By Margaret Jackson
May 16, 2013
In every high profile court case people are remembered for the various roles they played when those cases are finally settled. Mr Philip Addison, lead counsel of the NPP in the on-going Supreme Court challenge to the 2012 Presidential Election has become so notorious for raising objections on everything you can envisage. To the extent that when Mr Addison is overruled on objections he raises, he still gets on his feet to fight the justices sitting on the case.
Mr Addison’s offensive behaviour became so bad that it got me to seek legal advice on whether he is right to further raise objections when he has been overruled by the justices. It was then that I was told by a legal scholar that a challenge to a ruling by a judge or a panel of judges of a competent court of law not by way of a review or appeal would normally constitute contempt of that court.
Therefore, once an order or ruling has been made by a court, it is expected that all parties and counsels abide by that ruling. Failure to do that constitutes contempt of court. I believe strongly that Mr Addison knows this very well but he had been abusing the court process by raising objections on everything just to prevent him from dozing off in court.
Mr Addison, who has been getting away from this bad behaviour, finally hit a snag during the court hearing on Wednesday May 15. Mr Tsatsu Tsikata, lead counsel of the NDC, asked Dr Mahamadu Bawumia, the NPP star witness, to confirm or deny whether Mr Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie, NPP’s General Secretary made a public declaration of presidential victory in the media before the Electoral Commission (EC) which is mandated by law declared the 2012 results.
Lawyer Addison who smelt danger when Mr Tsikata posed that question, immediately got on his feet and made a statement that seemed to condemn that question. He vehemently condemned that question by stating that, “My Lords we are being subjected to a number of irrelevant questions and when the irrelevant questions are asked, and the witness is giving the answers, he’s being stopped from giving the answer, whereas the questioner is not stopped in these irrelevant questions that are being asked.”
Mr Addison did not stop his antics but went on to say that: “I think it is unfair…if he asks those questions, the witness should be allowed to give a full answer to those irrelevant questions”.
It is the word ‘’irrelevant” that got under the skin of Justice William Atuguba, the President of the nine-member bench hearing the election petition. He ordered Philip Addison to sit down saying, “Will you resume your seat and listen to me?”
Immediately Mr Addison sat down, Justice Atuguba went into action. He told Addison in the face that the justices are following the case and that the relevancy of the case depends on the justices and not him Addison. Now hear Justice Atuguba in his own words: “We are following the case and relevancy depends on us. The questions about the declaration of victory and all that, if you feel they are irrelevant, as far as I am concerned, they are vitally relevant to this case and the answer he has to give should be pertinent”.
Justice Atuguba then went on to put his cards on display by stating that the justices have authority, but they don’t want to exercise it too much. He however warned that the justices cannot be overrun by anyone.
The message Justice Atuguba wanted to convey to Mr Addison was that he Addison has no authority or business to determine whether a question posed to Bawumia is relevant or not. Another fine print that you may have missed from Justice Atuguba was this: We the justices are following the case.
The justices are indeed following the case and perhaps getting tired of the evasiveness and cockiness of Dr Bawumia, who has been warned multiple of times to get serious in court by answering questions rather than dangling around questions with his talking points. Yet after Justice Atuguba has asserted his authority and that of his other justices by making those statements, Mr Addison did not relent. The guy was back on his feet complaining. Now hear him, “My Lords, I take objection to the question relating to church and wearing white, I think it is irrelevant; it is the position we take. If the court rules that it is relevant, fine, but we take the view that it is irrelevant so far as these issues are concerned”.
This is where Mr Addison should have been slapped with contempt by the justices, because he was still whining after the justices have overruled his objection. And he has done that multiple of times and gotten away with it.
But even after the justices have made their intensions known in those strong words by Justice Atuguba, Bawumia was back to his old tricks of playing around questions. In the answer to the question of Owusu Afriyie declaring victory, Bawumia stated brazenly that he did not know that Sir John declared victory on Saturday December 8, 2012 and asked all NPP supporters to wear white and go to church the next day.
Bawumia got the guts and told the court that he did not know that Sir John ever made that statement. But something jumped out of his mouth which is worth reading. Bawumia, who has condemned the EC multiple of times and does not even acknowledge EC’s authority, stated that the EC is the only institution mandated in this country to declare election results. And as usual Bawumia ended by saying that “If party officials made statements, those were their view, we only examined the records”.
That was when Bawumia ticked off Justice Atuguba again who interjected that, ““You see you are a doctor, you are very intelligent…so help us. This case; let me tell you, people are approaching from two fronts: the political front and the issues here. We are dealing with only the issues here, so bring your mind to the courtroom”. These strong words should have sent the clearest signals to the NPP that perhaps Justice Atuguba may have had enough of Bawumia and his evasiveness and abrasiveness. Bring your mind to court! Those were strong words which I would not miss for anything.
Justice Atuguba then went on to say that the goal is to get to the facts of the matter and ascertain the truth and declare it. That was when Philip Addison should have left sleeping dogs lie and advised Bawumia to do the right thing. But Addison who is pursuing a bad case which is simply based on pink sheets but not facts, came back to complain that Bawumia’s answers have been tailored to fit the questions being asked by Mr Tsikata.
Mr Addison continued to complain that questions posed to Bawumia has made it very difficult for him to give answers and that the restrictions on answers is curbing his rights to answer questions.
But Justice Atuguba did not back down when he forcefully told Addison that, “It has come to a stage where we think we have to control these things”. Yes, the justices want those who have the facts and evidence to put them on display. They may be tired of listening to talking points or political debate talks by Bawumia.
Wednesday May 15 will be remembered as the day that the justices did not go easy with the petitioners who seem to have hit a dead end by not having any credible explanations to the multiple of issues that they raised in their affidavits. The NPP seem lost to most of the complaints they made and that is why Bawumia always want to turn the whole cross-examination into a political or academic debate.
Justice Atuguba finally showed Philip Addison that he was running the show and that the determination of certain key components of the case rest in the bosom of the justices and not by the pompous posture posed by Philip Addison.