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Rawlings: Constitutional Rule Has Been Adopted Without Traditional Integrity Of Truth

Sat, 18 Sep 2010 Source: --

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Former President, Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings has decried the manner in which many countries in Africa have applied constitutional rule to perpetuate authoritarian rule.

He said: ³We use the outward trappings of constitutional rule and elections to give a false impression of democratic and responsible leadership.

Delivering an address at the ongoing World Congress of the International Catholic Union of the Press (UCIP) in Ouagadougou on Tuesday, the former President said: ŒLove of truth is the key, not only to professional and responsible journalism, but the very essence of political, social and economic development also hinges on the application of truth.²

One of the challenges we face in Africa, the former President stated, arises from the manner in which the colonial language has been used to superimpose a foreign but powerful reality on our world.

³Often this new reality challenges the authority and integrity of truth and truthfulness that is carried in our indigenous languages.

Flt Lt Rawlings said major political upheavals such as December 31, the French Revolution and the Protestant Revolution all came about as a result of a suppression of the truth. ³Untruth detaches us from reality and is a form of corruption, which has led to serious decay in social values,² he said.

The former President also lamented the failure of Africa to incorporate the spirituality inherent in our traditional language and culture into the acquired language of the colonialists.

³The acquired language has opportunistically been used to avoid incorporating the wisdom, the sense of integrity and democracy in our traditional culture into our adopted Western form of constitutionality.²

The full text of his speech is attached.

ADDRESS BY H. E. FLT LT JERRY JOHN RAWLINGS AT THE WORLD CONGRESS OF THE CATHOLIC UNION OF THE PRESS (UCIP) IN OUAGADOUGOU-BURKINA FASO ­ SEPTEMBER 14, 2010 Your Excellencies, members of the clergy, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

It is an honour to address this all-important conference of the International Catholic Union of the Press (UCIP) ­ the first to be hosted on the African continent.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Catholic media, you are gathered here as professionals to discuss this very important topic, ³Media at the Service of Justice, Peace and Good Governance in a world of Inequalities and Poverty².

The theme is relevant to all Africans who wish to see Africa accelerate her economic, social and political advancement, and growth in all fields of human endeavour.

Africa faces enormous challenges despite the inroads that have been made over the past two decades in countries including Ghana. These problems cannot be addressed without a role for the media. Though I appreciate that we have global media represented here today, I will place most emphasis on the role of the African media in the socio-political development of this continent.

Society has become dependent on the media, which now play an advanced role in the dissemination of information. Part of the role of the media is to serve as a gatekeeper. This entails a huge responsibility to inform the public about happenings around the world without fear or favour and devoid of any influence from any quarters.

As members of the Catholic Church, we are even more obligated to apply one major facet of religious faith ­ the truth. Love of truth is the key, not only to professional and responsible journalism, but the very essence of political, social and economic development also hinges on the application of truth.

Outside our faith, the great Mahatma Gandhi once said that in his search for the truth in God, he ended up finding God in the truth.

Untruth detaches us from reality and is a form of corruption, which has led to serious decay in social values. Major political upheavals throughout history have often come about because of detachment from the reality of truth. The French Revolution, the Protestant Revolution, the 31st December Revolution in my country Ghana all came about as a result of suppression of the truth and the attempt to hide facts which are obvious to the people. A society that is living an obvious lie will sometimes explode in anger.

Ladies and gentlemen;

I speak of truth because as media practitioners some of you ­ not all ­ have been affected by the cancer of untruth and rather than apply your role to inform the public of the truth you tell them untruths because you are compromised by selfish monetary and political considerations.

Nothing can be more constructive, purposeful and liberating than the integrity of truth just as nothing can be more destructive, fruitless and harmful as untruth.

It is thus unfortunate to see some of our journalists take money from various interest groups and publish falsehoods such as concocted opinion polls, inflammatory political and sometimes religious stories and outright fabrications that further stunt the truth and work to unravel the moral fibre of society.

Human knowledge has made great strides over the ages. When it comes to science and technology, mankind¹s inventiveness can be tested against self-evident truth.

Human knowledge is less simple when we are dealing with interactions between human beings. Social behaviour is a complex web of material, emotional, cultural and spiritual impetuses, often expressed in language. One of the challenges we face in Africa arises from the manner in which the colonial language has been used to superimpose a foreign but powerful reality on our world. Often this new reality challenges the authority and integrity of truth and truthfulness that is carried in our indigenous languages.

When the colonial language is adopted without its spirituality, without its integrity and being the language of government, embedded in the power of coercion, truthfulness is meaningless to it. But it has the capacity to be obeyed, coming from the unenlightened and inferior personalities who find themselves in positions of superiority. In contrast, however, the technologically related truth generally maintains integrity because of its scientific nature, except where powerful forces induce scientists to lie.

The integrity of truth related to our social and political life has been so deviously corrupted that freedom and justice remain elusive. They are yet to liberate us.

Many who should have the right to live their lives in dignity and to enjoy democracy within their culture are stunted, ambushed and oppressed by a foreign colonial language that is spoken and used by government without its cultural and spiritual value.

I am not saying that we should not speak English, French, Portuguese or Spanish. I am simply asking: can we not speak those languages with the same degree of integrity as their owners do? I am simply asking: can we not speak the colonial foreign languages with the truthfulness and integrity with which we speak our own native languages? If we have to speak these foreign languages can we not use them as a tool to share the rich culture of democracy and the high sense of fairness and justice that exist in our traditional culture?

Whenever we shower praises on the African for conducting his life as professionally and responsibly as the white man does in his country, it is simply because the integrity in that environment brings out the best in his native nature, brings out his true human nature that is at home in an environment that thrives on integrity.

In our native continent Africa, because we have deliberately and for corrupt reasons failed to transfer the integrity of truth and democracy expressed in our native culture into our acquired foreign language, we have ended up denying the integrity of truth and spirituality in the foreign language as well as our own.

The acquired language has opportunistically been used to avoid incorporating the wisdom, the sense of integrity and democracy in our traditional culture into our adopted Western form of constitutionality. Whilst Western constitutionality and elections ensure Western democracy, we use our constitutionality and elections to not only undermine democracy but to also perpetuate authoritarian rule. We use the outward trappings of constitutional rule and elections to give a false impression of democratic and responsible leadership.

The European language is a colonial language in the sense that it is not inherently equipped to express the beauty and freedom of our own traditions or the spiritual elegance of our people.

Yet in adopting a language with an equally rich history and culture, a language capable of rendering the story of technological advancement, we have the opportunity to use that language to enrich our own culture and in turn to enrich the other culture by imbuing it with our spiritual elegance.

Instead, we adopt the colonial language without its essence and use it as a straitjacket to force our African reality to conform to a distant European reality. Their freedom of ancestral thought is harnessed, reshaped to fit the contours and cadences of European idiom and thought, which still knows little about the African reality.

Under such terms, the colonial language can only parody the true value of our cultural and spiritual inheritance. In place of upliftment, we defile our own culture and spiritual beliefs. Rather than add to our heritage, we inadvertently remove value from our heritage by allowing the limitations of colonial language to reduce our great traditions to a travesty of themselves.

What can be greater than compassion, honesty, accountability, mutual respect and trust, inclusion and noble and fair judgement? These fine traditions that give dignity and security to our people must be protected, whatever the language in use.

The lack of integrity in the adopted foreign language of government has become not only an opportunistic weapon but also most damaging of all, a barrier that prevents the participation of many of our people in the processes of governance, so that the wisdom, logic and sensibilities inherent in our culture are prevented from influencing our behaviour in government.

The richness of our culture is right there ­ waiting to bring out justice, accountability and integrity. This is what made the 31st December Revolution such a great success. It brought out the finest in modern history. People had been yearning to live the spiritual elegance in themselves.

Is it any wonder that most of the courts and conventional lawyers became redundant and tribunals with respected opinion leaders constituted a panel under the chairmanship of patriotic lawyers and were able to dispense justice to the satisfaction of all parties?

Arbitration committees were also available for out of court settlements. The quality of integrity in general had become so high in the hands of the people that it had restored unto the people a sense of purpose, a sense of mission and a sense of patriotism; an intense sense of unity that had not been felt for a long time. The spirit of voluntarism and sacrifice had also had returned naturally because there was a strong sense of political ownership.

The spirit of positive defiance was so high no one; big or small would be permitted to get away with any misbehaviour or lawlessness.

The 31st December Revolution was such a great success. It brought the best out of Ghanaians. True democracy, freedom and justice were alive even in the absence of a constitution. Ghanaians had had a taste of various governments ­ socialist, capitalist, so-called multi-party democracy, single-party system, coups, counter coups ­ none of which made them feel a part of the promised self-government till the outrage of June 4 ushered in the 31st December revolution which restored the sense of security, the sense of participation, the high sense of productivity ­ noble qualities that seemed to have been lost.

Ladies and gentlemen:

Without the conscious effort of the press to seek redress, the judicial consciousness of our people is made foreign in our homeland. Without the integrity of truth, naked power supplants indigenous democratic tradition, while our judicial, social and political institutions are rendered oppressive, undermining the moral fabric of our societies.

Distinguished participants;

What is the quality of democracy where there is no justice? Can we call it democracy? Without the cleansing effect of justice wherein lies the value of the constitution?

Are we not as a Church failing in our responsibilities to God if we cannot be vigilant enough, bold and outspoken about injustices that engulf some of our governments?

Ladies and gentlemen;

We can only institute good governance in our societies if some members of the media do not become pawns of government and other selfish business and political groups ­ a disease that is not only unique to Africa but across the world. Some of the most recognised news media in the world are always so unashamedly biased in favour of one political grouping or the other. How can the ordinary people recognise reality in such circumstances?

In my country, Ghana, whilst a former head of state was kept on his old salary of $350 per month, a compromised journalist was being paid $10,000 a month by an extremely corrupt government to continue corroding the sanctity of truth.

Good governance can be instituted in our societies if we apply the principles of courage, probity, accountability, freedom and justice. The growth we sometimes see our own media acclaim in various forums is superficial. Our society is mired in corruption within several arms of governance including some sectors of the judiciary and this stunts the growth of a better society.

Our civil service abounds in men and women of integrity who sometimes are unable to transmit that quality to higher forms of government for fear of intimidation and demotion.

I am sure many of you have heard the expression ³Culture of Silence²?

It is often used to mean suppression of truthful journalism by governments or powerful interests, using fear or inducements. Ironically, I recall the time when I first used the expression. I had called a large meeting of journalists and I accused them of imposing the Culture of Silence on themselves. By this, I meant that they were practising safe, timid and dull journalism. All they wrote was true but uninteresting, without conveying the atmosphere, without analysing the context and implications of the speech.

Dull journalism does not inform because it does not interest readers.

At the other end of the spectrum is sensationalism, which tried to grab cheap attention.

In the middle lie both the worst ­ insidious lies dressed up as truth ­ and the best ­ truth, which goes hand in hand with courage.

Ladies and gentlemen;

I enjoin you as you deliberate over the next five days to meditate seriously on how you as men and women of the media can apply your Christian and Catholic principles to the good of the profession and the good of your societies. Journalism owes the world truthful, well-researched information devoid of any trappings of bias and lack of balance.

You need to sacrifice to dispense the truth and we will all be witnesses to the rapid growth it would transmit to our societies. A positive revolution will uplift this continent.

The people of West Africa have shown over three decades that they will only tolerate political ineptitude and insensitivity for so long as true power lies with the mass of the people. In order that evil and injustice do not prevail, you and I always have to fight for right.

Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, thank you and God be with you.

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