ROTTWEILERS ON THE LOOSE: THE TALES OF TWO GIFTYS
'Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.' – From: 'Meditations XVII', by English poet John Donne.
IN MY own small way as a proud Honorary Member of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) and a proud citizen of Ghana, I join in the condemnation of the vicious, uncivilized, irrational, beastly and clearly unprovoked attack on Miss Gifty Lawson, a photo-journalist of the DAILY GUIDE newspaper, and the unlawful and unconstitutional treatment meted out to DSP Mrs. Gifty Mawuenyegag Tehoda, the then Deputy head of Commercial Crime Unit of the Police Criminal Investigations Department (CID).
The 'crime' of Miss Lawson, according to reports, was that she was merely trying to perform her duties as a photo-journalist by attempting to take a photograph of Mrs. Gifty Tehoda as she came out of a court room.
The day before the degrading physical assault in which she was stripped to her panties, there had been a minor attack on her by people thought to be the police woman's relatives or friends. Her newspaper provided a protection for her by directing two bodyguards to accompany her on the day of violent attack on her.
What the paper's proprietors and staff did not anticipate was that, this time (the second day) this mere slip of a girl would be the object of a traumatic war on her, with men suspected to be from the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), fully armed with guns and handcuffs.
If the BNI goons did not want Mrs. Tehoda's picture to be taken, all that they had to do was to tell Miss Lawson to stop or, at worst, seize her camera. What kind of resistance could she have put up against gun-wielded men of the BNI?
But no! Those goons, Rottweilers and pit bulls in human form had to show this harmless woman where power lay, in this so-called democratic country of ours, where law is suppose to rule.
As the report went, they even had to insert their fingers into her panties to make sure that she was not hiding any films and cartridges. Still not satisfied, they carried her away in their vehicles and also took away the brutalized, unarmed guards of Miss Lawson.
The unapproved attack on Miss Lawson has been stoutly defended by Lt.-Col. Larry Gbevlo-Lartey, the National Security Co-ordinator. As far as he is concerned the BNI goons were merely doing their duty that the public should be no more concerned about an alleged slapping of a BNI man.
Has the BNI man in question been identified? Has he made a report to the police? Can he identify that foolishly brave person who dared to assault him? How come that the DAILY GUIDE newspaper's two guards accompanying Miss Lawson were also not only brutalized, but also taken away?
It is good that the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) and certain organizations as well as individuals have condemned the unwarranted and senseless assault on Miss Lawson. But I am worried all the same.
Why did the GJA state that journalists had to behave themselves while on assignments? Did the GJA learn that Miss Lawson had misbehaved, and had consequently, brought the attack on herself?
Secondly, it is regrettable that the voices of the so-called gender activists on women's right advocates were not heard, as should have been the case.
One of their own is subjected to the indignity of being stripped to her panties, the rough fingers of men explore the underwear, and that does not produce cries of outrage from these so-called gender advocates? Why?
The emotional and physiological scars of her trauma may remain for a long time with her. She should even have nightmare that could affect her ability to continue to work as a photo-journalist. And all because she wanted take the photograph of a suspect, not as an idle pastime but as part of her work.
May God forgive Lt.-Col. Gbevlo Lartey and all those who had a hand in the physical and psychological brutality inflicted on Miss Gifty Lawson.
+DSP Mrs. Tehoda has been charge with one count of stealing cocaine. As the lawyers would put it, the case is sub judice and one risks being charged with contempt of court if one comments on a case.
Still, one cannot help but question the inexplicable lawlessness of the BNI, in keeping DSP Mrs. Tehoda in custody for more than 48 (forty-eight) hours without taking her to a law court, as explicitly demanded by the 1992 Constitution , Article 14 (3)(b).
DSP Mrs. Tehoda does not just have the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police, but is also the Deputy Head of Commercial Crimes Unit of the CID. If the BNI could subject this high-ranking policewoman to psychological torture with cavalier disregard for her human rights, think of what the BNI could do to you or me, as ordinary citizens with neither rank nor position.
Of course, that was not the first time the BNI had behaved as if it is a law unto itself. The BNI's victim's have routinely been denied such rights as having their lawyers with them, or being detained for not more than 48 hours without being taken to court.
At the promulgation of the 1992 Constitution, there were those of us who thought that the murderous and suffocating arbitrariness of the past would disappear forever.
Today, I am not so sure. If I may borrow and paraphrase a sentence from the American TIME magazine essay on instability in Africa, I want to observe that, in Ghana, in spite of the so-called Rule of Law, our democracy is a very thin veneer which scrapes off the touch of a security finger.
The Military, the Police, National Security, the BNI and other semi-or para-security agencies have no qualms about assaulting civilians, unlawfully restricting their freedom of speech and movement and subjecting civilians to all kinds of other indignities.
Let the civilian question anything of these security or para-security persons why our fundamental rights and freedom are being trampled upon and the inevitable result is brutal assault or incarceration. Is that what we bargained for when we approved the Constitution in a referendum?
You know something? The CID of the Ghana Police Service vehemently and bellicosely rejected the report of the Chief Justice' committee and the interim report of the BNI while maintaining the innocence of the Police Service in the alleged cocaine swap.
It was obviously on the basis of investigations by the BNI that DSP Mrs. Tehoda has been charged. So why should the Police Service interdict DSP Mrs. Tehoda? I thought they would say it loud, or least grumble, that an innocent policewoman was being made a scape-goat. Why, Ghana Police, why? Do you now accept the BNI report?
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