...And fires back: 'I'll never be cowed
THE LONGEST serving Minister of Finance in the Provisional National Democratic Congress (PNDC) and National Democratic congress (NDC) administrations, Prof. Kwesi Botchwey, has descended heavily on the former President, Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings, over what he said was defamatory and derogatory remarks made about him by the former president. The former President had accused Prof. Botchwey of abandoning the party and emerging very late, only when the filing of elections for the Presidency in 2004 was due.
He had accused him also of sabotaging his administration by refusing to release money for the Armed Forces during the Kokomba war.
The former Minister, in a statement released exclusively to The Chronicle, expressed dismay at the innuendoes cast at him, saying he cannot imagine or dream that Mr. Rawlings would accuse him of sabotaging his administration.
"I cannot imagine that Mr. Rawlings would have said any such thing. If he did, I can only describe it as a shameful and contemptible lie."
Prof. Botchwey, who contested for the flagbearership of the NDC in 2002 and lost to Prof. John Evans Atta Mills, said the latest episode, compelled him to react to the uncomplimentary remarks made against him by the founder of the NDC.
"This is not the first time Mr. Rawlings has made uncomplimentary comments about me. Indeed, reports reaching me suggest that he even wishes me dead. I have in the past, allowed these defamatory outburst to go unanswered, out of respect for him, for the high office he once held, and above all, for the unity of the party. But I am compelled to react to this latest episode."
Laying the facts bare, he said, "The truth is that I and a number of colleagues visited and actually drove through the conflict area in the heat of the moment, to get a first hand appreciation of the situation, while, by the way others better known for their bravery and bravado, mostly preferred the relative comfort and safety of helicopter rides over the area."
Prof. Botchwey, who stated that there were living witnesses to confirm his assertion that he was fully supportive in providing funds and was active in managing the financial cost of both military and political interventions of government in bringing the conflict to an end, said,
"At any rate, if I had refused to release money for the Armed Forces during the conflict to defray costs associated with the conflict, how would the military operations have been funded? And would I have been kept in office, even after I had 'sabotaged' the government by refusing to release funds for this national emergency? Indeed, why was I kept in office for 13 years until I myself resigned on my own accord?"
Responding to the assertions that he abandoned the party, he said, "By contesting the flagbearership of the party in 2002 at some risk-let me put it mildly- to my life and to the lives of those who worked with me, I and my supporters, who are still being hounded to this day by Mr. Rawlings, helped to establish in the party, a tradition of democratic election of presidential contenders, in a place of imposition."
Prof. Botchwey, who observed that it was common knowledge that the former president has great difficulty tolerating dissent, and prefers the path of slander and name-calling to principled debate, said, the party's interest can only be served by tolerating an open debate.
According to him, "No modern democratic party can thrive on the principle that the party is the personal fiefdom of any one individual, who can alone decide who should lead it or occupy this or that office.
He noted that, Mr. Rawlings, as an eminent member of the NDC, should play the role of a unifier, not a divider.
"I am encouraged by the knowledge that the truly democratic forces in the party are on the ascendancy. I am particularly heartened by the courage of the excellent crop of parliamentarians and the party's youth, to say nothing of the party's rank and file, who have borne the party's flag in opposition so admirably."
"I dare not mention any names, lest they be hounded and branded as people without integrity. Above all, I applaud the courage and tenacity of Dr. Obed Asamoah and others in the party leadership, who in various ways have sustained this democratic struggle within the party."
Prof. Botchwey noted that he was not intimidated by Mr. Rawlings' posture, saying, "I will continue to accord him the respect he deserves, but will never be cowed into blind subservience. And if I should decide to contest any office or position again in the party which I helped found, nothing will stop me."
In conclusion the former Minister said, it was his fervent hope and prayer that the truly democratic forces in all the tendencies within the party, including the 'Mills and Rawlings' tendencies, will prevail at today's congress.