Handling anti-ROPAA demonstrations ——
FORMER Vice President and twice NDC Presidential candidate, Professor John Evans Atta-Mills, has cautioned the police on how they handle future anti-ROPAA demonstrations and the NPP Government on the political direction in which the ROPAA is taking the country. He has also advised the Electoral Commission not to bring the ROPAA into force.
In a statement issued in anticipation of yesterday's planned massive anti-ROPAA demonstration, which was stopped by a court injunction obtained ex parte by the Greater Accra Regional Police Commander, Professor Mills drew the attention of the police to the judgement of the Supreme Court in the case of NPP v. IGP in which the then NPP-in-opposition sued the IGP for refusing them permit to demonstrate. The Supreme in that case castigated the police for their tendency to “show the public where power lies”.
Professor Mills also reprimanded IGO Patrick Kwasi Acheampong for behaving like the spokesperson for the NPP Government on budgetary expenditure by complaining about the high cost of policing demonstrations. He advised the IGP, if he had any advice on cost cutting, to advise President Kufuor to scrap the ROPAA since the cost is likely to be in the trillions of cedis and the millions of dollars. Professor Mills warned against any attempts to infiltrate fifth columnists into the ranks of the demonstrators to provoke violence and stressed that they would be dealt with when exposed.
Professor Mills regretted that by signing the ROPAB into law, President Kufuor has simply shifted the pressure point of public agitation and protest to the Electoral Commission, and advised the Electoral Commission to take a cue from the Insolvency Act of 1962, Act 153, which, though passed some 44 years ago, has still not been brought into force by Legislative Instrument as anticipated under the Act.
Professor Mills expressed sympathy for those who sustained injuries during the demonstration of 21st February 2006 and suggested to the organisers of the anti-ROPAA demonstrations to award them the National Honour of “Heroes of the BAR of Ghana (Battle Against ROPAA Division).
– The full text of Professor Mills' Statement is below:- PRESS STATEMENT BY PROFESSOR JOHN EVANS ATTA-MILLS ON THE 3RD IN THE SERIES OF ANTI-ROPA DEMONSTRATIONS SCHEDULED FOR THURSDAY, 2ND MARCH, 2006 ON Thursday, March 2, 2006, there will be another in the series of demonstrations against the Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, ROPAB, or the ROPAA since we are informed the President has indeed signed the Bill into law and therefore transformed it from a Bill into an Act. In the light of what happened during the last demonstration of 21st February, 2006, which I participated in, I am compelled to issue this Press Statement first, to caution the police about how they handled Thursday's demonstration, second, to warn the NPP Government to watch the political direction in which they are taking this country with the ROPAA, and third, to advise the Electoral Commission (EC) about the expectations of the people now that the Bill has been passed.
As a citizen of this country who later became Vice President of the Republic and a Presidential candidate on two occasions, I watched when the NPP embarked on numerous demonstrations and boycotts. I watched when the NPP-in-opposition go to court and win a Supreme Court victory that declared that one did not require a police permit to demonstrate in Ghana. An extract from the Supreme Court judgement read as follows:
“It is very tempting for some policemen to adopt the attitude of being too ready or willing to give orders, or misuse their authority and be bossy and interfering, ready to show the public where power lies”. (NPP v. IGP (1993-94) 2 GLR 459 at 476, per Aikins JSC).
Unfortunately, this was precisely the attitude that the police showed during the 21st February, 2006 demonstration, which attitude the IGP even more unfortunately sought to condone at his Press Conference of 24th February 2006. All the events of the 21st February demonstration suggested a planned effort by certain unseen hands to foment trouble in order to provoke retaliatory counter-violence by the police, and that plan seemed to have worked to perfection. In the process, what the police have described as the use of “minimum force” has resulted in Ghanaian citizens exercising their constitutional right to demonstrate being brutalized, maimed and injured, and properties lost or damaged.
I condemn unreservedly the police brutalisation of the demonstrators and the innocent bystanders and the atrocities meted out to them. I do not accept that what the police used on that day was “minimum force”. Indeed, what the police used was “maximum force”, except that, thanks be to God, nobody died. I find the IGP's disingenuous attempt to defend the indefensible police action as totally unacceptable. But the IGP's attempt to defend the NPP Government in terms of the cost of policing demonstrations is what is even more reprehensible. The IGP is not the NPP Government's spokesperson on budgetary expenditure, and he clearly stepped out of line when he attempted to play that role at his Press Conference.
The NPP was aware of the cost of policing demonstrations when they got the Supreme Court to rule that people could demonstrate without seeking police permits, so it does not lie in the mouth of the IGP to speak for that political party in government.
The IGP himself must have an idea of how much it will cost to implement the ROPAA, which cost most likely will run into trillions of cedis and millions of dollars and is one of the reasons why the demonstrators were out on the streets in any case. If the IGP is concerned about cost, then he should advise the NPP Government to abandon the idea of the ROPAA. That will save more cost than any cost arising out of the policing of anti-ROPAA demonstrations.
The IGP could not have forgotten that it was public agitations, strikes, demonstrations and boycotts that won Ghana her independence, that saved Ghana from Kutu Acheampong's reckless UNIGOV misadventure, and that continue to be the vehicles for oppressed people all over the world.
The IGP is a lawyer. He should go and read the judgement in the NPP's Police Permit Case (NPP v. IGP) again. He will find the following statements contained in the judgement of the Supreme Court:
“In countries which practice true democracy, supporters and opponents of every conceivable cause are given freedom to associate and express their opinions. In the end, some have succeeded and their unpopular demands have become majority wishes and have been recognized”. (Per Amua-Sekyi JSC).
“This court cannot ignore the fact that at the close of this second millennium of the modern era, the attainment and enjoyment of fundamental human rights have become prime instruments of international relations. In rendering this opinion therefore, we must take into serious consideration the struggles, exploits and demands of the oppressed and struggling people of Africa, America and elsewhere led by such men as Nelson Mandela and Dr Martin Luther King Jnr. in their fight for fundamental human and civil rights”. (Charles Hayfron-Benjamin JSC).
As we proceed to demonstrate yet again on Thursday, I require of the IGP, the police, and the Police Council of which I have been Chairman before, to be guided by these words of the learned Justices of the Supreme Court in a case, which the NPP itself took to court.
Thursday's demonstration will be peaceful, however, if fifth columnists hired to cause trouble are infiltrated into our ranks, they will be flushed out and once flushed out, nobody should hold the organizers responsible for their fates.
The police are well aware that in all mass events such as demonstrations, there are bound to be unanticipated untoward behaviour and incidents. What the police should not do is that they must not capitalize on any such isolated incidents, should they occur, to go clubbing, thumping, batoning and water-hosing innocent demonstrators.
I believe that with cooperation between the police and the organizers, Thursday's demonstration will be devoid of the unfortunate incidents that characterized that of 21st February, 2006.
What I am not certain of is the attitude of the NPP, because I am not certain of their motive in passing such a rancorous, divisive, unproductive and expensive to implement Bill. But pass it, they have, we have been told that President Kufuor has unfortunately ignored all advice and gone ahead to sign the Bill into law. It seems the trappings of political power, intolerance, and disdain for criticism has produced in the NPP, a feeling of omnipotence. Unfortunately, what the NPP has done is simply to shift the focus of public protest from Parliament and the President to the EC. Since the EC has been given the power to decide when to bring the law into operation, we await the decision of the EC on the matter.
Speaking as a lawyer, however, and a lawyer with expertise in commercial law, I wish to remind the EC that the Insolvency Act of Ghana was passed by the Parliament of Ghana in 1962 as Act 153. It was to be brought into force by a Legislative Instrument. 44 years after its passage, the Insolvency Act has still not been brought into force. That should be some guide to the EC, for as it stands now, it is only the EC that can save this country from the doomsday scenario that the NPP has created for it with the passage of the ROPAB. As we embark on Thursday's demonstration, I recognize and salute the selfless struggle of all the men and women who have been part of the “Battle Against ROPAA” (BAR). We welcome new warriors to the battlefield tomorrow. We commiserate and sympathise with those who were maimed and brutalized in the demonstration of 21st February, 2006 and therefore cannot be with us Thursday. I recognize in particular, the unfortunate individuals whose cases of brutalisation have been documented and recommend to the organizers to award them the National Honour of “Heroes of the BAR of Ghana (Battle Against ROPAA Division).
Finally, I would like to thank the media and congratulate them on their constant support and coverage of the activities of the peoples' “Battle Against ROPAA” (BAR). We again invite the media to Thursday's demonstration.