By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Friday, June 28, 2013
My good friends, I am glad that the Supreme Court has begun exercising its powers to deal with those letting their tongues loose and crossing the line. We are all aware of how the Supreme Court has dealt with the NPP’s Sammy Awuku and we can tell from the circumstances that indeed a stream of very cold shiver went down Awuku’s spine. Of course, at this point, it is clear to him that “Man pass man!” Though spared custodial punishment, his being banned from attending the Court’s proceedings is enough to clip his wings. He may be making some ugly noises of faint defiance at the political fringes; but he knows deep down him that a severe punishment awaits him if he falls out of step—or that “steel can cut steel” (“Dadie betwa dadie”). One immediate fallout of the Supreme Court’s cracking the whip is that the NPP’s Chief Comedian (Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie) has also sensed danger and is declaring that the NPP functionaries will henceforth cease making defamatory utterances. He knows that he may be the next in line to be dragged before the Supreme Court and is trying to be smart. The Supreme Court’s order for three others (the NDC’s Atubiga, Kweku Boahen and the Searchlight editor, Ken Kuranchie) to appear before it on July 2 has further confirmed that the Court is determined to go to any distance to clamp down on unsavoury comments being made here and there by just anybody who thinks that he has the forum to enjoy his so-called freedom of speech. Even before July 2 dawns, those summonsed by the Court have begun quivering with fright. A member of the communications team of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Stephen Atubiga, has rendered an unqualified apology to the Supreme Court and Ghanaians as a whole over comments he describes as “irresponsible”.
Speaking on TV3’s News 360 on Thursday, June 27, 2013, Mr Atubiga said he considers his action inappropriate and contemptuous of the court. “I apologise from the bottom of my heart,” he stated. Ken Kuranchie may be attempting to come across as bold in asking that his summons should have been in a written form but he knows deep down what is already eating away his “heart.” Why is he dancing himself lame before the actual dancing begins? The bell is tolling loud to instill fear; not so? I suppose that the Supreme Court will take prompt steps to deal with anybody it considers as falling out of step as far as public comments on the hearing of the NPP’s petition is concerned. Good job!! Some have, however, been quick to isolate Justice Atuguba for personal attacks, describing him as autocratic, dictatorial, or stifling freedom of expression; but the truth is that he is doing what is long overdue to ensure that public discourse on the proceedings at the court doesn’t catalyze needless tension to deepen antagonism along partisan political lines. Or to suggest that the judges are impartial, which in itself is dangerous because of its becoming the main cause of dissension and resistance for the party that loses the case. I see nothing wrong with how Justice Atuguba and his team are handling the matter. They are not intimidating anybody but making sure that nobody abuses the process. What is wrong about that? But some questions have arisen about how we should position ourselves as we comment on issues concerning the Court’s hearing of the petition in order not to be roped in too as culpable for committing “contempt of court”. I have nothing to fear and will continue to make my voice heard for as long as I know my limits. Those appearing on the airwaves and other media and letting their tongues loose for mere political capital should blame themselves for being incontinent and imprudent in their language use and the angle from which they discuss issues. And they should brace themselves up for the Supreme Court’s summons. I won't be deterred by current happenings because I have been one of those ardently asking that the Supreme Court crack the whip; and it has begun doing so to my satisfaction and approbation. What should I fear when I wade into the matter? Why should I even be concerned? For as long as I know how to navigate the legal and political terrain, I will play it safe as I choose issues to comment on. That’s how to avoid the wrath of the Supreme Court. Already, some have begun complaining that by its action, the Supreme Court is curtailing freedom of speech. This accusation is baseless and unwarranted. The Supreme Court is only ensuring discipline and restricting public pronouncements on a matter before it. That is why those latching on to the fate of Sammy Awuku to indulge in their anti-Atuguba vicious campaign won’t turn my crank. One of such people is a Professor Stephen Kwaku Asare (alias Kwaku Azar) who has come out to say that he has sent a petition to the Chief Justice concerning the Supreme Court's action to stem wanton public comments on the NPP's petition before it.
I have already commented elsewhere on this petition for all that it entails to suggest that the Supreme Court is right in moving forward to clamp down on the reckless public utterances regarding the case that it is sitting on. If it can't take on people on the basis of "contempt of court," what else can it do to prevent all manner of comments being made on a case that is "sub judice"?
The mere fact that the constitution guarantees freedom of speech doesn't mean that the petition hearing should be prejudged by all manner of people rabble-rousing in the society for cheap political capital. If the Supreme Court cannot restrain people from judging the case at the bar of public opinion, what else should it do to ensure that the matter before it is not prejudiced and poisoned by those with loose tongues?
Of course, one can comment on a case after judgement has been given, not when the case is in the middle of being heard. I see this petition as part of the rabble-rousing anti-Atuguba campaign by those who feel uncomfortable by what the Supreme Court has begun doing. In any event, it is the Supreme Court that is mandated to hear the case to its logical conclusion and give a ruling on it, based on whatever evidence/facts adduced before it by all the parties. What is currently going on in the public domain won’t serve any useful purpose but create conditions for tension and needless mayhem. The Supreme Court is right and should be left alone to do its work. I shall return… • E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org • Join me on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/mjkbokor