Investigations by The aL-hAJJ have discovered that over two dozen kingpins of the ruling party have already lined up to stake claim to the party’s flag bearer slot for 2020 elections. In 2007, the National Democratic Congress then in opposition and many well-meaning Ghanaians chastised the 17 stalwarts of the New Patriotic Party, who put in their bids to succeed outgoing President John Kufuor,
Hon. J.H. Mensah, Senior Minister in the Kufuor government, admonished the 17 NPP flag bearer hopefuls haggling to succeed the ex- president to “check themselves’ as the flag bearer contest was not a beauty pageant”. Yet 16 of the aspirants eventually contested. And this was roundly condemned by Ghanaians with the then opposition NDC leading the chorus.
You here :GhanaPoliticsOnline.com
Now that the tables have turned, the NDC which led the charge against the then governing NPP is not just all set, repeating the ‘abominable’ act but, are about to take it to a reprehensible notch.
With the 2016 general elections just five months away, this paper can authoritatively report that, among those nursing ambition to step into the shoes of President Mahama include; cabinet and regional ministers, deputy ministers, high ranking government officials at the seat of government and some party gurus in the legislature.
The rest include Chief Executives and board members of some state institutions, senior party officials, functionaries relieved of their posts and “new comers”.
While some of these NDC folks know they cannot make any meaningful impact in the flag bearer contest, The aL-hAJJ has gathered that their real motivation in putting in their bids is to improve on their CVs in order to qualify them to be considered running mates by the eventual winner.
You here GhanaPoliticsOnline.Com
The aL-hAJJ is in possession of the names and modus operandi of the over two dozen NDC flag bearer hopefuls for 2020 elections. These will be revealed soon.
It would be recalled that the then governing NPP was roundly condemned when 17 party bigwigs filed to contest the flag bearer post in a bid to succeed Mr Kufuor. The number was subsequently pruned down to 16 following the disqualification of then Member of Parliament for Berekum, Capt Ritired Nkrabeah Effah Dartey.
The General Secretary of the NDC, Mr Johnson Asiedu Nketsiah was reported in the media to have referred to the 17 aspirants as “thieves” who had amassed wealth in the Kufuor government and were longing to succeed him.
The sixteen aspirants included Nana Akufo-Addo, Alan Kyeremanten, Dr Baffuor Adjei Bawuah, Boakye Agyarko, Dr Kofi Konadu Apreko, Dr Arthur Kennedy, Kwabena Ayepong, late Alhaji Aliu Mahama, Dan Botwe, late Jake Obetsebi Lamptey, Hackman Owusu Agyemang, Yaw Osafo Marfo, Paapa Owusu Ankomah, Dr Kwame Addo Kufuor, Prof Mike Oquaye and Prof Kwabena Frimpong Boateng.
Many have attributed the 2008 defeat of the NPP and the present division in the party to the 2007 acrimonious flag bearer contest which saw Nana Akufo Addo elected as its standard bearer.
Unlike the NPP, the governing NDC, since 2000 after the exit of President Rawlings has had at least four people contesting its flag bearer slot which was won by the late President Mills until 2011 when President Mahama was acclaimed to lead the ruling party following the unexpected death of the tax Professor.
Reenacting Year 2000 Serial Killings THUGS
-Ahead of 2016 elections
The recent spate of unexplained killings in the Ashanti Region is generating concerns among sections of the Ghanaian public. There is strong suspicion that this could be a repeat of the mysterious serial killing of women that rocked the country before the 2000 elections.
Mysterious serial killing of women, especially in Accra, partly caused the defeat of the then ruling National Democratic Congress in the 2000 general elections.
With barely five months to the November 2016 elections, Ghana’s most populous region and the stronghold of the opposition New Patriotic Party, has been rocked by strange killings, mostly suspected armed robbery attacks.
While a special anti-terrorist squad from the Police Headquarters in Accra has been dispatched to Kumasi to beef up security in the region following the killings, some are raising questions about the manner in which the attacks are been carried out and the region involved.
To some, the method of the attacks are reminiscent of election 2000 episode where women were killed and their bodies littered the streets in the nation’s capital to create a state of insecurity that further caused regime change.
One political pundit told The aL-hAJJ that “The killings in the Ashanti region cannot be said to be armed robbery attacks. I don’t have any evidence but the manner in which they are carried out clearly shows that it is beyond armed robbery. The region has been targeted by gangsters to kill person in the name of armed robbery, and this to me, is clearly connected to politics like it happened in the 2000 elections.”
Parts of the Ashanti region, particularly Kumasi, have come under siege from gangs suspected to be armed robbers in recent time.
Last week Thursday, a policeman was shot and killed by suspected robbers at the Open Space Hotel in Dechemouso with another person surviving gunshots wounds in the attack.
Two days after this incident, another person was also shot dead at Ahenema Kokoben when he was attacked in what was also suspected to be yet another robbery incident.
Few days after these gory incidents, a polling station chairman of the New Patriotic Party for Apotuogya DA Primary in the Bosomtwe District, Baah Tweneboah popularly known as Agya Baah, was also shot dead by suspected armed robbers.
Prior to these incidents, there has been spate of shootings to death of persons in suspected robbery attacks in the region. This has further been compounded by recent violence in Krofrom in the Kumasi Metropolis as well as clashes between Muslim youth and leaders of Agogo and Tafo.
Following these happenings, especially ahead of a crucial election in November, TV3 network reported sources at the Police Regional Headquarters to have said those crimes are not mere armed robbery attacks as they suspect terrorism, considering the manner with which the criminals conduct their operation.
“They don’t just rob, they kill,” the source was quoted to have said.
These killings, the police say are becoming too many in Kumasi, the regional capital of Ashanti
Meanwhile, The aL-hAJJ’s intelligence has gathered that these series of attacks resulting in deaths ahead of the elections is a decoy for some unscrupulous persons wishing to foment trouble before, during, after the November polls.
“This year’s elections, particularly in the Ashanti region, promises to be a keen contest; the two leading political parties are at each other’s throat in the region. And from what we saw in the 2000 elections, it would not be farfetched to read political meanings into what is happening in the region,” a resident in Kumasi noted.
Adding, “This thing could be extended to Accra because it appears the criminals have succeeded in taking over the region. Now that they have succeeded in the Ashanti region their next target could be Accra because that is where we have bulk of the people aside Ashanti region.”
“Mills Saved Them from Shame”
No single group of people in Ghana or within the NDC, arguably, has personally benefited more from the second coming of the NDC into government since 2009 under late President Atta Mills than Rawlings and his wife Nana Konadu Agyeman – Rawlings. This is not a guess but a truism supported by the facts.
Under the zero tolerance for corruption policy by President Kufuor in the year 2000, Rawlings, his wife and his PNDC cronies came under the radar for investigations for economic crimes. Some of the officials of the Rawlings regime suffered prison sentencing for causing financial loss to the state. They included Ibrahim Adam, former Agriculture Minister, Victor Salormey, former deputy finance minister, Dan Abodakpi, former trade minister, Kwame Peprah, former finance minister and Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata, former GNPC chief executive all under the Rawlings regime.
It is believed that these people went to jail under President Kufuor not because they committed worse crimes than others in the NDC government of Rawlings but because they were probably sacrificial lambs who had to pay for the sins of the Boss and his wife.
Many others went through trial but were never convicted. One of those who was tried but later left off the hook is wife of former President Rawlings and President of the 31st DWM Nana Konadu Agyeman – Rawlings. She went under criminal trial for causing financial loss to the state in the divestiture of the GIHOC Nsawam Cannery.
Mrs. Rawlings and others faced several charges of conspiracy, causing financial loss to public property, conspiracy to obtain public property by false statement and obtaining public property by false statement. It is alleged that she failed to complete interest payments accrued on the purchase price in the acquisition of the cannery and for that matter they caused financial loss to the state.
Mrs. Rawlings is said to have caused a financial loss of up to ¢21billion old cedis to the state. The state under President Kufuor believed that Mrs. Rawlings acquired GIHOC Nsawam Cannery and its assets fraudulently. The trial lasted three years. Whiles the trial was still on-going, the NPP lost power in 2008 and therefore discontinued the case. Many believe that she was left off the hook because of several interventions by high profile citizens who thought that her conviction would have brought massive disgrace to the Rawlings family and could have brought about political upheavals at the time when the NDC was in opposition.
The new NDC government of President Mills could have however continued the trial and conviction of Mrs. Rawlings in the face of overwhelming evidence for causing financial loss to the state, but President Mills forgave Mrs. Rawlings whose husband nominated him to lead the NDC.
In less than two years down the line after the NDC came into office in 2009, Mrs. Rawlings received a payment of $USD 4,150, 27.50 from the Mills government as judgement debt to her comapany Calf Cocoa International. Nana Konadu Agyeman – Rawlings herself confirmed this fact to the judgments debt commission in June 2014.
This amount, nearly $USD 5 Million was paid to Mrs. Rawlings by the NDC government of President Atta Mills because according to her, in 2002-2003 the Kufuor government stalled the operations of her company Calf Cocoa by denying her the needed funds from a concessionary Chinese government loan which was to be disbursed through the ministry of finance at the time.
As a result, her Chinese partners who started the project with her in 1996-1997 withdrew from the business of Calf Coacoa, and her factory equipment had to be refurbished before her business operations could take off.
On this basis, Nana Konadu Agyeman – Rawlings went to court to seek judgment debt from the new NDC government of Atta Mills and which was willingly granted.
Supreme Court Justice Dotse said of judgment debts payments during the NDC government of Atta Mills that, they were schemes to ‘create loot and share’. And if there is any truth in this statement, Mrs. Rawlings definitely created and was helped by the NDC government of President Mills to loot nearly $USD 5million of tax payers’ money for doing nothing.
Indeed, this is someone who was about to start a business with a Chinese company. The business never took off in the first place. The NPP denied her the funds and delayed her project because she was on criminal trial for fraudulently acquiring Nsawam Canery, another state enterprise and its assets.
She then cunningly asked the new NDC government which had nothing to do with the delay of her project for nearly $USD 5million in compensation for the mere delay and got it from Atta Mills who probably wanted to please Mr. and Mrs. Rawlings. Despite this, Mrs. Rawlings contested with President Mills in 2011 NDC Presidential primaries to try unseat him. When she lost, she went on to form a new political party, the National Democratic Party(NDP).
Mr. Rawlings himself was stripped off all his privileges as a former President by the NPP and President J.A Kufuor. He even was reported as saying to foreign diplomats that he was earning only $USD 300 per month and could not take care of his medical bills. He also complained of several assassination attempts on his life by operatives of the Kufuour government.
He was denied V.I.P treatment at the Accra international airport. He was even banned from physically going to certain places in Ghana. His dignity as a former President was practically taken away from him.he ranted and raved endlessly about it.
To make matters worse, in January 2009, the ridge residence of Mr. Rawlings was gutted by fire and he lost all his property in the building.
The government of Atta Mills rebuilt the Rawlings residence and refurnished it at a whooping cost of several thousands of USD$. Atta Mills’s government also restored dignity to the office of the former President Rawlings by employing the full complement of staff to run it. His medical bills that cost colossal sums in South Africa and other places were said to have been paid by the Atta Mills government.
To further make Rawlings relevant on the international geopolitical scene and restore his dignity as a former President, Atta Mills’ government endorsed and sponsored his nomination as an AU high level representative to the conflict zone of Somalia.
Despite all these, Mr. Rawlings still want the whole world to believe that Atta Mills was a bad person who does not deserve to be praised even from his grave. He has called the NDC government corrupt and criminal. He has accused the NDC government of helping Mr. Alfred Woyome to loot a judgment debt of GH51.2 million whiles ignoring the nearly USD$ 5 Million that he and his wife took from Atta Mills government.
Mrs and Mrs. Rawlings after having taken fraudulent judgment debt money from the NDC government went to form a new political party, the NDP to wrestle power from the NDC or rather to help the NPP wrestle power from the NDC.
Even President Kufuor and the NPP who tried for three years to put Mrs. Rawlings in jail and take back the Nsawam Canery and its assets does not get any more personal attacks and insults from Rawlings and his wife.
And yet, the late President Atta Mills who rescued Rawlings from disgrace by the NPP, also rescued him from death by taking him abroad for expensive medical treatments, rescued Nana Konadu his wife from going to jail and allowing her to loot nearly USD$ 5 Million from the state – Prof. Atta Mills is the one who is still suffering ballistic attacks from Rawlings and his wife. No government, in Rawlings opinion, can do well in Ghana without him as the head of that government.
It has now been made very clear by Rawlings that he believes himself to be the only one who can rule Ghana and he never wanted to handover power to the NPP in the year 2000 anyways. In a recent confession contained in a speech he delivered to an association of Cuban-trained Ghanaian professionals, Rawlings said, “we (NDC) could have stayed on for another eight or sixteen just to work to consolidate situations very well and proper.”
“I made a suggestion to my colleagues that considering that people are becoming saturated with us or with me, let me let Justice Annan take over and I can be his number 2 or step aside. He can serve four years or eight years then I could come back, and that will be sixteen years of consolidation because what we had noticed was that these characters will destroy anything and everything so let’s not allow it.”
He continued, “Some of my comrades said no and that, it’s never been done before. Is that not what Putin did recently? We would have been the first to do it here. That would have helped to consolidate because quite often we make reference to institutions but the institutions rely on the human factor and if those human entities are not bold enough to defy that which is wrong, that institution will be weak; am I lying?” he asked.
It is not surprising that this self-confession has been received with massive vitriolic responses from the general public who appear to now be utterly fed up with the self-righteous intensification of Mr. Rawlings. Hundreds of readers on all Ghanaian online portals and social media went berserk upon hearing and reading the comments from Mr. Rawlings who also took the opportunity to insult the sensibilities of the late President Mills, his friends, family, lovers and admirers.
He has also called the leaders of the NDC today including President John Mahama who pride themselves are Nkrumaists ‘worse criminals’.
Even though the NDC party has officially remained silent over the former President’s latest attacks on its leadership and its late leader, many high profile individual party members are so vexed with the outbursts of the NDC founder; they are threatening to expose his hypocrisy and his selfish motives for his behavior.
Some have also called Mr. Rawlings a sick man, suggesting that he may be suffering from mental disorders which are causing him to frequently forget his own words, thereby contradicting himself endlessly. What people cannot understand, is why Mr. Rawlings takes pleasure in continuing to insult a man who has been dead for the past four years. Many NDC followers including those who previously defended Mr. Rawlings feel his abhorrent behavior is becoming sickening and must be roundly condemned.
With less than seven months to the November 7 elections in Ghana, observers are watching how far Mr. Rawlings and his wife Nana Konadu Agyeman – Rawlings are willing to go to bring down the NDC government. What is already clear is that the couple apparently prefer Nana Akuffo Addo and the opposition NPP in power than the ruling NDC under John Mahama. Whiles praising Nana Akuffo Addo as a bold leader, Rawlings has called John Mahama and members of his government corrupt and criminal.
Perhaps, Mr. Rawlings wants to go back to carrying his own luggage through the airport with a USD$ 300 monthly stipend without the freedom to go everywhere in Ghana. At least, we all now know that concern for the-people is no more the primary motivation for the political actions and utterances of former President Rawlings, otherwise, he and his wife would NOT have taken nearly USD$ 5 Million from we- the- people fraudulently under the cover of judgment debt after failing to account to the same people after leaving office with indemnity clauses!
By: Rodney Akpaloo
DR ATUGUBA SCHOOLS
-On SC Judgment on NHI Cards
OF JUDGES AND PUBLIC STATEMENTS AND PUBLIC COMMENT
By Dr. Raymond Akongburo ATUGUBA
Senior Lecturer, School of Law, University of Ghana &
Team Leader, Law and Development Associates
In my first article published last week, I promised to continue to provide you, my readers, with more down-to-earth interpretations of the “Law”. This is necessary because of legal jargon and the willful misinterpretation of laws and judgments by lawyers and social commentators. Today, we will look at what judges are permitted to say and not to say about cases decided by the courts. I would, however, like to take us on a short journey into history, before we come to the crux of today’s legal lesson. This deviation is necessary if we are to know the lawyers and social commentators we are talking about by their historical fruit, their current fruit, and thereby project the character of the fruit they will bear in the future.
In order to reveal the fruit of these lawyers and social commentators, I will need to be very direct and forthright in this article, so forgive me in advance for my directness and forthrightness.
HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF
History is beautiful. And history matters. And history always repeats itself. It was actually 20 years ago, not 10 years ago, that I wrote the series of articles on the 1996 elections. And it was exactly 8 years ago that I wrote the article in the New Legon Observer, Vol. 2, No. 2 (2008) titled “To Comment or Not to Comment on Judgments of Courts of Law”.
The reaction from a section of lawyers (used here to include judges) and social commentators on this article and my discussion of it in the media was swift. As we say in Ghana, “they insulted me well well” for daring to say that everyone was entitled to comment on, even criticise a judgment of our courts. They lambasted me for arguing that lawyers and ordinary citizens may talk freely to the media in moderate criticism of the judgments of our courts. I repeated the same propositions in my lecture to the Ghana Bar Association Conference of that year and was essentially ostracized by a section of lawyers as a result.
Today, those same lawyers and social commentators argue that a judge may sit on a case, rise up whilst the case is pending or impending, and make a Public Comment on the case, even to journalists. For clarity, a case is pending when it has not been disposed of by a court, and a case is impending when there is a high likelihood that it will come before a court. Matthew 7:16, “Ye shall know them by their fruits”.
Incidentally, these are the same lawyers and social commentators who, before the Anas exposé, insulted; made formal disciplinary complaints against; and without a hearing, illegally banned myself and others from practicing in the courts of law-all for daring to say that “no one can convince me that there is no corruption in the judiciary or that some judges do not take bribes”. After Anas, at least one social commentator shamelessly called in to many radio stations, insisting that the exposé has no relationship to what others and I had said four years earlier. Matthew 7:16, “Ye shall know them by their fruits”.
TO REMOVE OR NOT TO REMOVE THE NAME OF NHI CARD REGISTRANTS
Consistent with their opportunistic abhorrence for due process and the twisting of facts and reality, the same lawyers and social commentators are now calling for the removal of the names of “NHI card Registrants” from the Voters Register without Due Process and with disregard for the Rule of Law.
They say that there is no difference between “automatically removing names from a register” and “removing names from a register according to due process of law”. Without knowing it, what they are saying is that there should be no difference in the way dictatorial regimes ruled Ghana, and the way a constitutional democratic government should rule Ghana. Let’s watch it.
Automatic removal of the name of a registered voter, who lawfully and legally registered to vote, using an ID Card that the Supreme Court has confirmed was legal to use at the time she registered, is like a dictatorial government divesting citizens of their rights, in this case, the right to vote enshrined in Article 42 of our Constitution, without due process. This is why the Supreme Court, wisely, did not strike out those names from the register, as they are entitled to do, and did not order automatic deregistration, as they are entitled to do. The Supreme Court, on the contrary, held as follows on pages 22-23 of the judgment:
“As the registrations were made under a law that was then in force, they were made in good faith and the subsequent declaration of the unconstitutionality of the use of cards should not automatically (my emphasis) render them void. The legitimate way of treating them is to have them deleted by means of processes established under the law” (My Emphasis).
Removing names by due process, using the quasi-judicial methods outlined in the Public Elections (Registration of Voters) Regulations, 2016 (C.I. 91) and by the Supreme Court, is the democratic, constitutional and civilised way to go; unless we are already fed-up with the Rule of Law and Due Process and are longing and yearning for the return of dictatorial rule.
And whilst these lawyers and social commentators are busy calling for the automatic removal of names from the register without Due Process and contrary to the Rule of Law, and since they are so in love with automaticity, they may as well ask for the following:
1. Automatic shutdown of social media without due process;
2. Automatic throwing of people in jail by the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) without Due Process; and
3. Automatic deletion of SSNIT beneficiaries from the Pension list, who are suspected to be illegally present there.
THE SUPREME COURT DID NOT ORDER THAT ALL NAMES OF NHI REGISTRANTS BE AUTOMATICALLY DELETED FROM THE VOTERS REGISTER.
THE SUPREME COURT ASKED THAT THE ELECTORAL COMMISSION (EC) TAKES STEPS, REPEAT, TAKES STEPS, TO REMOVE UNDESIRABLE NAMES FROM THE VOTERS REGISTER.
THOSE STEPS ARE CALLED RULE OF LAW AND DUE PROCESS STEPS, IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONSTITUTION, C.I. 91 AND THE JUDGMENT OF THE COURTS.
THOSE QUASI-JUDICIAL STEPS ALLOW, FOR EXAMPLE, FOR A PERSON WHO IS MISTAKENLY TAGGED AS AN NHI CARD REGISTRANT, WHEN, IN FACT, SHE IS NOT, TO CHALLENGE AN ATTEMPT TO REMOVE HER NAME FROM THE REGISTER, A SCENARIO PROTECTIVE OF THE RIGHT TO VOTE. AGAIN, THOSE STEPS ALLOW FOR A PERSON WHO PREVIOUSLY, AND ACTING LEGALLY, REGISTERED TO VOTE WITH AN NHI CARD, AND WHO IS NOW DEREGISTERED, TO IMMEDIATELY REGISTER AGAIN WITH A VALID I.D. CARD OR OTHER MECHANISM ALLOWED BY LAW.
NOT EVEN THE SUPREME COURT CAN ORDER THE EC TO REMOVE THE NAMES OF VOTERS WHO VALIDLY REGISTERED TO VOTE, WITHOUT DUE PROCESS AND WITHOUT REGARD FOR THE RULE OF LAW. AGAIN, THE SUPREME COURT CANNOT ORDER THE REMOVAL OF NAMES FROM THE REGISTER IN A MANNER THAT DEPRIVES THEM OF THEIR CONSTITUTIONALLY PROTECTED RIGHT TO VOTE.
IF THE SUPREME COURT WERE TO DO THAT, SOME GHANAIANS MAY RESORT TO THE ECOWAS COURT OR THE AFRICAN COURT OR THE HUNDREDS OF MECHANISMS IN THE UNITED NATIONS SYSTEM, TO PUT PRESSURE ON GHANA TO DO THE RIGHT THING, PARTICULARLY SINCE GHANA HAS SIGNED AND RATIFIED THE CONVENTIONS RELATIVE TO THOSE BODIES WHICH PROTECT THE RIGHT TO VOTE.
THIS INTERPRETATION IS CONSISTENT WITH WHAT JUSTICE DOTSE IS REPORTED BY THE MEDIA TO HAVE SAID. HE IS REPORTED TO HAVE SAID THAT THE COURT ORDERED THE DELETION OF NHI REGISTRANTS FROM THE REGISTER IN ACCORDANCE WITH LAW, NOT AUTOMATICALLY.
THERE IS A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DELETING THE NAMES OF “NHI REGISTRANTS” AUTOMATICALLY, AND DELETING THEM ACCORDING TO THE PROCEDURES LAID DOWN BY LAW. THE TWO HAVE VERY DIFFERENT LEGAL AND PRACTICAL EFFECTS. THE ONE DENIES THE RIGHT TO VOTE TO A SEGMENT OF THE POPULATION, AND THE OTHER IS PROTECTIVE OF THEIR RIGHT TO VOTE.
OF JUDGES AND PUBLIC STATEMENTS AND PUBLIC COMMENT
Whilst dismissing the untrustworthy, deceitful, and opportunistic commentaries of these lawyers and social commentators, it is now necessary to return to our true enterprise: the exposition of the state of the law to ordinary Ghanaian citizens as best as we can. In an election year, it is important for the ordinary citizen to know the true legal effects of laws passed by Parliament, judgments issued by courts and tribunals, and Regulations and Administrative Instructions issued by the EC and other relevant administrative bodies.
Today, we would like to look at instances when a judge may comment on a pending or impending case. We will use the statements made by Justice Jones Dotse about the recent Abu Ramadan case as a point of reference for our learning. There are two aspects to the Justice Dotse Saga. The first is whether he should have spoken as and when as he did. The second is the meaning of what he said and its potential effect on the interpretation of the recent Abu Ramadan case. I have already dealt with this second aspect above.
The outstanding issue is whether Justice Dotse should have spoken and on the subject and to the audience that he did. Rule 2A of the Code of Conduct for Judges and Magistrates in Ghana, 2011, stipulates that a Judge must “act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.” Rule 3B (2) further states that “…A judge shall not be swayed by partisan interests, public clamor, or fear of criticism”.
The combined effect of these two Rules is that Justice Dotse should not have allowed the public clamor for an interpretation of the judgment or the public criticism of the judgment to entice him into making a Public Comment on the case. By making a Public Comment on the case, Justice Dotse has compromised public confidence in his capacity to sit on and determine any further suit by the parties in the recent Abu Ramadan case seeking an interpretation of the judgment.
The Code of Conduct further provides in Rule 5(B) that a judge may engage in “avocational activities”, that is “activities to improve the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice if such avocational activities do not detract from the dignity of his office or interfere with the performance of his judicial duties”. These activities include speaking, writing, lecturing, appearing before a public inquiry, sitting as a commissioner in a public inquiry, etc.
So to the extent that Justice Dotse was at a workshop to orient judges on the legal procedures applicable to election disputes, he was very well within his remit as a judge to do so. Justice Dotse’s attendance at the workshop, his lecture(s) at the workshop, were all within the Rules and the law.
The Code of Conduct, however provides in Rule 3C (9) (at page 13) that: “Except as otherwise provided in the section, a judge shall abstain from public comment (my emphasis) about a pending or impending proceeding in any court…A case is impending for purposes of this section if it seems probable that a case will be filed”. Due to the fact that the plaintiffs in the Abu Ramadan case have said that they will return to the Supreme Court on this very matter, one can safely state that the case is “impending”.
It is necessary for us to understand the difference between what a judge may or may not say about a pending or impending case. The Code provides in the same Rule that “A judge is permitted to make public statements (my emphasis) in the course of his or her official duties or to explain for public information the procedure of the court, general legal principles, or what may be learned from the public record in a case. At the same time, the code provides that “A judge may not discuss the rationale for a decision, however, unless the judge is repeating what was already made part of the public record. Speaking to a journalist is public comment even where it is agreed that the statements are “off the record”.
This means that Justice Dotse was acting within the law if he explained the Abu Ramadan case to the judges and magistrates assembled for training. He was also within the law if he talked to them about the rationale for the decision in that case based on (and not outside of) the judgment and related material in the Abu Ramadan case, which judgment and material is part of the public record. These are “public statements” that are permitted by the Code of Conduct. However, Justice Dotse departed from the Code when he spoke to a journalist on an impending case. That is “public comment” and is proscribed by the Code of Conduct.
The effect of this breach is that Justice Dotse has to be sanctioned. For Rule 7 of the Code of Conduct provides that “Where a Judge commits a breach of any rule of this Code he shall be sanctioned with reference to the gravity of the act or omission constituting the breach in accordance with the Judicial Service Regulations.”
I have listened with incredulity at lawyers and social commentators arguing that Justice Dotse did no wrong. They argue that there is no difference between “public statement” and “public comment”. Every first year law student is taught that where a lawmaker uses two different words or expressions in the same document, they are presumed to express different things and to have different meanings. This principle is part of our rules of interpretation. Yet, we are hearing and reading lawyers say that “public statement” and “public comment”, as used in the Code of Conduct, must be presumed to mean the same thing. Ebei! A simple search on the internet will reveal that “Public Comment” is a term of art, whilst “public statement” is ordinary English Language. When lawyers and social commentators descend to this level of deliberate distortion and misinterpretation for their own ends, they do not serve the public interest and should cease to be taken seriously.
Public Statements by a judge on a pending or impending matter are permitted by the Code. Public Comment by a judge on a pending or impending matter is proscribed by the Code. Speaking to a journalist is Public Comment according to the Code and is, therefore, proscribed. It is as simple as that.
We need to be very careful when we do legal or constitutional analyses, because the soul of the Nation and the rights and responsibilities of our people depend on it. Rush analyses can lead everyone astray.
In conclusion, going forward, we expect our judges to engage in avocational activities, and to make public statements during such activities. This is what Justice Dotse did when he oriented other judges and magistrates on electoral laws and how they should interpret and apply them. Advancing the capacity of our judges and magistrates can only be a good thing and must be encouraged.
However, we do not expect our judges to make Public Comment on pending or impending matters, including speaking to journalists on such matters. This is all the more important in an election year where a section of the population can hang on the extra judicial Public Comment of a judge for nefarious purposes.
THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR ATTENTION