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13.06.2007 Politics

June 4 must not be celebrated

By Ghanaian Observer

Almost all respondents that GO spoke with on the annual celebration of the June 4 uprising by the former President J. J. Rawlings and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) have unanimously stated that it must be discontinued.

It was to find out what the ordinary man on the street thinks about June 4 being celebrated against the backdrop of a raging debate that has been going on for several days after the event chalked 28 years that GO sampled opinions of several Ghanaians on the matter at the weekend.

According to one respondent, Mr. Tony Ellen Anthony, the June 4 uprising was initiated by young officers in the Armed Forces who claimed that their senior officers were corrupt and therefore needed to be removed. `If a trial was not given them; then to me June 4 is not a cause worth celebrating,` he said.

Tony added that if social justice was really created by June 4, it would have echoed in our day to day life today. `But justice still appears a long way off.`

He also believed there is no cause to celebrate or even remember June 4 because a lot of innocent people were killed for unjust reasons and without a fair trail.

He cited some of the victims of the uprising as Colonel Enninful, Robert Kotei and Joy Amedume.

Another Ghanaian, a businessman named Nana Ahenson, stated that although the original idea and intention of June 4 may have had certain reasonable aspirations, several years down the line, the aspirations which June 4 should have engendered are simply not there.

He noted that there is still `a total disregard of law and order.` The killings, atrocities meted out to parents and people getting missing meant that the military was the law in those days.

According to him, a lot of people had their basic human rights violated throughout the period the uprising lasted and even after wards.

He added that a lot of things happened in the revolutionary era that were supposed to have righted certain wrongs but from the evidence available it made those wrongs worst for many people.

Mr. Ahenson pointed out that the effect of June 4 will continue to be remembered or felt by a lot of people in the country, adding that it can never be forgotten due to the negative impact it continues to have on the society.

He expressed the view that June 4 should not be celebrated because it did not serve the purpose for which it was first advanced.

Even though the day may be remembered, it should not according to him, be given the attention it currently enjoys by a section of the public.

It cannot be equated to the celebration of Independence Day etc. he said.

The essence of June 4 is that the negative things that occurred in our governance systems would not be repeated; and that Ghanaians would no longer tolerate coup-makers.

Ahenson urged fellow Ghanaians to pledge not to allow themselves to be deceived by anyone that any coup or uprising is a solution to any problem.

He noted that if the rules of June 4 were used as a yardstick to wipe out corruption today as Mr. Rawlings did in that era, a lot of leaders today would be sentenced, including Mr. Rawlings himself.

Another respondent, Mr. Eric Sarpong, however opined that June 4 should be celebrated because it was something that changed the socio-political course of the country `whether good or bad,` adding that it adds up to the history of the nation.

He stated that if there is any cause to celebrate the Independence Day, then there should be a cause to celebrate June 4 because a lot of people lost their lives during the fight for Independence, much as others lost their lives or died during June 4.

Those against the celebration of June 4 included Dr. Stephen Atta-Kumson, a Medical Practitioner at the Tema General Hospital. He stressed that June 4 should not be celebrated at all. According to him, the present government did well in scraping the day as a national holiday.

He argued that though a lot of lives were lost in fighting for Independence, it is celebrated because at the end it brought something good to the country as a whole.

Dr. Atta-Kumson added that, on the contrary, innocent lives lost during June 4 cannot be justified, `it is only those who perpetuated that act who can justify it,` he said.

He emphasised that those obsessed with the celebration can help themselves better by making good use of museums and writing books on that event.

To him, people then will have the choice either to know about it or not, rather than forcing it down on people as a holiday.

Adu-Gyamfi, a retired Military Officer, recounted that he lost a great deal of property during that time, including his first wife.

He revealed that because he was one of the officers in charge of accommodation and because the junior ranks were fighting for better conditions of service including salary, shelter and promotion, he was a target; and he had no choice than to run away.

He said he therefore, saw no reason for celebrating June 4.

Additionally, he admitted that the former President is definitely using June 4 as a platform to preach his ideology to his fellows and other party faithful to elect his party back into power.

`I wouldn`t say his approach is wrong or right, because that is what he believes in; but I strongly believe that this kind of thing does not work well for the country in terms of development and international recognition,` he submitted further.

Speaking to Mr. Samuel Otu of the Circle-Osu Taxi Rank on this same issue, he bluntly pointed out that if the June 4 coup were of any good essence it would not have been scraped by the judiciary.

He was also of the opinion that the former President`s politicising of June 4 on campaign grounds is definitely wrong and must not be encouraged by his followers.

For his part Elder Asante of the Vineyard Chapel at Ashaiman noted that demonstrating against one`s superiors or managers or senior colleagues at a work place cannot be celebrated as something worthy; June 4 should not therefore be celebrated, he opined.

He was of the view that even though the uprising came when the country was not governed by a Constitution, breaking a jail cannot be justified as a good thing irrespective of the type of government.

“Yet that is exactly what happened and some people want us to celebrate this wrongful act! Oh God help us,` he exclaimed.

To him, celebrating June 4 brings back painful memories to a lot of people; and once Ghana is not under military rule, such occasion should not be given attention.

Mr. Kingsly Osei-Mensa, of the PURC, noted that the uprising is something that can not be given a national tag.

To him, a lot has been said and done but now is the time to forget about the past and move forward with the developmental agenda of the country.

He was of the view that when Rawlings continues to preach June 4 on political platforms, it will take a longer time for his party to return to power.

Another respondent, Madam Akosua Amoah, a retired teacher, recounted that June 4 was formally launched following the overthrow of the SMC, which led to the formation of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council [AFRC] by the former President Flight Lt. J. J. Rawlings as its chairman with other members such as Maj (rtd) Boakye Gyan, Maj. Mensah Poku, Lt. Commander Apaloo among others.

Recalling that in an interrogation of the former President by a `certain committee to find out from the ex-President the reason he and his members wanted to overthrow the then government through a coup detat,`she said he pontificated on issues of widespread corruption in the country during those times.

She thus quizzed that if the ex-President claimed that the nasty state of affairs could be remedied only by going the Ethiopian way or bloodshed or physical elimination of people who had committed economic crimes against the nation as had been done in Ethiopia by Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1970, what has been the result of all that years down the line?

Placing emphasis on the atrocities that happened on June 4, Kofi Andoh, a retired social worker recalled that that very day was a horrible one, which he does not wish to remember, much more celebrate or talk about.

He recalled that some members of the Ghana Bar Association and the Christian Council of Ghana at the time pleaded for milder punishments for culprits.

The executions were meant to be a lesson for political leaders who abused political office. He recalled further that some individuals and organisations which had amassed wealth illegally or evaded taxes were made to refund them while corrupt officials were dismissed and innocent people killed.

`Apart from the execution, a countless number of top military personnel were jailed for corruption, while several others had their assets confiscated to the State. Some notable businessmen fled outside the country to save their dear lives,` he said.

Mr. Andoh added that June 4 shouldn`t be celebrated in anyway, since it brings to people nothing but pain due to the brutalities and atrocities they experienced.

`The pain would not be wiped away if the President decides to celebrate the revolution every year.`

Sampling the views of people between the ages of 20 and 30, it became obvious that most of them are against the celebration of the June 4 coup because they are of the view that it is not appropriate for the country under the prevailing democratic culture.

Four of them were of the view that the celebration of June 4 would serve as a lesson to the country. To them, the overthrow of an unconstitutional government through a mutiny would serve as a lesson to both civilians and military officers playing politics with the nation.

Only a handful knew about the event in detail.

Out of 10 people interviewed, only three were in support of celebrating June 4. The rest said that it is not appropriate because it reminded Ghanaians of the excesses, brutalities and pains during that period.

One gentleman said he was told that even pregnant women were assaulted and killed regardless of their condition; and people lost their properties to the coup makers because they were not able to justify the property in their possession.

Almost all the interviewees were against the former President Jerry John Rawlings using June 4 as a campaign theme.

They said it would not help his NDC to win the Presidency in the 2008 elections. They also were of the view that there is no need reminding Ghanaians of the trauma people went through on that day, since it creates hatred for Rawlings and the NDC.