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General News Sat, 10 Jan 2009

Tsatsu Tsikata’s release- an attempt to head off criticism?

With reference to an article published this week by Mary Anane which states that, “TSATSU TSIKATA, former boss of the Ghana National Petroleum Council (GNPC), was yesterday freed from the Nsawam Prisons where he was serving a five-year jail-term after being convicted of causing financial loss to the state. Mr. Tsikata, whose incarceration on June 18, 2008 generated controversy in political circles, was yesterday granted a Free, Absolute and Unconditional Pardon by President John Kuffour who invoked his Prerogative of Mercy as enshrined in Article 72 of the 1992 Republican Constitution.

The ground under which Mr. Tsikata was pardoned provides him the platform to hold any public office though he is an ex-convict.

Reports said as at few days ago Mr. Tsikata, was still on admission at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, had all his prison wardens who had hitherto kept guard on him, withdrawn from the hospital.

The presidential pardon came on John Kuffuor’s last day in office as President of Ghana and was met with mixed responses from Ghanaians.” I wonder what might have gone through the minds of the prison guards as they said good-bye to Tsatsu now set free and hurriedly left the hospital. Amazing looked at each other!

Interesting that our former President ‘s the pardon includes the right to stand for Public Office – maybe because, under a new administration, his conviction of ‘crimes’ would soon be shown to have had a good deal of political motivation behind them………

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Perhaps this might be the appropriate timing for the Ghanaians ask for a further clarification of the exact circumstances which warranted an immediate arrest of Tsatsu Tsikata at a court hearing without his counsel but in the presence of the current President Atta Mills, former President Rawlings and others. This was certainly disrespectful to the State, as it appears this was a planned act. Now let’s reflect on who is calling the shots?

It would be good to see the judge who authorise such a hasty arrest of Tsatsu to also have a taste little of Nsawam prisons to give her a realistic conditions in one of Ghana’s over crowded prisons. Most of prisoners are without any form recreational activities or therapeutic approach of rehabilitating prisoners for the outside world. In Sweden and else where they have library facilities with ICT tutors to help inmates to wider the scope for the job market. Some even have mentors and or probation officers to guide them.

The living conditions in the prisons in Ghana are dire. Tsatsu ‘s imprisonment has also exposed the failure of our Government ‘s lack of vision for prisoner’s health and safety aspects. Mr Tsikata would have ended his life in prison had it not been the quick thinking of the prison authorities at Nsawam. Surely if the judges in Ghana are happy send people to prison in the way they did to Tsatsu Tsikata they should also ensure the system are in place for their welfare as well. Is medical care of inmates of our prisons not worth addressing by all our prisons authorities. It was indeed the friends of Tsatsu Tsikata who went in and distributed nebulizers for prison medical centre.

Our judiciary system as well as the Government has often underestimated the need for adequate medical and rehabilitation facilities.

The manner in which Tsatsu Tsikata was unlawfully arrested in the Court and imprisoned without his counsel is not simply acceptable and we need a full explanation. Did the Judge who authorised such an arrest aware of the consequences of her actions? Did she know of the wider implications of the psychological and emotional impact on Tsatsu and his family? Is this the correct the judicial processes in Ghana? What was the judge on question aiming to achieve by acting in this vivacious way? Could she was instructed and had no alternatives approach to explore? One finds this sentence rather interesting that our President John Kuffour invoked his Prerogative of Mercy as enshrined in Article 72 of the 1992 Republican Constitution to set Tsatsu free. What’s up here?

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One sees Tsatsu’s arrest as purely a punitive one.

The grounds under which Tsatsu Tsikata was pardoned makes one to strongly think that his arrest last June 2008 was actually a planned act and was not certainly circumstantial. Perhaps the plan was to humiliate him, destroy his ego, self-esteem and integrity. I strongly feel that this case should be pursued to demand the right answers from those responsible for such a callous act, which warranted President Kuffour to invoke his prerogative of Mercy on something who has worked his sock off for Ghana? Things are not adding up well here at all or are it?

It is a great news to have Tsatsu case in the limelight however what about those who do not have such a high profile like Tsatsu and therefore would have been completely be destroyed with such an heavy prison sentence. Where do these group stand in this case?

Did our former President Kuffour use his power to sanctioned Tsatsu arrest or not? This is where Ghanaians we need ask our former President who chose to release Tsatsu now. Tsatsu need to be thankful to the people of TAIN consistency who underestimated the significance of their votes and thus had made not only the history but also the release of Tsatsu. If the NDC had lost in the TAIN constituency Tsatsu would certainly have languished in Nsawam prison for the 5 years placed on his life.

It is clear that the ruling Government just use their power to lead our country for their own economic gain. In fact, Tsatsu and his team at his former job worked tirelessly on further development of “ black gold” which may have been some of the reasons why he was arrested and treated in such a manner. One could only assume that the previous Government sanctioned the jailing of Tsatsu and this could be translated as a means of perhaps silencing him as he had so much information about the black gold. The NPP Government hardly did any work on this black gold but may be smart in securing investors. Thanks to the Free Tsatsu Campaign for the active stance they took in raising the profile of the case. Investing inappropriately of state funds does not certainly warrant an arrest of this nature. Let’s watch what comes of those who also invested in white elephants using state funds? It sounds as if the whole judiciary system displayed on the 18 June 2008 was just a charade as it appears it was manipulated by the who had the “Power” at that period of time.

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The deliberately arrest of Tsatsu Tsikata has actually highlighted the lack of human rights for prisoners in Ghana without counsel faces in all our judiciary courts of justice. This has also created the opportunity for the new Government to do some work in our judiciary system so as to continuously improve the living conditions of prisoners, design a programme with prisoners led projects, improvements of the cleanliness and hygiene of prison toilets and environments, facilities for children and their families within our prisons. Prisoners should all be treated fairly regardless their societal profile. If we have standard procedures in place then we would adhere to that standard. Hence, a holistic approach would be used for all prisoners in the 21-century. The conditions in our prisons need be up graded, prisoners offered ICT training and opportunities and empowered to be creative, innovative and productive to economically independent.

I would strongly recommend that all prisons in Ghana do get upgraded medical facilities, libraries, and a new recreation centres with more modern facilities and quality assurance. This would lead to a total quality management throughout Ghana’s prisons nationally. Tsatsu’s case has paved the way for others to challenge our rigid judiciary inflexible system.

Our system also imprisons even old people who sometimes steal bunch of plantain due to poverty and lack of pension for all over 60 years with no means of fending for themselves. Sometimes the extended families have often neglected their older generations. Instead of previous Government to address such issues and improve the living conditions of this group we rather invest in Presidential Palace in which they only had two months glory in it.

The some Government Ministers from the previous Government are still serving in US prisons and whilst others responsible for the disappearance of hard drug set free. What a world indeed!

Source: .