By Abdul Mush
In the 2000 elections many voted the New Patriotic Party (NPP) not because of the believe in the party’s Danquah/Busia historical traditions, but because we shared the party’s underlining principles of democracy in freedom. The NPP used to be the party that championed free speech, rule of law, freedom of the press, and freedom of association and assemble. In the 1990s the NPP was the greatest champion of human rights in Ghana. At a point the party was against the presidential appointment of supreme judges because of what it thought was the politicization of the judiciary. The NPP of the 1990s believed that the most senior judge ascends to the position of chief justice in the events that the position became vacant. The NPP opposed the appointment of the late Chief Justice Kobina Abban on the basis that senior jurist on the Supreme Court bench were bypassed for an outsider. Their opposition was valid, and even more so today than ever.
Even those of us from the Zongo community, the most skeptical of Ghanaian voters towards the NPP, couldn’t help but admire the party for its principled opposition against the ruling NDC in the 1990s. I remember in the 2000 election the NPP parliament candidate Charles Kofi Woyo came very close to winning the NDC strong hold of Ayawaso East constituency, the closest any NPP candidate had come to winning that constituency. Ever since the NPP had it own taste of power, much of the party’s principles were thrown overboard for their own political expediency. After Justice Edward Kwame Wuredu’s retirement, all the subsequent appointments were party favorite and not senior judges on the bench.
However, there has never been an appointment so politically motivated than that of Justice Georgina Wood as the Chief Justice of the Supreme of Court. The circumstances surrounding her appointment suggests nothing than a political mole and an implant by the NPP purported to protect it in the event the party loses the 2008 election. Even before her appointment she already had a proven record of doing NPP’s bidding.
Needless to add that she was appointed Chief Justice months after her committee (Georgina Wood Committee) cleared leading NPP government officials of any wrong doing after large quantities of cocaine were seized from a ship docked on the shores of Ghana got missing in police custody. Also, soon after her appointment, her first act as Chief Justice was to exonerate Dr. Richard Anane, one of President Kufour’s darlings boys, of wrongdoing after the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice had adverse findings against him for using state resources to finance the alimony of a child he had with a lady in the United States outside of his marriage. Justice Georgina Wood selected the judge that attempted to hear the ex-parte’ motion by the NPP on a Sunday afternoon seeking to prevent the Electoral Commission from declaring the 2008 election results. Many Ghanaian political pundits and observers, including those from the ruling NDC are willing to over look the circumstances surrounding her appointment, her partisan political stance, her use of the court for partisan reasons, and the absurd judicial advocacy since her appointment for one simple reason; she is the nation’s first female Chief Justice. No one cared to examine the lapses both before and after her appointment. No one examined the mysterious circumstances under which she was nominated and later appointed as the Nation’s foremost senior jurist. We were all, it seems, duped in to buying the NPP snake oil.
But of all the judicial travesty, nothing is as infuriating to civil libertarian and human rights activist as Georgina Wood’s tacit approval of the attempt by the Association of Judges and Magistrate of Ghana to gag and bully four lawyers (Dr. Raymond Atubuga, Mr. David Anan, Mr. Larry Bimi, and Mr. Abraham Amaliba) for speaking about the wanton corruption and abuse office by some judges. First, judicial decision are not mere judgments, they are almost laws in themselves. They constitute precedents for future judgments of our courts. This judgment supposes that political parties can deny contractors to a contractor in ministries and government departments simply because he/she have or had made allegation of ministerial corruption in government. The Association of Judges and Magistrates of Ghana, like all the political parties, are not mention in the Constitution of the Republic of Ghana. Therefore, again like political parties, they have no right to deny a Ghanaian or a group thereof the right to legally earn a living in Ghana. If any of our political parties impose such penalty on Ghanaians for saying there is corruption in their government. I am sure supporters of the opposing party would use that as a rallying cry. I am therefore very surprise at the tacit approval of the NPP in this clear human rights violation on a group of Ghanaians for simple expressing their views. Supporters of the NPP should be ashamed of themselves. They created this problem and are slowly dragging a very important state institution in the mud with them.
Second, every Ghanaian has the right to be heard in court by a counsel of their choice. The Constitution granted Ghanaians the freedom of choice in this instance. The Association of Judges and Magistrates of Ghana is also by this violating the rights of Ghanaians as whole. They are limiting our rights to expertise. They are telling Ghanaians by their decision that they!! and they!!! alone would determine who should represent us in court. How would supporters of the NPP feel if President Mills orders that anyone working in the public sector and affiliated with the NPP be fired. I guess those NPP law lecturers at public universities who are willing to support the destruction of others in legal community by judges would laud that effort.
Third and finally, Ghanaians have the right to petition a court of competence if they believe their rights are violated or in the process of being infringed. Therefore it is very very wrong for the Supreme Court, the highest court of the land, to deny Dr. Raymond Atubuga access to justice because he spoke his mind. Speaking once mind is not a crime in Ghana. Even if it were a crime, those accused crimes should have access to the courts and be heard in defense by a counsel of their choice. The judges acts in this situation is synonymous to detention without trial. Unfortunately, this very fundamental principle of democracy and rule of law have and are being mutilated by judges in Ghana, including Chief Justice Georgina Wood.
The judiciary has never been through such turmoil. It is against this back drop that we call on Chief Justice Georgina wood to resign. Her stewardship had done enough damage to the credibility and independence of the judiciary and her continual stay in office would make matters even worse. The judiciary is too important to be headed by a partisan Chief Justice. Her resignation would pave the much needed avenue for the judiciary to heal and regain the confidence of Ghanaians of all political stripes. As Ghanaians we should be cognizance of the importance of the judiciary to our peace and security. We all remember the Ivorian Electoral impasse that left 1000s dead, wounded and rendered homeless. There was a judicial twist to the Ivorian crisis. It is the head of the Ivorian Constitutional Court Paul Yao N’Dre that annulled the result of that election leading Ivory Coast to a political disaster. She had already proven that she could unilaterally appoint Judges at midnight to hear election related cases. Judges can make and unmake our country, and in my candid opinion Chief Justice Georgina Wood is out there to damage Ghana as we know it. In fact it is in the national interest that she resigns. Many Ghanaians do not trust her leadership, the manner of her appointment, and her judicial decisions thus far. Giving her very pluralizing character, Justice Georgina should resign. For judges in our highest courts can’t afford the perception of partiality. This will have the ultimate effect of undermining the necessary confidence needed in a democratic judicial system. “Daylight is the best disinfectant” Justice Louis Dembitz Brandeis United States Supreme Court
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