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23.03.2006 General News

Controversy over Ex-Prez’s privileges

By Chronicle
Controversy over Ex-Prez’s privileges

PARTIES BLAME GOV'T …Kwabena Adjei says it would not change anything in JJ's life THE RESTORATION of courtesies and privileges to the Former President, Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings (Rtd.), by the government, has received mixed reactions from political parties.

As some claimed the restoration was in the right direction and therefore setting the tone for national reconciliation, others lashed out at the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) for withdrawing the courtesies to denigrate the office of Mr. Rawlings in the first place.

Three political parties, Convention Peoples Party (CPP), Peoples National Convention (PNC) and the Great Consolidated Popular Party (GCPP) expressed varied opinions.

Again, they all condemned the assertions made by the government to the effect that the ex-president often made unguarded statements and failed to live above partisan politics, which warranted the withdrawals.

They said the onus was the public's to decide whether or not the former president was living above partisan politics, and not the NPP government's.

Dr. Edmund Delle, the national chairman of the CPP told this paper in an interview yesterday that it was unfortunate the government took that decision in the first place, but was of the view that reverting the decision was a genuine move to set the platform for reconciliation.

“Let us hope this is the beginning of a dialogue for reconciliation. In the first place, the government should not have withdrawn the privileges. It should never happen again,” he said.

According to him, despite what the government described as unguarded statements from the former President, there was no need to withdraw the protocols because it was a constitutional preserve of the ex-president's.

Dr. Delle, who believes in communication, said nothing should be done untoward to create political antagonism in the country, saying, “No matter how he behaves, the president should be able to be accommodative as the father of the nation to tolerate views.”

He stressed further that in a multi-party democracy, it was paramount to tolerate dissenting views. He said it seems to him that the government was pre-empting similar conditions to Mr. John Agyekum Kufuor, whose exit from government was near.

The leader of PNC, Dr. Edward N. Mahama, on his part, said it was a proper thing to restore the courtesies. He said if the nation should continue to do the right thing, there would not be conflict in this country.

Dr. Mahama, the party's 2004 presidential candidate, asserted that he was not in a position to apportion blame to anybody, but condemned the government for withdrawing the courtesies in the first place.

According to him, there was no basis to claim that the Former President was not behaving like a statesman and that the masses had the yardstick to observe whether or not Mr. Rawlings was living up to the status he deserves.

“If Rawlings gets what is due him, he would not be disgruntled. If we live by the laws and the constitution of this country, there would not be conflict. The greatest judge to tell whether we are living according to the laws of Ghana is the people, not the NPP.”

Dr. Mahama opined that if all the laws would be followed, it would help build democracy, adding that the courtesies of Mr. Rawlings were not a favour but his right.

“If what is due me by the constitution is given, there would be peace.”

On his part, Mr. Dan Lartey, (alias Domestication) praised the government for its decision. “I don't think there is anything wrong.”

He explained that if the Former President went haywire, his attention must be brought to it to ensure that he lives within the tenets of the constitution and the laws.

'Domestication' noted that even though it was unconstitutional to withhold the privileges, the Former President, as the recipient, must also behave properly to avoid locking horns with the government unnecessarily.

Mr. Lartey called on all to desist from abusing the laws of the country to harmonize peace.

The NDC Meanwhile in a related development, two leading members of the main opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), have condemned the government's decision to restore protocol privileges to the Former President, Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings.

According to them, the move by the government to revert the decision taken three years ago was an attempt to divert the public attention from the 'mal-administration' of the New Patriotic Party (NPP)-led government and other pressing issues.

The two NDC stalwarts, Dr. Tony Aidoo, former Deputy Minister of Defence and outspoken politician of the party, and Dr. Kwabena Adjei, the NDC's national chairman, proclaimed that the government has acted unconstitutionally and contended that its latest action was part of a grand scheme to criminalize the NDC and its founder.

Speaking separately, the two argued that the restoration of the privileges to the office of the Former President was nothing new because it was the right of the founder of the NDC. They stressed that in the first place, the withdrawal of the privileges was unconstitutional and that if the government has observed its mistakes and decided to restore it, there was nothing wrong with it. They were quick to say that such privileges were not favours that should be granted to the Former President and that it was his constitutional right to enjoy such facilities.

They asserted that it was an attempt by the government to create an avenue for President Kufuor, whose tenure's end is just around the corner, to be accorded the same privileges by any government that comes to power.

Tony Aidoo, speaking on Radio Gold yesterday, said, “If I were the former president, I would blow it back into their face because ever since they assumed power, their motive was to criminalize, vilify and demonize him and the NDC.”

Stating that President Kufuor should take back the courtesies, he said the impression he had from the minister's position signified that they had meant to un-dignify the office of the Former President.

Eulogizing Mr. Rawlings as someone who believes in leadership by example and one who promotes equality among people, the NDC firebrand said if President Kufuor saw the need for reconciliation, he should endeavor to identify the perpetrators of the gruesome murders of the overlord of Dagbon and desist from selective justice.

“We are not surprised that President Kufuor saw the need for reconciliation, but bestowing privileges and courtesies is not a decision for the executive.

It is his right, not a favour.”

“If he realized that what he has done must not be done because he would soon leave office, he should make sure that peace prevails among the people of Dagbon. We can't make peace when the government is not prepared to make peace.”

He added that even though the withdrawal of the privileges was against the constitutional provisions, the government went ahead to do it, and so it should not do anything now to divert the masses' attention on events unfolding in the country or the up-coming Tamale Central bye-election.

The NDC chairman, also in a chat with this paper, has refuted reports that he has commended the government for restoring the privileges to the former president.

According to him, he has not lost his political lenses about what the NPP can do.

“How can I make such a statement? I was with them sometime back and I know them very well,” he charged.

He said pro-NPP newspapers must learn how to do propaganda because he has been in the political limelight for many years now and cannot make any such sweeping remarks.

Questioning the basis of the restoration, he said the NPP took the decision to restore their dwindling image, and expressed disgust at the restoration.

“After withdrawing the courtesies for three years, then you come back today to say you are restoring it.

Restoring his constitutional right would not change the life of Mr. Rawlings.”

“They have acted unconstitutionally and it would continue to haunt them. But if they have realized they have done something unconstitutional and have decided to restore it as grounds to prepare for president Kufuor's end of term, having in mind that some of them are soon leaving office, there is nothing wrong with that.”

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