THE FORMER PAL of the ex-President, Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings, Dr. Obed Yao Asamoah, now the Life Patron of Democratic Freedom Party (DFP), has admonished the former to honour the invitation extended to him by President John Agyekum Kufuor as the nation celebrates its 50th Independence anniversary scheduled to take place March 6, this year.
According to Dr. Asamoah, also a former Minister of Justice and Attorney General under the administration of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), it would be appropriate if the former President attends the anniversary as he continues to express his reservations as far as governance is concerned.
“I would have wished that he attends the anniversary in the name of peace, unity and national reconciliation. He can still continue to express his sentiments on issues that he thinks are very necessary. In fact if I were him, I would have honoured the invitation in spite of his reservations.”
Continuing, the former national chairman of the NDC said, “It does not mean that he should abandon his objections that he has been making. In situations like that his expressions may get more sympathy,” he told this paper.
Speaking to this reporter in an interview, Dr. Obed Asamoah, a veteran politician who indicated that his newly-formed DFP, would cause a stir during the 2008 general elections, said, should he (J.J) reject the honour, people would get the impression that, “he is behaving out of anger. People would want to see that, at this time of the nation's anniversary, his anger takes a back seat and show a certain commitment or an interest in the nation's history.”
Pushed to share his views on the late invitation to the former President as the only living ex-President, while other dignitaries were invited far in advance, which has been one of the reservations of people close to the ex-president, Dr. Asamoah noted that such complaint has no basis.
Accordingly, he said most of the invitees within the sub-region are all presidents and that they needed time for security arrangements. “He is just the former president. Those invited are all presidents and they need adequate time for their security,” he said.
Quizzed whether, it was important for Jerry Rawlings to attend, he said, “What people want is some kind of reconciliation. People are looking for peace and stability of this nation and they would be happy to see Rawlings participating in the celebrations. I think that sentiments of reconciliation should be there as we celebrate the anniversary.”
Additionally, the DFP boss said, “I wish he could honour it and can still make his points or his disagreements. But left to me alone, the invitation was a good gesture.”
On the composition of the members of the government's delegation, he said, it was good but they could have done it in two ways. First by extending an official letter of invitation and later followed by the delegation.
To him the delegation gave credence to the importance and recognition of Jerry as the former President of this nation.
On whether Ghana has something to celebrate, he responded in the affirmative. “Yes, we have something to celebrate. Over the years, we have made progress - from 1957 till date. I think we must celebrate it. It is an opportunity for us to look back and see what we have not done and correct our mistakes.”
Dr. Obed Asamoah, who took some issues with this paper on an editorial of the paper a couple of days ago as far as criminal libel law was concerned, explained his roles.
According to him, the criminal libel law which was used to prosecute some people, was introduced before the reign of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) and NDC.
“It was not true that I was instrumental in the passage of that law. The criminal libel law existed in the country from colonial times. It was part of the criminal code passed in 1966. We only came to meet it. We did not add or do anything to it. The Busia government used the law to prosecute Kofi Badu, then editor of African Spokesman. It was just absolutely wrong to say that I was very instrumental in the passage of the law.”
According to him, if the party, which he then belonged to, used it to prosecute some people, it was because it was the policy of the government.
“We apply it in some cases in our government because the government thinks that it was a good law. The Supreme Court of the land then upheld that the criminal libel law was compatible with press freedom. It was rather unfortunate that I have always been demonized by sections of the media. We just continued it as a matter of policy,” he intoned.
Responding to whether he then thinks that the law was bad but could not do anything because the government then believed that the law was good, he said, 'I think that it was incompatible with press freedom but that is history now,” adding that, “As far as today is concerned and the law is repealed, it must stay like that.”