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Don't Confuse Courtesies With Entitlements - JJ   
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Former President Jerry John Rawlings has advised government officials to stop confusing courtesies accorded him to undertake international assignments with his constitutionally mandated entitlements.

“If for some reason President Rawlings’ constitutionally mandated entitlements are now being held to ransom, then we humbly request the government to withdraw all such courtesies,” he said.

A statement from the Office of President Rawlings noted that the AU, which had appointed the former President as its High Representative to war torn Somalia, was not well-endowed financially and “pays for one business-class ticket and two economy class tickets for the High Representative and his entourage, irrespective of who they are.”

The statement said most of these trips were made on short notice and throughout the flight, the delegation worked to prepare statements and reports so that the former President could be prepared upon arrival.

“Because of the difficulty in moving between classes in the air, we sought audience with the Chief of Staff and requested for a special dispensation towards his Somalia-related trips. The Chief of Staff approved the request and we have since put in individual requests as and when necessary for ticket upgrades for aides travelling with former President Rawlings.

“It is truly unfortunate that an impression is being created that the upgrades being made are part of former President Rawlings’ entitlements. They are not. As far as we are concerned, ex-President Rawlings is playing a role that does the image of Ghana good and has the potential of resolving the 20-year-old conflict in Somalia. President Rawlings has not sought any assistance for the issuance of ticket upgrades for non-Somalia related trips,” it said.

The statement said it was important to note that former presidents who were appointed to such roles were usually supported by their mother countries and cited the instance of former President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa who was also an AU envoy who travelled usually at the state’s expense and with a state aircraft complete with elite National Security operatives.

“President Rawlings is not in the business of aggressively pursuing his entitlements and a check from government records will indicate that a lot of what he is reportedly entitled to have not been taken advantage of right from the year 2000 when he left office. If government has received a list of two additional aides, it is because we were officially notified that there were two outstanding names to be submitted in the category of aides and we followed procedure by submitting those names. If for any reason government felt it was an anomaly, we should have been duly informed,” it added.

It stated that the reaction had become necessary to set the records straight because of recent reports in sections of the media over the past few days which sought to create the impression that “former President Rawlings is avaricious and demanding entitlements over and beyond what he is due.”

On the matter of the Trasacco building which had been allocated to President Rawlings, the statement said that the letter informing President Rawlings about its allocation was dated August 29, 2011, and delivered to our office on September 22, 2011.

“President Rawlings upon being notified of the Trasacco option was emphatic that he was not interested. Though the keys to the building came alongside the letter, no representative of His Excellency has reported to the premises and we have not sought the assistance of the Presidency for the premises to be inspected and officially handed over.

“President Rawlings believes that having lived in a temporary state for almost two years, he can wait a while longer for the burnt Ridge residence to be rebuilt and has subsequently asked his legal team to prepare an appropriate response to the letter of August 29 which, I repeat, was received on September 22,” the statement said.

It said if there had been a delay to the response, it was because former President Rawlings and his aides had been busy travelling on Somalia related issues for the past six weeks and that currently he was in China at the invitation of the Chinese Government.

“Last week, President Rawlings delivered an address during the SRC week of the University of Ghana and made reference to the fact that he and his family were being treated with some level of contempt by the government and the party leadership. President Rawlings was referring to the politics of the NDC. He was unambiguous in his statement and we wonder how anyone can link those comments to the issue of his entitlements,” it said.

It said over the past few weeks, the major complaint that had come from any quarters related to the former President, had been the call by Youth With Conviction of Principles for the speedy reconstruction of the destroyed Ridge residence due to the unusual long delay in commencing actual works on the site as well as misinformation to party grassroots members that the building was under construction and almost complete.

The statement said the fact that senior officials at the Castle had subsequently released official files on President Rawlings to members of the media clearly confirmed the level of “contempt some members of government have for the former president and how far they will go to create the impression that because he is getting his so-called entitlements, he has no right to criticise the government.”
Source: Daily Graphic

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