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Please, Leave the Supreme Court Justices Alone!

Mon, 19 Aug 2013 Source: Pryce, Daniel K.

The unbounded fury directed at the Atuguba-led panel of Supreme Court justices by a number of Ghanaians may be partially justified, even if these Ghanaian citizens are not arrayed – literally and figuratively – in the habiliments of jurisprudence. The erosion of civil liberties and the excavation of constitutional signposts are a portent of dark clouds that could eclipse the bright rays of progress. However, in our particular situation, there is little cause for alarm. Think of it this way: the monumental assignment that the Supreme Court has been given by the “warring” factions in Ghanaian politics has suddenly elevated the Court to heights heretofore unknown in its checkered history. For once, the Court has its proper place as the final arbiter in our sociopolitical dance, with the power to render a verdict that would have ramifications for years to come.

For several decades after independence, the judiciary, the third arm of government that ostensibly enjoys equal footing with the executive and legislature, found itself on the fringes of Ghanaian society, tossed about like a seafaring vessel in a tempest by volatile and contemptible juntas that trampled the Constitution and suspended habeas corpus as it pleased them. In other words, what we call the rule of law was virtually nonexistent in our dear country, until the light of progress wiped out the darkness in our eyes and caused us to change course about twenty years ago.

While some Ghanaians are still troubled by the Court’s recent actions, which consisted of a plethora of fines imposed on some leaders of both the NPP and NDC, I believe that those actions were justified to restore sanity into a political culture that is teetering on the verge of cataclysm. The unguarded utterances and distasteful perorations of leaders of both the NPP and NDC had to be “censored” by the Court to pulverize any seedlings of lawlessness before they grew into trees of violence. For once, I agree with the Court; after all, I expect it to revert to its perennially quiescent, docile role after it renders the epic post-Election 2012 decision on August 29, 2013. While the Court does not need to bite, it certainly has the right to bare its teeth to warn those who dare to challenge its legality and constitutionality.

In the words of a dear friend who occasionally sends feature articles to Ghanaweb.com, the oft-accessed and most influential pro-Ghana(ian) Internet conduit, one particular Supreme Court justice lacks lucidity in speech and also undeservedly received promotion to the Supreme Court, the latter a very unfortunate accusation, indeed. The capacity to speak the English language with distinctive lucidity is not necessarily an objective phenomenon, and I touched on this issue in a recent article, in which I described our collectively drab, unhurried accent as uninspiring when compared to, say, that of native-born Americans. On the other hand, having lived in the U.S.A. for several years, some of us now have a platform to make a comparison, albeit a subjective one, which may be unfair to those domiciled in Ghana. The justices, by virtue of their relatively advanced ages, belong to a generation that took education seriously and learned the craft of good writing, even if their oratory does not elicit applause from younger Ghanaians.

In my opinion, what matters more than anything else is the ability to write well, and I believe that our justices have the capacity to do so. In addition, the accusation that one particular justice had his promotion to the Court fast-tracked was absolutely a below-the-belt jab, and I wish my dear friend had not made such a statement in his piece. Truly, my friend’s accusation bordered on card stacking; or, if I may argue differently, it is no more than a hasty generalization.

I appeal to all Ghanaians to be particularly careful about any compulsions to volley unjustifiably harmful comments in the direction of the justices at a time when the latter are dealing with the most compelling, pivotal decision that they will ever make as members of the judiciary. Some citizens may disagree with me, but I believe that the judges had done the right thing by dragging intemperate party apparatchiks from both sides of the political divide to court to weaken the tide of capricious and reckless statements that were meant to bring the integrity of the Court into disrepute.

You do not have to be a sage to realize that the Court’s hard stance against irascible and irresponsible pronouncements by impulsive members of both the NPP and NDC has been very effective. Let us encourage the justices to never capitulate in the face of threats, for they are the bearers of the torch of impartiality and truth. At least, I dare to believe that they are worthy arbiters in this hawkish dance for political supremacy by Ghana’s foremost political parties – the NPP and the NDC.

© All rights reserved. The writer, Daniel K. Pryce, invites the reader to join the pressure group “Good Governance in Ghana” on Facebook.com, which he superintends. He may be followed on Twitter: @DanielKPryce. He can be reached at dpryce@cox.net.

Columnist: Pryce, Daniel K.