Hon. Joe Ghartey, Minister of Railways Development and MP for Essikado-Ketan Constituency, has stated that he has forgiven the retrenched railways workers who peddled falsehood about him just before the just-ended 2020 general elections.Recently, the leadership of the retrenched Ghana railway workers offered an unqualified apology to Hon. Joe Ghartey for wrongfully tarnishing his hard-won reputation.
It would be recalled that in the run-up to the December 7, 2020, general elections, the retrenched workers had taken to the media, particularly radio to maliciously claim that Hon. Joe Ghartey, a former Attorney General and Minister of Justice and one of Ghana's highly respected lawmakers, had taken their severance package and refused to pay them.
They had claimed that the Government of Ghana had prior to the elections paid their monies to Hon. Joe Ghartey but he was deliberately refusing to pay them.
But that turned out to be a complete falsehood as the laws of Ghana do not even allow payments of such monies to be made personally to any Minister.
Realizing the unfortunate reputation damage, they had caused the Minister for no fault of his, the leadership of the October 1, 2006, retrenched railway workers on Thursday, December 24, 2020, visited Hon. Ghartey at his private residence in Essikado to seek his forgiveness.
The retrenched workers were led by their Secretary, Edward Roberts, in embarking on the apology mission after months of churning out falsehood against Hon. Joe Ghartey who has over the course of his 30-year political career behaved very well in his public and private life.
“As a result of plight, where we were living in a state of distress and pain, we allowed ourselves to be misinformed that our expected money from Government had been received alongside support to our existing Railway Workers. After a while, we were not hearing anything from any quarters on the said money, we resorted to radio station interviews and along the line, made certain unpalatable statements about you which was later found out to be untrue," they said.
“In view of this, we render our unqualified apologies to you on behalf of all of us and deeply regret any inconvenience our actions might have caused you as a person and as a Minister.”
Prior to their visit, they had written an apology letter to Hon. Ghartey on December 17, 2020.
In the letter jointly signed by their Chairman, John Kodwo Appiah, and Secretary, Edward K. Roberts, the retrenched railway staff said "we render our unqualified apologies to you on behalf of all of us (retrenched staff) and deeply regret any inconvenience our actions might have caused you as a person and as a Minister.
In response, the Minister observed that with their visit taking place around the Christmas season which marks the birth of Jesus Christ, forgiveness was critical.
Being a devoted Christian, Hon. Ghartey noted that it was ungodly to begrudge one's fellow human, underscoring that brotherhood and unity were more important than enmity.
Hon. Joe Ghartey, one of Ghana's most disciplined and respected politicians, made it clear to the railway workers that he had decided to forgive them and as such holds nothing whatsoever against them.
As such, he pledged to support the retrenched railway workers in any way possible in accordance with the laws of Ghana.
However, the former Minister of Justice and Attorney General seized the opportunity to highlight that though the apology was appropriate, the effect that the ‘propaganda’ had on his political fortunes was unfortunate.
He observed that a significant number of residents of the Essikado-Ketan Constituency who are predominantly retired staff of the Ghana Railways Company were swayed by the misinformation.
“Of course, it affected the course of the elections. Some people saw it as ‘enemy action’, a deliberate action that was promoted by the NDC. Even if it wasn’t by them, and was a coincidence, it was a happy coincidence for them because they could go to the people and persuade them that their monies were with me and I don’t want to pay. And Railway is a big constituency on my constituency. I tell you. Look at Kojokrom, Ketan, BU…railway workers and pensioners, and their relatives are all over these communities. You could see clearly that my votes in those communities were affected by this," he said.
In 2006, the Government of Ghana undertook a retrenchment Programme which allowed some railway workers to go on retrenchment
As part of the retrenchment package, they were supposed to be paid some amount of money.
During the former President John Agyekum Kufuor's Government, the retrenched workers were paid half of the money due them.
And during the Mills/Mahama's administration, they were paid the remainder of that amount of money owed them.
But the retrenched workers went to court, arguing that the calculation they did in 2006 was wrong and that they were owed additional money.
The High Court at the time agreed with the retrenched workers.
Due to that, the Ghana Railways Company went to the Court of Appeal and the matter was struck out of the Court of Appeal because the Ghana Railways Company was not present in the Court.
After the Appeals Court struck out the case, the Ghana Railways Company reapplied to the Court in 2019 to have the case enlisted. Thus the matter is still before court.
As such, no payment whatsoever has been made by government to Hon. Joe Ghartey.
Unfortunately, about three months ago, there were malicious media publications claiming that Government had paid the money for the retrenched workers and was being kept by Hon. Ghartey.
The publications went on to suggest that the Minister personally received the monies belonging to railway workers but refused to pay them, something which was completely false.
The laws of Ghana do not allow a Minister of State to directly or personally receive payments for Government workers and pay same to the workers on his or her own.
The malicious publications to some extent may have influenced the outcomes of the Parliamentary election in some areas of the Essikado-Ketan Constituency in the Western Region which is a major railway Centre.
So many of the residents in some areas like Kojokrom in the Essikado-Ketan Constituency, have their parents and grandparents being railway workers or former railway workers and thus issues of railway are not taken for granted in the area.
But in spite of the reputational damage, the false publications have caused him, Hon. Joe Ghartey won the Essikado-Ketan seat at the just ended 2020 parliamentary election and has opted to let bygones be bygones as the Lord had been gracious to him.