The Auditor General, Edward Dua Agyeman and the Attorney General, Mr. Ayikoi Otoo, are expected to mount the witness box on March 29, to testify in a libel suit between the former First Lady, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, and two editors of the Daily Guide newspaper.
Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings is in court, seeking exemplary and punitive damages for libel with respect to a publication on the front page of The Daily Guide in its July 6, 2005 edition captioned, 'Milking The Sacred Cow - KONADU OWES ¢2.8 BILLION - to the state'.
The editor of the Daily Guide, Mrs. Gina Blay, and two others, who have been sued by the former First Lady for libel, have applied for a review of the Fast Track High Court's decision that they should pay ¢2 million cost for attempting to delay the case.
The deputy editor of the Daily Guide, Mr. Ato Sam, alias Baby Ansabah, and Western Publications, publishers of the Daily Guide, described the court's decision as “harsh and unwarranted” and accordingly sought for its review.
The court on February 7, 2006 awarded costs of ¢2 million against the defendants when their counsel, Mr. Godfred Yeboah Dame, sought to subpoena the Auditor-General and the Attorney General to testify in the case.
According to the court, counsel's plea was a ploy to delay the trial.
Mrs. Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, who is also the President of the 31st December Women's Movement (DWM), has accused the defendants of publishing the said libelous story about her.
Mrs. Agyeman Rawlings is asking the court to also restrain the defendants from further publishing similar or other libelous statements and/or stories on or about her as well as the granting of costs and other reliefs that the court might deem necessary.
An affidavit in support of the defendant's application said that the records in court would demonstrate that the conduct of the defendants had so far ensured the speedy trial of the case and any adjournments occasioned could not be attributed to the defendants.
It said, “This honourable court had to adjourn proceedings in the course of the testimony of the plaintiff because certain documents plaintiff intended to tender had not been filed and served on defendants in violation of the order of her lordship. Yet, no costs were awarded against plaintiff.”
According to the defendants, the need for them to call witnesses arose in the course of the trial when the plaintiff sought to challenge the basis for the story published by the Daily Guide newspaper.
“That indeed no unreasonable delay will be occasioned by the evidence of the witnesses defendants intended to call as the entire trial had until February 7, 2006 lasted barely a week,” the defendants deposed.
The defendants said that it was in the interest of justice that the court needed to afford them reasonable opportunities of defending the suit, which called to question the integrity of the defendants' newspaper.
The affidavit added that “the defendants ought not to be penalized for embarking on a course which would assist this honourable court to effectively determine all the issues in controversy in this action and humbly pray for a setting aside of the order awarding costs against them”.
However plaintiff's counsel, Mr. Tony Lithur, opposed the defense counsel's application that it was during the trial that the need for subpoenaing the Auditor General and Attorney General arose.
The court therefore ruled that it is a fast track court and that there should not be any delay, hence her refusal to the application for review. Hearing continues on March 29, 2006.