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06.02.2004 Feature Article

Letter From The President: Short Track Justice

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Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents, you are well aware of the fact that Mr. Binbag has been trying so hard to be a torn in my flesh ever since I came to sit on the Black Star Stool. Take the last time I went to parliament for example. After delivering my well-thought out message on the poor state of the nation, Mr. Binbag stood up and said that my message was “inconsiderate”. I was shocked by his pronouncement and I quickly had to skim through my speech just to be sure I had not said any thing inconsiderate – like ordering identification haircuts for all the minor lawmakers who constantly interrupted my delivery. I never understood why he referred to my speech as inconsiderate until just a few days ago. While taking a stroll through the Castle Gardens I couldn’t help but think about the near financial loss I had caused to the state by pumping huge sums of money to renovate the presidential living quarters only for me to realize that the Castle is too small for my family.

In the Castle Gardens, I remembered that Mr. Binbag had been so annoyed that a poor farmer, who probably cannot cater for his own family, had donated millions of cedis towards the renovation of my personal mansion at the HIPC Junction. For your information that mansion of mine is looking very presidential and when I am off the Black Star Stool, I will consider any request from my successor for that house to be turned into the permanent seat of government.

The Binbag took me to the tall man who calls himself ‘Short’ to investigate my misdeeds. I concede that I might have done wrong and perhaps, caused some financial loss to the state with the Castle Renovation and the Upliftment of my Mansion. In the current era of ‘chop and let’s chop’ Mr. Binbag could have sat down with me to discuss this issue like all astute, usually self-seeking politicians would have done. But Mr. Binbag wanted to be seen in the public eye as a man of integrity – he wanted to be seen among that rare breed of politicians who do not think with their stomachs first. So he dragged my name and a few members of my governing team to Mr. Short demanding an investigation into the Castle Renovation and the Upliftment of my Mansion. Instead of prosecuting his case, he kept asking for one adjournment after another. I thank God that Mr. Short has a very short temper. He threw Mr. Binbag’s case out of the window at the first opportunity. Lo and behold the Binbag thought that I had influenced Mr. Short’s decision. From the time Mr. Short gave his ruling, I am told, Mr. Binbag discovered the word ‘inconsiderate’. He used it to describe Mr. Short’s ruling and I have been advised not to think about why he used it to describe my speech in parliament. Even though I could have shown Mr. Short a window through which to discard the Binbag’s case, I didn’t. I didn’t want to write to you, countrymen and women, about how I felt about Mr. Short’s decision. But recent events have forced me to. A very good friend of mine, who caught her husband fidgeting with another woman filed for divorce some 36 months ago. I have now realized that fast track might not be doing as much good as I thought it should and that we need to adopt what I will refer to as ‘Short Track’ – the manner Mr. Short dealt with the Binbag case.

When I became the most important man in the land, I realized that the wheels of justice in our country hardly move. When they choose to, they move very reluctantly and very slowly. So I dreamed up the idea of creating Fast Track Courts to expedite the prosecution of those Jerry Boom followers who had dipped their fingers too deep, too often into the national kitty. I don’t have to retell the Fast Track story and how loudmouthed, too-known Tsutsa nearly destroyed my dreams. You know that the essence of fast track was to oil those rusty cogs which do not allow the wheels of justice to move as fast as they should. For starters, I ordered our techno-phobic judges to get used to modern gadgets for dispensing justice and stop writing testimonies in long-hand, an activity they seem relish. In fact, quite a number of officials in the Judicial Service have also undergone training in the use of modern court gadgets. So I do not understand why the wheels of justice are still moving slowly.

Research I have personally conducted indicates that most of the cases in our courts are so trivial and inconsequential. Essentially, the courts are choked with infantile trivialities. People are being prosecuted for stealing guinea fowl, chicken and bags of cassava. Hundreds of others are being prosecuted for failing to repay fifty thousand cedi-debts. Some people are in court litigating for the rights to bury corpses. I even know of so-called ‘men of God’ who are in the courts putting up one nonsensical legal argument after another, seeking a mortal’s proclamation on whether or not they have the right to lead a church. In essence the judges have very little time to deal with the cases of great import. I believe that Short Track will eliminate this problem of trivial cases choking the legal system.

The first rule under the Short Track system is for judges to muster courage to throw out some cases. If you are a judge and anyone comes before you with a guinea fowl case – you don’t even have to think twice. Just throw it out. Judges should adopt the attitude of throwing cases out first and asking about their merits later. If at first sight the case appears trivial, chances are that it is really trivial – throw it out. After throwing it out, think about it for a while and consider its merits. If it truly merits a hearing, nothing stops you from recalling the case – after all, judges are human beings who have a right to change their minds every now and then. Judges should not hesitate at all whenever they feel that a case should be thrown out.

The second Short Track rule (my favourite) is for judges not to entertain lawyers who ask for adjournments at the least opportunity for all sorts of silly reasons. Lawyers in our country like to ask for adjournments when right in the middle of arguing a case they feel an urge to pass water. Sometimes, they ask for adjournments so that they can quickly dash into another courtroom to ask for another adjournment for another case they are handling. Why can’t lawyers say it when their hands are full?

With the short track system, cases will be dealt with within the shortest possible time and people like the friend I mentioned above, who need a judge to tell them whether or not they should divorce their spouses, will not have the guts to go to court in the first place. All those trivial cases, which have caused some cogs in the judicial system to rust will be eliminated and the wheels of justice will begin to move. When the wheels are moving, we will have no difficulties applying some fast track principles to make sure that they move very, very fast.

Excellently yours,

J. A. Fukuor [email protected]

J. A. Fukuor
J. A. Fukuor, © 2004

The author has 204 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: JAFukuor

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