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If the evidence is in the pink sheets…

Mon, 8 Jul 2013 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Sunday, July 7, 2013

We have heard this buzz phrase from the NPP camp: “The evidence is in the pink sheets”; and we have been given an overdose of the message that the pink sheets assembled by the NPP leaders constitute the pith of their petition. And they have written a 200-page book on the pink sheets to launch one day soon.

In other words, no pink sheets, no petition for the Supreme Court to hear. Fair enough.

We are all Ghanaians seeking the best for our country. None should think that they are more patriotic than anybody to take us on any rough roller-coaster ride as has been the case over the years when some imposed their will on the country for political and economic advantage. The ongoing election petition hearing bears me out.

Definitely, for any challenge to an election to hold, it must be focused on the primary document that facilitated voting (the ballot papers), not a secondary document (pink sheets) being used for mere administrative purposes. The pink sheets can’t determine the winner of elections. It is the ballots that do so!

That explains why I have all along discounted the value of this NPP petition, more so when it has been amended to reflect different perspectives. The major initial allegations made by the petitioners are not what they are pursuing in Addison’s cross-examination. Where is the part on “fraud”, padding of votes to favour President Mahama, doctoring of results by the Israeli electronics firm before transmission to the EC Headquarters, snatching of ballot boxes for Akufo-Addo’s votes to be tampered with in favour of President Mahama, and many more?

The tissue of problems that the petitioners are using to fight their case is not limited to the EC alone. It is a pervasive national problem of institutional weaknesses. As a human institution, the EC is not sacrosanct and has the weaknesses that all other institutions have. The management of the EC have acknowledged the weaknesses and given indications of reforms. The errors that sparked this wild goose chase by the petitioners to have their Akufo-Addo declared as winner of the elections would have been avoided had the petitioners done their homework properly instead of isolating the EC’s administrative errors and basing their petition on.

I daresay at this stage that the Supreme Court will be doing Ghanaians a world of service if it goes beyond Election 2012 to find out what the trend has been since the EC held the first general elections in the 4th Republic. The 9-member panel won’t be surprised to find out that the administrative errors pointed to by the petitioners in respect of the pink sheets for Election 2012 will be present in pink sheets for previous elections (1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008). So, what is heart-rending about the pink sheets for Election 2012?

I challenge the panel of judges to investigate this issue first to know that it is a commonplace. The pink sheets of Election 2012 can’t be unique in terms of those administrative errors. It will be helpful for the Supreme Court to know that trend. That being the case, why will it surprise anybody that the absence of Presiding Officers’ signatures or the transpositional errors on the pink sheets being used by the petitioners to fight their case is nothing strange or new? And why should votes be nullified thereby?

The Supreme Court judges will be in a better position to understand why all the arguments being raised on the basis of the pink sheets are porous and inconsequential. If they don’t look back into previous instances, they will be operating on a narrow scale, isolating Election 2012 from previous ones with the liabilities of a tunnel-vision impression to influence their judgement.

On that score, the only thing new about Election 2012 is the use of biometric verification machines, a novelty that had its own peculiarities, technical glitches, and eye-popping moments on Election Day. Even though the petitioners and their followers had attempted changing the tune to “No biometric verification, no vote,” their slant didn’t register because it is not the official position of “No verification no vote”. The two are not the same in essence and practice.

The conclusion will be that even though Election 2012 might be regarded as an improvement on the previous ones, it had its own challenges for the EC, the political parties, and the electorate to solve as measures are put in place to reform the entire electoral process for the future. Nothing makes more sense than this approach.

Right from scratch when the NPP leaders rejected the outcome of Election 2012, they raised a number of reasons to justify their stance, the most important of which had to do with the pink sheets. They considered the pink sheets as a true reflection of what transpired on December 7 and 8, 2012, when millions of Ghanaians stood under the scorching Tropical sun to cast their ballots in the Presidential and Parliamentary elections. Thus, to them, any evidence of electoral malpractice must be traced to the pink sheets.

That explains why they spent so much time, energy, and money to collect and collate all the pink sheets that they deemed essential to building their case against the Electoral Commission and President Mahama.

The circumstances surrounding their selection of pink sheets from polling stations that they considered vital to their petition are known. The reason for their being selective—gathering pink sheets from the NDC’s stronghold, where President Mahama won massively—is also not in doubt. After all, their main argument has been that the irregularities and statutory violations that they could trace to the pink sheets occurred in those electoral areas.

To wit, the petitioners chose 20,000 polling stations out of the official 26,002 nationwide to frame their grievance around. Even then, they initially identified 4,907 polling stations as the hub of the irregularities only to raise the number to 9,726 and eventually narrowed it down to 11,842.

Alas! Their wavering from one figure to the other raised eyebrows, leading to the Supreme Court’s order for the international accounting firm (KPMG) to recount and audit the quantum of pink sheet exhibits because counsel for the respondents stated categorically in court that they were given less pink sheets than the petitioners had claimed.

The result? More controversies! While the KPMG said in its report that it counted 13,926 pink sheets and emphatically asked the court to consider 8,576 as authentic (“unique”) and base its determination of the case on, Addison and the petitioners are vehemently insisting on 11,842, raising arguments that some of their pink sheet exhibits were not counted by the KPMG.

We recall the confusion provoked by the respondents’ allegation that seven additional boxes were surreptitiously added to the original 24 in the custody of the Court Registrar for the KPMG to work on. No wonder, in the end, the Court ordered that the pink sheets in the custody of Justice Atuguba be used as the “control-check” to confirm or disprove the allegations. In the end, the KPMG made it clear that its findings showed that nothing beyond 8,576 is the actual number of pink sheet exhibits.

Jolted by this report, the petitioners are doing overtime to turn matters around. As we saw Addison do in his cross-examination of Dr. Afari Gyan, the petitioners are seeking every means to reverse the KPMG’s findings. Little success is forthcoming, despite Addison’s meticulous breaking down of figures only to be questioned by one of the justice on his line of questioning or whether the figures he was glibly quoting would make any difference. The KPMG’s report has been accepted, and that is that!

We can tell from the emphasis that the petitioners have laid on their pink sheet evidence that their petition cannot stand without the pink sheets. From the testimony of their crown witness (Dr. Bawumia) to Philip Addison’s cross-examination of Johnson Asiedu Nketiah (NDC General Secretary) and Dr. Kwadwo Afari Gyan (Chairman of the Electoral Commission), every road leads to the edifice of the pink sheets!

Having painstakingly put together the pink sheet exhibits, they must be least prepared for any probing that would expose the flaws in their work: mislabelling, anomalies, miscategorization, duplication, and many others that raised eyebrows.

Notwithstanding the anomalies, they are insisting that they have “water-tight evidence” with which to win the case. They can’t accept the fact that their evidence can’t stand after counsel for the respondents and Dr. Afari Gyan had established that what they considered as “water-tight evidence” on the basis of irregularities and statutory violations are mere transpositional and administrative errors (as explained sufficiently by Dr. Afari Gyan).

They can’t understand why their claim that the absence of the Presiding Officers’ signatures on the pink sheets was a serious violation of statutory regulation. They won’t even bat an eye to consider the Electoral Commissioner’s statement that the absence of such signatures didn’t invalidate the election results. Neither would they accept the explanation that the fact that none of their own polling agents refused to sign the pink sheets or that they didn’t lodge any official complaint about any malpractice anywhere was an indication that the elections were free, fair, and transparent as established by the international and local observers.

The petitioners won’t look beyond their own CD-ROM and hardcopies of the pink sheets, let alone Dr. Bawumia’s analysis of the pink sheets, to see things beyond their noses. They are chafing that the Supreme Court rejected their request to use PowerPoint presentation to lay their case; they are also unhappy that their belated request for collation forms was shot down.

Their claims of over-voting, double registration, manipulation of serial numbers, doubling of code numbers for polling stations, discrimination in the enforcement of the constitutional instrument on biometric verification (captured in the refrain: “No verification no vote”) have all yielded little legal capital for them. So, turning full circle on their heels, they’ve returned to square one; it is nothing but the pink sheets. Yet, the pink sheets are mired in controversy, which casts very serious doubts on their credibility

Here is where their difficulty lies for them. Various reasons have been given to devalue the “evidence” on the pink sheets that they are adducing to support their arguments. The main point is that the pink sheets don’t take prominence over the ballots cast at the polls. Why would they not base their petition on those ballots and ask for them to be recounted instead of turning to pink sheets that were not directly involved in the voting procedures? Why are they more interested in seeming than being? Believing a shadow (an appearance) in the form of the pink sheets and not reality (the true image) in the form of the ballot papers? Only they can tell.

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.