A deputy Minister for Education and MP for North TonguSamuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, has issued a sharp response to pressure group – Occupy Ghana – which has condemned government appointees signing the petition that seeks to call on President John Mahama to pardon the jailed ‘Montie 3’ contemnors.
The group asserts Mahama must sanction his ministers who have appended their signatures to the petition book, seeking to persuade him to pardon Salifu Maase, popularly known as Mugabe, and two Montie FM panelists, Alistair Nelson, and Godwin Ako Gunn, who were slapped with four-month jail term by the Supreme Court.
Ablakwa in a statement accused the pressure group of double standard and urged it to respect the rights of other Ghanaians, adding the appointees do not regret their actions, although Mahama could have a different view.
“I, like all my senior colleagues have no regret in endorsing this campaign. Freedom and justice has never been presented to mankind as a sweet-smelling bouquet of flowers without controversy. All the freedoms we enjoy today have been bequeathed to us by men and women who stood up to be counted from Yaa Asantewaa to Nkrumah, Lincoln to Luther King Jnr, Biko to Mandela. No matter what, let history count me on the side of the oppressed than on the side of the oppressor,” the junior minister said in a statement.
Below is the full unedited statement of Ablakwa:
I have become aware of an Occupy Ghana press statement asking His Excellency the President to rebuke Ministers, Presidential Staffers and other members of the executive who have endorsed a signature campaign for free expression, media freedoms, commensurate punishment and for President Mahama to exercise his prerogative of mercy under Article 72 of the 1992 Constitution.
The statement in issue further describes the current signature campaign as “contrived” and a “façade”.
It seems to me that our friends at Occupy Ghana believe they are guaranteed more rights under the constitution than the rest of us. When they issue statements such as the one under reference, when they organize demonstrations and when they hold public fora amid other public manifestations, theirs isn’t to be considered contrived and a façade but others is.
Occupy Ghana even touts its mission to be “Occupying Hearts & Minds for God and Country!!!” Claims we have all accommodated though there are those who may consider a self-imposed status of God’s special envoys more blasphemous than flattering. Nonetheless, the Occupiers have been granted the benefit of the doubt and yet they choose to label the conduct of others simply exercising their rights as “incongruous and bizarre”.
It is troubling that to the Occupiers we cannot exercise rights under the constitution as citizens of Ghana simply because we belong to the executive arm of Government?
I cannot reconcile why it is perfectly fine for Ministers to honour requests from Occupy Ghana to grant them interviews, to respond to their letters and even to give them documents for their numerous campaigns and advocacy as we oblige within the tenets of good governance and yet when other activists campaigning in honour of free expression, media freedoms, commensurate punishment and the constitutional right of a President to exercise his prerogative of mercy seek our endorsement we must ignore them even if we believe in their course because Occupy Ghana says so. If we don’t then we must be viciously attacked and rebuked.
Even if the President holds a different view and opts not to invoke Article 72, why should that warrant sanctions on ministers? I thought Occupy Ghana has often made reference to best practices in other jurisdictions. Did they not follow the recent Brexit debate where Prime Minister Cameron and his Ministers were free to take positions of their choice and to vigorously campaign for same.
I find it strange that Occupy Ghana will assert that those of us who while condemning the pronouncements of the Montie Three hold the view that the jail term of four months is harsh are the ones slapping the judiciary in the face whereas Occupy Ghana takes no issue with those who have openly criticized the judges for being too lenient and not imposing longer jail terms. Perhaps it’s all about convenience not principle.
It is unfortunate that Occupy Ghana seeks to portray our actions as amounting to interference in the work of the judiciary. The Supreme Court has handed down its verdict. Which verdict has been swiftly enforced by the State. The three gentleman are languishing in jail and I know that for a fact because I have been there to visit them. How can anybody cognizant of these circumstances accuse us of interfering with the decision of the judiciary? The irony however is that while Occupy Ghana sermonizes on non- interference, they have no hesitation in not only interfering with the President’s right to exercise his prerogative under Article 72, they are in addition busily issuing threats about how the President’s exercise of his discretionary powers could be the subject of judicial review if he does go ahead to exercise it. They also resort to pressing the fear button by alluding to an imaginary constitutional crisis perhaps oblivious that the fear card is but an antiquated trick in the books that doesn’t really work these days. It’s even more disconcerting that while portraying themselves as apostles of the doctrine of separation of powers they are in the same breath seeking to stampede one arm of Government – the executive from exercising its powers. Amazing!
I however share in the view of the group that lessons must be learnt from this episode and that there can be no justification for reckless speech however may I humbly submit that it would do the group’s image some good if it doesn’t engage in worrisome selectivity but is heard equally on all despicable utterances including those that have been targeted at the President, the Bench, the Chair of the Electoral Commission, Voltarians, Gas, political opponents etc. And even more importantly those who have proceeded to carry out their threats though much to the chagrin of many are hailed as heroes within their political parties while civil society turns a blind eye. This is not about equalization, it is about adopting a principled stance in the national interest. It is about purifying the democratic process to ensure that it is issue driven and ideas based, nothing more.
While at this, it is necessary to acknowledge the enhanced measures put in place by the executive and the national security apparatus as assurances for the safety of our revered judiciary and that they do not encounter any let or hindrance in the delivery of justice. The July 18 public statement issued by the Judicial Council confirming these arrangements and assuring its members of continuous collaboration with the executive to guarantee their protection is the way to go and must be refreshing to all. No Ghanaian deserves to work under a cloud of fear be they judges, overlords, regional chairmen of political parties etc.
I, like all my senior colleagues have no regret in endorsing this campaign. Freedom and justice has never been presented to mankind as a sweet-smelling bouquet of flowers without controversy. All the freedoms we enjoy today have been bequeathed to us by men and women who stood up to be counted from Yaa Asantewaa to Nkrumah, Lincoln to Luther King Jnr, Biko to Mandela. No matter what, let history count me on the side of the oppressed than on the side of the oppressor.
May I conclude not by wishing that the members of Occupy Ghana be rebuked by those who read this piece, rather my wishes are that we all find common ground to work together in establishing for ourselves a fair and just society with love towards all and malice towards none.
Ghana needs us all.
God bless Ghana.
Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa (MP)
Deputy Minister for Education