TAKORADI LAWYER SUPPORTS REVIEW OF CONSTITUTION… Calls for review of presidential oath
A Takoradi-based Legal Practitioner, Mr. Seth Kwame Awuku, has played down suggestions in certain quarters that our country's constitution is too young to merit a review.
According to Awuku, looking at certain distortions and vagueness in our constitution, the time for a review was now, and no other time, to correct the anomalies in the constitution.
It would be recalled that the Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Ghana, Legon, Professor Kofi Quashigah, kicked against a review of the constitution, on grounds that the it was too young, and should be given time to grow.
The Takoradi-based legal practitioner, who disagreed with the Dean of the Faculty of Law, has consequently, proposed to the Constitutional Review Commission to critically consider reviewing the fundamental human rights and freedoms aspect of our constitution, which he observed, contains some distortions and anomalies, to make it conform to the modern tenets of a democratic state.
According to him, the fundamental human rights and freedoms articles in our constitution were questionable and weak, and could be challenged or tested at the Supreme Court anytime, if it was not reviewed to correct the vagueness in the articles.
According to Mr. Awuku, people have been unable to challenge or test the fundamental human rights and freedoms in our constitution at the Supreme Court for review, because the people might not have the resources to do that.
Speaking in an interview with The Chronicle, Awuku quoted articles 21 (f) 21 (g), (17) and 69 (a) as some the articles in our constitution, which needed a total review. According to him Article 21 (f), which hammers on the fact that all persons shall have the right to freedom of information, subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in a democratic society, was questionable, and needed a complete review.
Mr. Awuku, who subjected the above quoted article to ridicule, argued that freedom of information was one of the features of a democratic regime, and in every country, freedom of information has a limit, and that one could access a country's democratic credentials, by looking at the limitations imposed on freedom of information.
Making reference to article 21(f), Awuku argued that the above article failed to spell out the qualifications and laws which are necessary in our democracy and that the article as it stands now, is completely incomplete, because “we do not know the qualifications the constitution is talking about.”
Awuku however argued that there were certain kinds of information that were not readily available in the public domain, for instance, intelligence information and medical reports among others. According to him, until the right of qualification is spelled out in 21 (f) “we do not know the limitation the constitution is talking about.
As a result, it was important that Parliament passes a bill so that we can know this limitation in 21 (f). That apart, the Review Committee should consider reviewing it to make the aforementioned quoted article complete.
“What is more, on article 21 (g) which talks of freedom of movement and reads 'all persons shall have the right to freedom of movement,' which means the right to move freely in Ghana, the right to leave and enter Ghana, and immunity from expulsion from Ghana.”
This article, according Lawyer Seth Awuku, as it stands now, means even aliens also have the right to enter Ghana, and leave Ghana at will. Clearly, this is a serious drift in draftsmanship.
Foreigners or aliens cannot enjoy the same rights as Ghanaian to enter and leave Ghana as they choose. Freedom of movement is a right reserved for Ghanaians, and must not include aliens, unless they fulfill our requirements.
He demanded that a serious review was needed to exempt aliens from enjoying the benefit of the article, as it spells out.
On the presidential oath, as contained in the second schedule of the constitution, the legal practitioner also called for its review.
To him, a portion of the oath which reads that the president shall dedicate himself to the service and wellbeing of the people of Ghana was vague.
This is because, 'the truth is that nobody can fully obtain the wellbeing of the people. To the counsel, that portion of the presidential oath was an expression of pious hope, and it was hard to attain that portion “that is asking the president to attain an unattainable ideal.”
Article 82(1) of the constitution, according to the Legal Practitioner Awuku, was also another important feature of the constitution which needed consideration by the review commission. Article 82 (1) provides that parliament could censure a minister by a resolution supported by two thirds majority of the members of parliament. It does not provide the reasons or grounds upon which a minister could be censured.
This is defective, according to the counsel Awuku, and as such, it is important for the review commission to provide a provision that gives grounds upon which a minister of state could be censured.