13.12.2002 Feature Article

Do the MPs think they own this country?

Do the MPs think they own this country?
13.12.2002 LISTEN

Reading the recent decision of the NDC Members of Parliament to boycott Parliament and the subsequent pronouncements attributed to their leader in Parliament, Mr Bagbin that the NDC MP's will boycott Parliament in the future to defend “privileges and immunities of the members” was astonishing. In fact it appears that the MP's feel that by virtue of being Members of Parliament, they own our country, and can therefore dictate the terms of their employment to the people of Ghana. For years our people have been living under various dictatorial regimes. Under the PNDC/NDC, the people lived under the most brutal system the country has ever seen. There were abductions, extra-judicial killings, corruption, ineptitude, cronyism, massive erosion of the rights of the people, and more. There was a time that our women became so fearful they could not even wear trousers (do you remember those days?). When they were beaten up and disgraced. There were intimidations of the judiciary to the extent that it cowed some to pronounce judgements, which were contrary to common sense. For example Ghanaians read with a degree of shock and embarrassment when the Djentuah's were sent to jail by a judge for going public about their son who had been abducted and kept in the seat of government, the Castle. But Ghanaians kept their cool. They waited for the don to brake. In the quest for freedom, many lost their businesses, their properties, and some sadly paid the ultimate price. All in the name of fighting for the “rule of law”. The right to be judged by the law of the land, and not the caprices of individuals who are nothing but scumbags who happens to be in power. In 2000, Ghanaians vehemently rejected caprices and voted for the rule of law. They voted the NDC out of power and said never again, shall we be run by anything, other than the rule of law. In a democratic country, “Rule of law” must be paramount. It prescribes three things: (1) Equality before the law, (2) Due process, and (3) criminal presumption of innocence until proven guilty. In essence “Rule of law” can be explained as follows; viz, we are all equal before the law whether you are the President of the Republic, the ex-President of the Republic, an MP or an ordinary citizen of the country. We are all equal before the law and no one should be punished or deprive of his/her liberty or property except in accordance with proper legal process. Even if and when one is charged with a criminal offence, the person is entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. This applies to all; even the pickpocket on the street, or the big thief (often the politicians); we are all subject to the law.

The MP's are nothing compared to the rule of law. Ghanaians fought for the right to be run by the rule of law. It is something that Ghanaians have paid a heavy price for. Ghanaians did not ask the MP's to come for the job. We did not asked the MP's to stand for elections. We did not asked them to become MP's so we would spend so much on them. Again we certainly did not asked them to become MP's so we would give them $25,000 car loan guarantees when the people are languishing in abject poverty.

Yet Ghanaians have agreed to provide for the MP's after we have given them jobs, after we have given them security guarantees for $25,000 loans they have no hope of paying off. But Ghanaians will never compromise their hard earn freedom to be run only by the rule of law. The right to be subject to the same law whether you are an MP or the ordinary citizen.

Now the NDC Members of Parliament are demanding that they be given immunity from prosecutions etc, except with the consent of the speaker of Parliament. What a joke! If that is the current rules, then obviously it ought to be changed. For it will make a travesty of the concept of rule of law where there is equality of all citizens before the law. In effect, what would emerge under that circumstance would be that if they steal our moneys, if they stash away our national wealth in their overseas bank accounts, if they abuse their positions of power etc, we cannot do anything to them for as long as they remain MP's. This again would be crazy.

The MP's are already given a number of privileges. In fact they have an absolute privilege for everything that they say in Parliament. They can infringe defamation laws, copyright laws, blasphemy, obscenity, censorship and many, many more without being cause to stand trial whatsoever. This is what we call non-justiciability. It follows that there is no need for the MP's to demand further privileges. Because they already enjoy a fairly extensive privileges not available to the ordinary citizen.

Ghana is not for the MP's and certainly not for the NDC MP's to be able to dictate the terms of their employment. They themselves applied for the job. If they think the job is too hard, and they cannot do it, nothing stops them from throwing in the towel. They applied for their jobs on the basis of their purported commitment to pursuing our interest with fearless zeal. If they feel that they have now lost that zeal because they now fear the law, then that will be inconsistent with the basis upon which they were granted their jobs. And why must they be afraid of the law if they genuinely feel they have done nothing wrong? Why must men and women who for years preached “probity, honesty and accountability” fear the law? Have they forgotten that they can only be charged with the breaches of the law and nothing else?

The people of Ghana are very distressed. They have for so long been denied good men and women who can ably pursue their interest through these challenging times. Our Communities are being decimated by poverty, starvation, and serious economic pills from the outside world whose only interest is to see our eventual obliteration from the face of the earth. We therefore need good women and men who are prepared to sacrifice their own selfish, personal interest to the interest of its citizens.

If the NDC thinks it cannot accept the basic precondition for the job they applied for, then, they must to do the honourable thing by throwing in their towels. Why must they fear the law? If they indeed are honest people who preached the virtues of probity and accountability, then they need not fear since they can only be charged with breaches of the law and nothing else. Ghana belongs to all the people of Ghana. The people of Ghana can only afford to employ people who are ready, willing and able to respect the rule of law, and not those who will arrogantly dismiss it with contempt.

Kwame Adofo Koramoah Solicitor of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, Australia.

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