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Opinions of Friday, 28 June 2013

Columnist: Daily Post

No One Is Above The Law


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Ghana’s Supreme Court has emphasized that nobody residing in
the country is above the law and thus warned that it would deal with anyone who
seeks to undermine the authority, independent and integrity of the judiciary
especially with regards to the on-going election petition hearing before it.

“…The touchline we issued last Monday covers
everybody in this country; from the President down to anybody; everybody is
covered; everybody, I want to make that clear. That’s the coverage area of our
warning”,said Justice William
Atuguba, President of the nine-member panel of judges said during hearing of
the petition case yesterday.

His pronouncement was in reference to comment made by the Deputy
Communication Director of the NPP, Sammy Awuku, on Peace FM’s morning programme,
Kokrokoo, barely 24 hours after the
court issued a final warning to lawyers and the media in particular regarding
twists and spins put on the proceedings at the hearing.
Taking his turn on
the programme on Tuesday morning, Sammy Awuku described as “hypocritical and
selective”, the warning by
the Supreme Court to the media to stop misrepresenting to the public
proceedings at the election petition hearing. To buttress his point, he said
the court was bias in mentioning the Daily
Guide, a pro- NPP newspaper as a
culprit while failing to do so with the pro-NDC newspapers.
When Mr. Kwesi Pratt Jnr, a co-panelist on the
programme expressed reservations about Sammy Awuku’s comments and sought to
apologise on behalf of the programme, Sammy Awuku said the apology does not
cover what he had said.

Taking a very dim
view of the utterances of the NPP activist in view of the fact that it had
issued a final touchline warning the previous day to all persons to be
circumspect in their comments about proceedings in court, Justice William Atuguba,
immediately the court resumed sitting yesterday after taking a break on Monday
decided to tackle the issue of twists and spins put on proceedings at the court
for public consumption and the denigrating of the independence and integrity of
the court.
Firstly, he touched
on the Daily Guide’s front page
headline a day after the Supreme Court issued the final warning. ATUGUBA GOES WILD,
the headline of the
Tuesday, June, June 25, 2013 edition of the paper screamed, referring to the President
of the panel of judge’s final touchline warning as well as his dim view of the
publication concerning pink sheets in his custody published in the same newspaper
on Friday, June 21, 2013.

Justice Atuguba said
while newspapers have a right to publish stories that will sell, they ought to
use decent words. He wondered if the paper can stand a wild sentence from the
court.

Having dealt with the
issue of poor reportage in the Daily
Guide, he moved on to the comments made by Sammy Awuku on the Peace FM programme. He
asked if the
Deputy Director of Communication of the NPP was in court since he had been told
that he had been coming to the court to listen to proceedings into the election
case. It turned out, however, that Sammy Awuku was not in court. The judge then
issued the warning that no one was above the law and therefore the court will
deal with whoever tries to undermine its authority and integrity. He then said
the court will deal with Sammy Awuku later.

Back from recess,
Sammy Awuku, obviously upon advice, ‘produced’ himself in court to plead and
retract his offensive comments. When he was asked by Justice Atuguba why he had
come to court, the NPP activist said he had been told that his name had been
mentioned in court and having realized that his comments were offensive, had
come to retract and apologize accordingly.
Pleading for mercy, he
claimed that he made the offensive comments after being provoked by a
co-panelist representing the NDC on the programme. He apologized profusely and
pledged to use same forum and other fora to retract his comments and apologize.
Counsels from both
sides took turns to plead on behalf of Sammy Awuku for mercy. The first to do
so was Philip Addison, lead counsel for the petitioners who revealed that he,
together with his learned friends from the other side had met the judges in
their chamber during recess and pleaded with the court to forgive Sammy Awuku. Counsel
for the respondents, Tsatsu Tsikata, Tony Lithur and Quarshie Idun, all took turns
in open
court to again plead for mercy for the NPP activist.

Ordering Sammy Awuku
to keep standing, the judges then retired to their chamber to determine how to
deal with the NPP activist who cut a pathetic figure and looked subdued as he
waited for the judges to return.
On their return, the
voice of Justice Atuguba reverberated through the court room as he worked his
way towards the ruling of the court on the matter. The court room was dead
silent. One would be able to hear the sound of a pin if it drops. Sammy Awuku
stood lonely by the dock, looking like one about to be sentenced to death. The
smile on the faces of supporters of the NPP in the court had been replaced by
the expression of a survivor of a shipwreck. Justice Atuguba’s voice rose to a
crescendo. Then he pronounced the ruling of the court.

He said the court
took a very dim view of the attempt to tarnish its integrity. He expressed the
readiness
of the court, as a result, to assert the authority vested in it and deal with
anyone who attempts to do so. He said in light of the retraction of the offensive
comment and the apology thereof by Sammy Awuku, the court had decided not to invoke
its powers of contempt. It was
therefore discharging the NPP activist. However, it was barring him from
further attending the court’s proceedings on the matter. This he said was the
beginning of punitive measures against all others who have decided to disrespect
the authority of the judges.
NO
REMORSE?
Outside the court, many
who felt Sammy Awuku would have learn to be slow to speak were surprise when he
did not only speak to journalists but said he had accepted the decision of the
court but had his own reservations. On Agoo
FM later on, as if to justify his offensive comments, he said others have
said worse things about the Supreme Court yet have not been dragged there.

On citi
FM, he likened his situation to a footballer who had been red carded and therefore
has to watch the rest of the match from the stands. He said though he had been
barred from being in court to listen to proceedings, he will continue to follow
the case and make his contribution when necessary. At 6:00 pm, he made good his
pledge to the court to retract and apologise for his offensive comments.
Awuku’s Lie
Many who listened to
the Peace FM programme on Tuesday
morning when Sammy Awuku made the offensive comments know that he lied to the
Supreme Court when he said he was provoked to make the comments on the
programme.

The NDC activist on
that programme was Dela Edem. In his submission on the Supreme Court, Dela said
the NPP stalwart’s petition before the Supreme Court is bound to fail. He said
nothing to provoke Sammy Awuku to make him attack the integrity of the Supreme
Court.

The Managing Editor of
the Insight, Kwesi Pratt, taking his
turn on the topic said he had decided not to be making comments regarding the
case and therefore chose to deal with a different topic. However, his attempt
to apologize on behalf of the programme for the comments against the Supreme
Court was spurned by the NPP activist.
Sammy Awuku, described
as a fine gentleman during his school days has gained notoriety for making very
dangerous and insulting comments unbecoming of a young man who ventured into
national politics not very long ago.
In the run up to the
2012 elections, addressing NPP youths in the Eastern Region, he advised them to
carry old pestles to polling stations on voting day and use them to attack
opponents of the party who would want to disrupt the voting process. Speaking
in twi, one of the main Ghanaians languages, he said pestles which are no
longer in used (wormafunu) do not have to be licensed and thus the activists
should ensure they get one for use on the D-day. This outrageous comment has
earned him the name ‘Dr. Wormafunu’ among a section of the populace.

In the same address to
the NPP youths, he virtually insulted the then IGP, Paul Quaye, referring to
him as the helpless son of a woman. He further advised the youth to ensure that
they dash to government agencies and grab jobs and positions for themselves.

Ironically, one of the
victims of Sammy Awuku’s acidic tongue is Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata, presently counsel
for the third respondent in the election case who pleaded yesterday with the
Supreme Court to tamper justice with mercy in dealing with him.

Following allegation
made by Mr. Tsikata on day 14 of the Presidential Election Petition hearing
that the pink sheets tendered in evidence by the petitioners in court were not
up to the 11,842, Sammy Awuku said Tsatsu was arithmetically challenged!

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