The President of the Ghana Bar Association (GBA), Nene Abayaateye Amegatcher , has called on President John Dramani Mahama not to accede to any request from the government of Gambia for Ghanaian judges to assist the Gambia Judiciary following the unjustifiable interference and removal from office two Ghanaian legal officers seconded to assist the people of Gambia in justice delivery.
He said since the coming to power of President Yahayah Jammeh, the Gambian government had been harassing human rights defenders, journalists, political opponents and other Gambians who are critical of government policies.
Such people, he said, faced intimidation, harassment, death threats, arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and ill-treatment and enforced disappearance.
Nene Amegatcher said this when he addressed the annual general conference of the Ghana Bar Association (GBA) in Cape Coast on Monday under the theme “Insulating State Institutions from Interference for Effective Realization of their Mandate; The Role of Regulatory Bodies.”
The Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Georgina Theodora Wood, Mrs Marietta Brew Appiah-Opong Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo –Addo the 2012 NPP Presidential candidate, former Deputy speaker of Parliament Mr Freddy Blay and chiefs attended the conference.
He said the Gambian justice system had been weakened due to the recurrent interference by the executive and an increasingly repressive legislation aimed at muzzling dissent and added that such blatant massacre of justice should be utterly condemned .
Nene Amegatcher said the GBA therefore joined its counterparts internationally to call on President Jammeh to repeal all laws meant to to restrict freedom of expression, especially the Information and Communication Act, the Indemnity Act, and the Criminal Code Amendment.
Touching of Ghana’s constitutional review, he said it was time to rethink presidential powers of appointment that allows a president to change all board members and chief directors, managing directors of state enterprises anytime there was a change of government.
“The current situation as it stands makes elections a do-or- die business. Ghanaians may die from many causes but to die from election related conflicts which the winner takes all generates is a foolish death and must be avoided by all means”.
On Corruption Nene Amegatcher said there was the need for one voice to condemn the serious canker of corruption which was gradually becoming the norm.
“Leaders and citizens alike should insist on the law to clamp down on corrupt individuals who sabotage the growth process of this country,” he said.
He said it was imperative for the government of the day to be assisted by the media, civil society groups, professional bodies and the judiciary to lead the crusade against corruption without fear or favour, ill-will or affection, irrespective of their political affiliation.
The GBA President regretted that corruption had taken another dimension in the country, which he noted had put on the cloth of conflict of interest and that a number of Ghanaians in the top echelon of the national life were engaged in conflict of interest.
He said corruption did not end with government and its public officials but also private persons like members of the GBA who are tasked to perform public functions.
Nene Amegatcher touching on general elections, he said it was imperative to avoid the crises of the 2012/13 in the next elections and that all the recommendation of the Supreme Court and many more that relied less on part-time polling officials to guarantee the integrity of the elections must be implemented fully with expedition.
He noted that some section of the Ghanaian voting populace had lost confidence in the Electoral Commission as a result of the lapses exposed in the election dispute and described the situation as unfortunate since the nation had recorded five general elections and “should not throw the baby away with the bath water”.
“It is therefore important for the EC to go the extra mile to assure all Ghanaians that the 2016 elections will be free, fair, just and incident-free or unfortunate incidents reduced to the barest minimum, in so doing, winner and loser alike will have no basis for genuine complaints” he added .
He appealed to the President, in appointing a new Electoral Commissioner, should appoint someone who is capable and just, a person of integrity and one who did not pander to political pressures.
On the state of the Economy Nene Amegatcher, expressed concern about the rising inflation which is officially now 15 per cent , the depreciation of the cedi, soaring prices, high fuel and utility rates.
He said there was the need to address the current challenges facing the economy and that the government was encouraged to agree with the IMF and World Bank on a bail-out that would address the challenges the country had experienced in 2014 including improvement in the fiscal management relations.
He said it was also important to have a non-partisan national long-term framework to address the fundamental challenges of economy-utilities, roads, education, health, unemployment.
On education, Nene Amegatcher said the current educational system was nothing to write home about and that it was important to aim at achieving the constitutional mandate of free compulsory universal basic education which would prepare children and youth for the future.
He appealed to the President to pay critical attention to the health system and said the health worker was critical for the growth of the nation but expressed regret that the nation’s medical doctors and hospitals did not have the requisite and basic equipment and infrastructure to deal with many health issues facing the nation.
Nene Amegatcher said the cholera and Ebola epidemics in Ghana and the sub-region respectively required a more robust response.
He expressed concern about the ill-preparedness of the medical infrastructure to deal with such emergencies and stressed the need to re-strategize to deal with poor sanitation and medical challenges.
“It is inconceivable that in the second decade of the 21st century, a middle income country like Ghana does not have isolation wards even in regional; hospitals like Cape Coast and these lapses must be addressed as a matter of urgency,” he said.
He expressed regret that Ghana was ranked the 10th dirtiest nation in the world and that open defecation, dumping of waste and raw sewage into water bodies and drainage and the litter of sachet and plastic containers was still being practiced in the country and called for more robust actions especially from mayors and district chief executive.
He said the fight against sanitation could only be won with an equally disciplined citizenry and that all especially the leadership of the country must address the problem of indiscipline.
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