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10.11.2004 Feature Article

Letter From The President: Undemocratic Secrets

Letter From The President: Undemocratic Secrets
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Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents, Forgive me for not writing to you about the report of the Nail Rawlings Completely (NRC) panel earlier. As you may be aware, they presented their report to me a few weeks ago. The report was in five bulky volumes. I don't have the inclination nor the time to read them. So I asked someone to read the five volumes and tell me about what the NRC says. So far, I am happy with what I have heard.

According to the NRC report, Jerry Boom is responsible for most of the state-sponsored human rights abuses in our country. He sanctioned the murders of the judges and ordered several arrests and detentions. In the eyes of the NRC, Jerry Boom is almost like Augusto Pinochet of Chile. The NRC has done exactly what it was supposed to do, even though it made some unpardonable mistakes, took unwise decisions and showed open bias in some cases. The commission's conclusions might not bring genuine reconciliation to our country but it's another nail in Jerry Boom's coffin.

Now we know, unofficially, that Jerry Boom is a monster. He caused so much pain in many Sikaman households – thanks to the NRC's conclusions. What I don't understand is why my advisers insisted that the report should be kept secret.

Before the NRC submitted its report I asked my top advisers whether or not we should make the report public for every Sikaman citizen to read. Most of them thought it unwise to unleash the NRC's bulky 'Volumes of Horror' on the Ghanaian population. They reasoned that publishing the report would be interpreted as an attempt to smear Jerry Boom and his party in the run up to the elections, increasing my chances of winning the polls. They insisted that we need to read through the report and come out with a WHITE PAPER (i.e. government's view on the report) before the 'Volumes of Horror' could be released. Well, I took their advice and am now regretting it.

I regret my decision to keep the NRC report secret because someway, somehow, the document is now in the public domain. Just a day after the report was presented to me, one of the newspapers in Sikaman started serializing its contents. Reliable information indicates that most of the talkative news editors, who spend all of their time shuttling from one radio station to another peddling conjecture and rumour, have copies. Most of you must be thinking that am so dumb that I cannot secure documents I decide to keep secret. But please don't blame me for the leakage – I didn't do it. I don't remember instructing anyone to leak the NRC report as I have done in the past. Perhaps, I did order the leakage – but, believe you me, I just can't remember. So how did the document get into the public domain? I don't know. All I can say is that I can't be blamed for the leakage. But if you are looking for culprits, I can name a few suspects.

My first suspect is the Attorney General, PP Anmokah. He was the first person I gave the report to. My instructions were for him to read through it and make recommendations as soon as possible. I guess he has been too busy canvassing for votes and has therefore not been able to read the report beyond page ten of volume one. I have seen him TV and heard him on radio strenuously denying government's involvement in the leakage. I want him to know that I am the only person who has a right to claim ignorance in this matter. The Attorney General has to come up with something more convincing for me and (the general Sikaman public) to believe that he didn't cause the leakage – either deliberately or inadvertently.

My other suspect is the whole of the NRC. They might have leaked the document to please me. They knew that their mandate was to Nail Rawlings Completely. They knew that the best way to do this was not to keep their report under lock and key. So they made multiple copies of the report and made almost simultaneous presentations to me and so-called social commentators and newspaper editors.

Whiles, I regret the leakage of the NRC report, I think that there is a very important lesson to be learnt here – we have to give “transparency” its proper meaning. Secrecy and mystery have no place in a democracy. Government of the people, for the people, by the people is not a secret business to be conducted in the dark. Everything has to be done in the open for everyone who cares to know what's going on, who's saying what and why. By treating reports such as the NRC's 'Volumes of Horror' with needless secrecy, we generate unnecessary suspicion and stifle the growth of our democracy. Even reports with serious security implications for the state should not be kept under lock and key, for the eyes of a privileged few.

I remember my friend T. Blia set up the Hutton commission to investigate whether he “sexed up” intelligence estimates to enable him win public support for the war in Iraq. The commission's report was a very sensitive security document but a few hours after it was presented to Bliar it was posted on the internet for everyone in any corner of the world to read it. We should have done the same for the NRC report. If we can't post it on the internet, the least we should have done was to release it for every literate Sikaman citizen to read it and be horrified. Leaking it for a newspaper editor to selectively serialize it has done my government more harm than good and I regret it. But you can't blame me. I will soon cause the report of the NRC to be serialized in context (and published in full), but not until I have chastised my advisors for giving me wrong counsel.

Excellently yours,

J. A. Fukuor

[email protected]

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