RESPONSE TO GBA STATEMENT OF O5/06/12 ON THE SAMUEL OKUDZETO ABLAKWA AND ANOR V. JAKE OBETSEBI-LAMPTEY CASE
As plaintiffs in what has become known as the Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey bungalow case, we have become aware of a public statement by the Ghana Bar Association (GBA) issued in Accra on 5th June 2011 and signed by Frank W. K. Beecham (National President) and Peter R. Zwennes (National Secretary).
We are happy to learn that our case has made the GBA rescind its earlier decision not to participate in the national political discourse. To us, despite the momentary difficulties we have faced in the courts, this is gratifying. We hold the belief that considering the reputation of the GBA in Ghana’s democratic and constitutional history and the continuous relevance of an activist bar association in expanding the frontiers of constitutional democracy and the respect for civil liberties, that decision was a regrettable one.
There are those who have suggested that the leadership of the GBA might have had a compelling special interest in renouncing their self-imposed exile because the National Secretary and one of the signatories to the statement; Peter R. Zwennes is an in-law of Mr. Jake Obetsebi -Lamptey. We do not wish to swim in those waters and maintain that it is good for the progress of Ghana to have an activist and public-spirited bar association though we are ready concede that it is better that this is carried out without public perceptions of bias.
Nonetheless, the focus of our reaction to the intervention by the GBA are that:
1) The GBA assumes a conclusive posture in their statement. This posture is unfortunate because we have publicly stated that we would pursue judicial review of the Supreme Court’s decision of 22nd May, 2012. It is this posture that makes the GBA argue that Government is likely to incur further “judgement debt” over breach of government’s contractual obligations to Mr. Obetsebi-Lamptey. Obviously, this would not arise if a review is declared in our favour as plaintiffs in this matter.
2) The GBA’s statement is generally prejudicial to the review. The GBA states in part, “In the absence of such evidence, the GBA cannot fault the Supreme Court’s decision on any legal grounds.” This premature declaration of support for the Supreme Court is most unfair. The GBA knows that evidence abounds in case law about how the Supreme Court has changed its own decisions in reviews. It is also important to point out very humbly that disagreeing with the Supreme Court is not necessarily finding fault with the Supreme Court as the GBA’s statement suggests.
3) We also have cause to ask how representative of the bar the statement by the GBA is seeing that so many lawyers and members of the GBA have publicly dissented with the GBA. It is fresh in our minds how this same GBA reportedly hounded out its former President, Mr. Nii Osa Mills when he paid one of the GBA’s members Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata a visit at the Nsawam Prison. We are told he was hounded out because his visit and subsequent statements were not representative or in other words he lacked the mandate to carry out that intervention. Is this current intervention representative? Is the current leadership properly cloaked with the mandate to give a verdict on this matter? Consistency and Principle must be fundamental to all of us as we come to discuss such matters.
4) As plaintiffs, we are extremely concerned about implications of this intervention. We started this case as ordinary citizens in 2008 and have continued to pursue it as such. If the umbrella body of the overwhelming majority of lawyers in Ghana seems to declare support for the judiciary in an unfinished case, where does this leave us? Would the GBA leadership permit their members who disagree with them and believe in our case to join our legal team? What if this stance by the GBA prevents or demotivates lawyers who otherwise would have taken up this matter? Since this case assumed national prominence, we have been approached by many lawyers including recently the People’s National Convention announcing at a press conference on 6th June, 2012 that they intend to support our application for review with additional lawyers. What are the implications for all these lawyers who belong to the GBA?
We hope the GBA would most urgently address these critical matters.
May we take this opportunity to thank the masses of Ghana for the support we have received since 2008 and also to commend the GBA for asking many more Ghanaians to take up cases such as these in our courts in order to enrich our jurisprudence and our constitutional democracy except that as we have pointed out above, the GBA ought to be circumspect and principled in how and when it intervenes if the public were to heed their admonishment.
We will be relentless in our pursuit of justice.
Ultimately, if our actions lead to a fair and just society in which our governance system is guided by transparent and accountable standards where our leaders act in the national interest at all times, Ghana will be the better for it.
Issued in Accra on 10th June, 2012.
Source: Mr. Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa / Dr. Edward Kofi Omane Boamah
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