expressing an opinion, a good newspaper editorial would seek to encourage an informed or a constructive debate. An editorial column does not take side or attack the integrity of individuals; rather it provides its readership with honest and accurate explanations about a relevant issue of the day. It also seeks to encourage as well as entertain the reader.

However, the Statesman editorial of the 7th December 2005, captioned, ?The Pending Reshuffle Is Timely? seemed to have presented its readership with an inaccurate and dishonest expression of an editorial opinion.

It is rather bizarre to note that the paper?s campaign for cabinet reshuffle is based on rumours and speculations, which beggars belief that almost half of the Cabinet Ministers have ambitions of 'presidential grandeur'. The reader is given the impression that those Ministers were jostling for presidential ambitions rather than carrying out their respective duties.

In creating the impression that the ministers were embarking on ego-trip, one would be inclined to think that the argument would be based on the sound conviction of truth, however, there is no such evidence to suggest that all the ministers referred to in the editorial have presidential aspirations.

The editorial, in my opinion, was published as a cynical ploy to either misinform the reader or to embarrass those ministers on the so-called list of casualties, which the paper hopes the President would drop in the so-called pending reshuffle.

It is a total dishonesty for the writer of this editorial to place the Attorney General and the Minister of Justice (AG) on top of his so-called list of ministers, who the writer claimed to have failed to live up to the expectations of the President. The paper seemed to have based its argument on the sole premise that the AG?s failure to implement the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) compensation recommendations 'epitomises to some his failure as an AG'.

But despite the paper's misgivings, the AG so far strikes me as a strong character, who has learned fast to settle in his job. Even though the present AG has been at his post for less than ten months, he has shown determination and perhaps a strong sense of responsibility without yielding to outside influences.

It is, therefore, disturbing to note this paper's attempts to measure the performance of the incumbent AG on a single issue.

If readers would recollect, the Statesman editorial of 28th November 2005 "Making the Work of the NRC Relevant", accused the Government for not having done anything concrete and material to implement the recommendations of the NRC so as to relieve the victims of untold sufferings.

The editorial questioned the Government's inability to make financial allocations to the Ministry of Justice and Attorney Generals Department to rehabilitate and to pacify victims.

Meanwhile, other newspapers had carried news brief confirming a request by the AG to the Cabinet asking the government to make available funds for the rehabilitation of the victims of the NRC recommendations. Similarly, the Daily Graphic on the 1st December 2005, carried a front page headline captioned, ?13.5bn cedis for Victims of Injustice? The Graphic sourced its brief from a letter addressed to the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, a copy of which had previously been released to the news media. In that letter, the AG was reported to have asked the sector Minister to make available a supplementary fund of 13.5bn cedis for reparation payments (see Daily Graphic, 1 December 2005).

The Statesman's editorial of the 7th December 2005, therefore, raised several concerns. I wondered why the paper chose to take such an uninformed editorial opinion on the issue. When, in fact, news brief on the reparation payments is already in the public domain. I will be amazed to hear from the editor of the Statesman that he had no fore knowledge of the contents of the said letter before going to press.

I strongly question the motive behind these editorials, and the call for the post of AG to be reshuffled.

My instinct tells me that the paper and its sponsors are in complicity to discredit the incumbent AG. Thus, the recent news editorials on the NRC reparation payments are well thought of ploy to publicise a hidden agenda. The editor of the Statesman has an axe to grind. The paper?s editorial of 7th December 2005 bears the hallmark of vindictiveness.

Without rehashing events at the Akamba Committee of Enquiry, it was the AG, who in consultation with the Chief Justice set up that Ministerial Committee, later adopted by the General Legal Council to look into the various complaints levelled against the Director of the Ghana Law School (GLS), Kweku Ansa-Asare.

It was during a sitting session of this Committee that a witness allegedly revealed that the editor of the Statesman, Gabby Otchere-Darko had failed part of his law examinations during his time at the GLS but was passed on the orders of the Director.

It, therefore, comes as no surprise to me that the editor of the Statesman, Gabby Octchere-Darko is now able to use his position to instigate the removal of the AG. ?It?s payback time?

In my opinion, the two editorials on the NRC were meticulous pieces of manipulative journalism publicised to influence opinion at the highest level and to discredit the AG and those leading ministers on the so called casualty list.

From all indications and standards the Akamba Committee has been a huge success. The implementation of the NRC compensation recommendations is not far off the horizon. It is therefore unfair to jump to conclusions at the back of a process rather than the outcome.

I also question the basis upon which the editorial calls for the office of the Vice-President to be reshuffled.

While we are all too familiar with the political stance of the Statesman, I do hope the editor of the Statesman would endeavour to use the paper?s editorial columns to provide its readers with constructive, honest and accurate opinions on matters of national importance. An editorial that promotes worthy causes gives good value to its readers. It is reasonable for the Statesman as a newspaper to raise concerns over the NRC reparation payments. However, there is no justification in using an editorial column to attack the integrity of individuals, whether they are government officials or private individuals.



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