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Per Diem Controversy: Unwanted Intrusion

Wed, 19 Oct 2005 Source: Yahaya, Moses Kofi

Reports that two editors of an Accra tabloid?.the Chronicle?.have been questioned by officers of the Ghana Police about an article written by William Antwi, aka, Oyoo Busanga on Ghanaweb, and subsequently published in the paper, should be unnerving to all who cherish and value press freedom.

Busanga, an NDC functionary, is not one to pull punches. His zings, particularly against the President, are legendary. Busanga?s latest incendiary barb against Kufuor..."THE PRESIDENT AND HIS PER DIEM ALLOWANCE = ?LEGALIZED STEALING" reportedly has him in the crosshairs of Ghanaian authorities.

Does anyone believe that Busanga who is said to be living in New York City, will be cuffed and frog marched out of the arrival hall at the Accra International Airport the next time he visits with his kinfolks?

In the article, Busanga, true to form, takes the cudgel to President Kufuor and beats him about the head with accusations of surrounding himself with obsequious courtiers and amassing wealth at the expense of the Ghanaian tax payer.

Ineluctably, Busanga describes a perfectly legal financial compensation...per diem allowance... for civil servants traveling abroad?as a crooked financial scheme and legalized stealing.

?It is stealing through the nose of the law ? using the law as a cloak to take that which does not belong to you,? Busanga said. ?It sins against high heavens! How can any leader of conscience take $3000 per diem allowance from the coffers of a nation in which the majority of its people live on less than a dollar a day? This is a tragedy!?

Per diem is not something new; it has been used by administrations, past and present, to cater to traveling civil servants at home and abroad. It is a fiscal measure designed to adequately remunerate government workers for being away from home and family discharging their public duties. So, the president and his coterie of ministers and party loyalists are entitled to what is owed them.

Quite astounding these assertions!!! And this is what one gleans from the many musings and nattering of Oyoo Busanga on Ghanaweb; that he is an alarmist, an attack dog unleashed by opponents of the president, and, indeed, a lone voice in the wilderness.

Busanga's vituperative outbursts are driven less by an ideology than by a desire to sully the image of the President. All told, his style is best suited to the rags and tabloids on London?s Fleet Street.

Busanga's vainness, and the editorial lapse on the part of the Chronicle aside, the Police Service should not be transformed into a media watch dog, hauling hapless reporters to its grimy headquarters for questioning over an opinion that to all intents and purposes, is a harmless bark from a defanged opponent.

Whose brainchild was it to send police officers to the premises of the Chronicle to intimidate the two editors...Kojo Omaboe and Jonathan Ato Kobbie? Perhaps an overzealous starched bureaucrat from the ministries of Interior or Information?

If there is one effective, but much disparaged way of compelling political opponents to clam up and recoil into their shells, it is unwanted intrusion from authorities discomfited by unfaltering reports. Authorities have not been shy to wield this tool, seeing in it a perverse way to silence opponents and reassure befuddled supporters that they are in control.

But whether it does authorities any good?.besides the instant gratification that naturally emanates from silencing a critic?. is debatable. On the contrary, what it accomplishes when it is all said and done, is the portrayal of a government that is driven by paranoia, is jittery and out of sync with reality.

Do authorities think that crass and rude intimidation of scribes and their ilk such as that employed against the Chronicle, would effectively neutralize criticism, and boost its sagging poll numbers?

It is one thing to have hapless writers squirming under intense official scrutiny, but an entirely different exercise when authorities have to justify their imprudent action to a cynical public.

This whole confrontational attitude by Ghanaian Police Service speaks volumes about the government?s inability to deal with criticisms, and winds up giving its opponents the latitude to throw more mud. It is hard to fathom such naked disconnect from reality.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Yahaya, Moses Kofi
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