The continuous bashing of government by members of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and some Ghanaians over the sudden decision to restore protocol courtesies and privileges to former President Rawlings, has compelled President Kufuor, who would ordinarily not respond to such debates, to state that he is not averse to criticism as some people want to imply.
According to him, it would therefore be out of place for any individual or group of persons to perceive the ex-president's criticism of his regime (NPP) as being the reason for withholding those courtesies.
This, he said is evident in the fact that he has come out to openly tell Ghanaians that he wants the media to be brutally frank with him on the way he governs the country.
“But there are standards and norms of behaviour, especially for those who have occupied the high office of the president,” he said.
He therefore noted that it would be irrational for any person to say that what the ex-president has been doing is a semblance of criticism, stating, “What we've seen in the past are not criticisms, they are pure fabrications, lies and insults and that is not acceptable”.
Addressing journalists at the seat of government, Osu -Castle yesterday, Presidential Press Secretary and Spokesperson, Kwabena Agyepong, speaking on behalf of the president, stressed that the restoration of those courtesies is not an attempt to gag anybody from making public utterances.
This, he said is because all individuals under the country's Constitution are allowed to share their opinion, saying, “nobody is attempting to stop Mr. Rawlings from sharing his opinion”.
“I think that there are certain limits of personal behaviour that are considered unacceptable, when you make allegations of murder, insulting behaviour or to incite the army,” since according to him “there are instances where he called on the army to arrest the president, that is completely unacceptable,” said Mr. Agyepong.
He continued that in that regard, “I think we should not confuse criticism for that kind of behaviour,” adding emphatically that government has and continues to work according to the dictates of the Greenstreet Report and everything provided under the Constitution is being adhered to.
According to him, courtesies are virtually different from what is contained in that report, some of which he said are discretionary.
Mr. Agyepong said those courtesies were removed because of the ex-president's conduct and now being reinstated with no conditions attached, indicating “it is the belief of the president and government that sometimes we give ourselves a new start”.
He denied claims by the wife of the former president, Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, which sought to create the impression that government was bowing to pressures from the international community to restore those withheld courtesies to Mr. Rawlings.
Asked whether the decision to restore those courtesies to former president Rawlings was due to government seeing a sense of remorse in his behaviour, he noted that as earlier stated in the Foreign Minister's release, after keeping the matter under constant review, “government is of the view that the time is now ripe to restore these courtesies in the expectation that this gesture will help not only to reinforce the dignity of a status of a former president of Ghana, but also to improve the political atmosphere in the country”.
Pressed further whether those courtesies and privileges would again be withheld if the former president resumes his said 'insulting behaviour,' Press Secretary Agyepong had this to say; “we are not in a position to determine how he will behave, that is left to him”.
The privileges, which include being received during his travels abroad by Ghanaian Embassy officials, were withdrawn in 2003 in response to what government said to be Rawlings' unstatesman-like conduct, which stretched to personal insults against his successor and incumbent President Kufuor.