General News of Wed, 11 Feb 20042
Francis Poku Defends Against Tsikata Claims
The National Security Co-ordinator, Mr Francis Poku, has appealed to all those who have a role to play in the work of the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) to be truthful, honest and sincere with the process to give meaning to the whole exercise.
He said the whole reconciliation process was to help heal the nation of past bitterness and comfort individuals who were subjected to abuse by public officers or government functionaries without just cause. Mr Poku was speaking in an interview in response to allegations made against him by Captain Kojo Tsikata in his written statement before the National Reconciliation Commission.
Although, the NRC did not permit Captain Tsikata to give evidence before the commission to that effect when he testified at its sitting yesterday, Mr Poku said since the statement had already been widely circulated to the media he found it prudent to respond to the allegations.
He said in 1975, he was a Deputy Superintendent in the Police Service and served as a member of the panel which investigated allegations of a coup plot against Capt Tsikata and seven others, which was planned to take place in November, 1975.
Mr Poku said information about the coup leaked and arrests were made to pre-empt what could have turned out to be a bloody coup involving the slaughter of military personnel by the coup plotters.He said in the course of investigations it was discovered that 3,000 rounds of ammunition and 38 grenades had been stolen by the coup plotters.
He said the perpetrator of the theft was S/Sgt Amedika, who was a weapons instructor at the Military Academy and Training School (MATS) who used his position to steal and conceal the ammunition meant for training. Mr Poku said the accused persons were openly tried by a properly constituted tribunal and were represented by counsel, including Mr Joe Reindorf, an Accra barrister.
He said there was a Judge-Advocate in the person of Mr Justice F. P. Sarkodie, while the state was represented by the Director of Public Prosecutions, who at the time was Mr K. Gyeke-Darko.Mr Poku said Capt Tsikata was sentenced to death but this was commuted to life imprisonment and subsequently, he was freed by Gen F. W. Akuffo, when he took over chairmanship of the Supreme Military Council.
He said in the course of the trial, there was allegation of torture of some of the suspects and the DPP advised the team of interrogators to resolve the allegation of torture, before the trial could proceed. He said witnesses were invited to testify and after submissions, the court held that there had been no torture.
In his submission on the matter as reported by the Daily Graphic of Saturday, July 24, 1976, the DPP described the allegations of torture and brutalities brought up in open court as ?a figment of their own imagination? and called for its rejection. Mr Poku said, ?Capt Tsikata was not stating that I tortured him, what he was implying was that my membership of the panel amounted to participation in the alleged torture.
?I must state that if Capt Tsikata is able to provide fresh credible evidence that there was torture, I will appeal to my colleagues on the panel that we must apologise to the victims. After all, that is the right spirit in which the work of the NRC must be approached?.
Mr Poku expressed regret that many of the witnesses were not making use of the opportunity offered by the process to confess to straight forward matters of fact and had rather turned the NRC hearings into self defence, thus causing pain and suffering to persons who were subjected to abuses.
He thus appealed specifically to all those associated with the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council to concede the honest, truth that not a single member of the senior military officers executed ever appeared before a tribunal. He said indeed, the Special Branch was investigating various allegations made against them when they were hurriedly taken and shot.
?In the morning of the executions, there was a dispute within the AFRC over why a full meeting had not been convened to resolve the issue? he pointed out. Mr Poku said he was making these facts known because ?I feel simple truths are so fundamental and all persons connected in any way to the events of 1979 must have the honesty and courage to admit to them.
?It will go a long way to comfort families and to help heal the nation of bitterness,? he emphasised.
On the general lessons to be derived from proceedings of the NRC, Mr Poku said it was becoming increasingly clear that only democratically elected governments can save Ghana and her people from the atrocities that have come before the NRC.
He said when governments came to power by force, there were real dangers that both, military and police personnel become entangled in allegations of improprieties.
?One can only be comforted by the fact that at the moment, the military, police and all other security agencies are gradually becoming friends of the public, because of the level of democratic governance and tolerance of divergent views.