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18.11.2008 Politics

Judiciary prepares for elections

By Ivy Benson - Ghanaian Chronicle
Judiciary prepares for elections
AS GHANA goes to the polls to elect a president and two hundred and thirty parliamentarians come December 7, the judiciary is taking strong initiatives in preparing to deal with election disputes that may erupt in the course of the elections. To this effect, some 75 high level profile personalities of the Judicial Service, comprising superior court judges and their registrars, eminent Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) practitioners, and heads of the various private process servers of the Judicial Service, drawn from all over the country, are undergoing a-two-day sensitisation workshop in Accra. The training workshop, which is on election adjudication, and sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), is expected to sensitise judges on their roles in electoral process, procedural and substantive laws governing the adjudication of electoral disputes, and offences. Prominent personalities of outstanding knowledge in their field, who have shown their commitment to the rule of law and democratic governance, including Prof. Kumado, a constitutional lawyer, Dr. Justice Seth Twum, a retired Supreme Court judge, Nene Amegatcher, a private legal practitioner and an ADR expert, and Dr. Quarshigah, Dean of the Law Faculty and an ADR scholar and practitioner, were some resource persons, who would impact adequate knowledge of effective electoral dispute resolution on the participants. Preceding the training workshop was the commissioning of a manual on “Election Adjudication in Ghana,” by her Ladyship, Chief Justice Georgina Theodora Wood, which is expected to facilitate the work of judges in election dispute resolution, as it contained procedural rules and regulations. According to Justice J. B. Akamba, Acting Director of the Judicial Training Institute and a Justice of the Court of Appeal, the workshop, which also attracted European Union observers, was to enhance the confidence of the judiciary in the people. Addressing participants yesterday, Chief Justice Wood called on agencies mandated to ensure free, fair, transparent and credible elections in the country, to manage their affairs appropriately, as Ghanaians are demanding a non-violent election, to enable them conduct their affairs in peace and freedom. It was in this regard that the Chief Justice noted that the judiciary, responsible for the resolution of electoral disputes under the 1992 Constitution, was expected to adequately prepare their minds, as well as professional expertise, to meet the challenges of adjudicating petitions that may arise from the upcoming elections. “Given our anxiety to consolidate and deepen our democracy, and build on the socio-economic gains we have, as a nation, so far made, we have no choice but to do everything in our power to meet the aspirations of the Ghanaian people,” the Chief Justice espoused. Justice Georgina Wood encouraged parties in electoral disputes, to take advantage of the ADR system in resolving issues pertaining to computation of figures, as it had proven to very effective and expeditious. The Chief Justice further encouraged judges to accept dissenting opinions of their colleagues, since dissenting views made up the fullest embodiment of the right to free expression, as it signified judicial courage and independent thought. “We must encourage dissent, but I believe that it is with respect to governance institutions, and it is in the conduct of public business in particular, such as in adjudication, that we must try to exhibit decorum, and treat each other with sensitivity,” Justice Wood intimated.