Aug
29

USAIN BOLT ANAAAAAAA!

  • USAIN BOLT ANAAAAAA! By CAMERON DUODU

    Daily Guide 29 July 2015
     

    K1 – Koo, I really feared Justin Gatling would catch Usain Bolt in the 100 metres.

    K2 – Yes! Usain stumbled shortly after his take-off.
    • But then, he steadied himself. And began to fly! They said he had been injured in training  some time before the competition and wouldn’t be able to provide his usual cheetah’s service.
    • Yes. He’d injured his pelvis. He missed a few races and speculation about him rose. Beijing would be his ‘Dunkirk/Waterloo’, it was suggested.
    • They even said he was growing old – at 29!
    • Journalists like to write something to make their readers think they know SOMETHING!
    • It is so sad. I mean, I heard one “expert” say that Usain had lost his “motivation”. Usain, he said, was already very rich. And because he is six feet four inches tall, he is ungainly and can get easily hurt during training. Why would he keep on training, then?

    • Yes; training; sometimes getting hurt; nursing his body back to form.

    • It’s been a tough time for Usain, no doubt. Psychologically-speaking, especially. I mean, every time he missed an international athletics competition, or arrived late at a venue, his athletic obituary got updated!

    • But to Beijing he went?

    • Yes – to demonstrate to everyone what is meant by ”showing them a pair of heels”! Starting with the heats!

    • But the sceptics said, “Look, Gatlin ran a better time in the heats than Bolt. So…..”
    • Koo, actually, don’t you think that some of the top stars – like Bolt – should be exempted from the heats? I mean, shouldn’t a system be evolved whereby the really great stars could be presumed to be “qualified”? Just think: if Bolt could do what he did after going through four heats – two in the 100 metres competition and two in the 200 metres – then just  imagine what times he could have posted for each of the two finals, had he ran each race fresh as a man just out of the massage parlour?
    • – Hahahaha! I don’t know whether one necessarily emerges fresh  out of a massage parlour! Maybe you do?  I haven’t had the privilege, I admit!  But no, exemptions from the heats for some runners and not others  would constitute favouritism, if not discrimination. All athletes must be presumed equal. Suppose there was a really good young pretender in the event; who was rising up to challenge the well-known stars. If this young talent could not be exposed to the great ones in the heats, how could he see what mistakes are possible in an event and learn to avoid them? How could he conceive strategies to beat the more fearsome stars?
  • You have a point there. Besides, there can be accidents in a race! It is the unexpected that adds spice to a competition. Remember the drama of Usain Bolt being so nervous in one race that he went  out of the race with  a false start? Or Lynford Christie, the Olympic Champion of the time also fouling out?

 

  • Hmmm. But what about the long distance races? Can’t they be treated differently? I mean, if I were asked to run 1500 metres twice in one week; or 5,000 metres, to say nothing of 10,000 metres: they would pick me up half dead somewhere on the track. And I would need about three weeks merely to be able to get out of bed again!

 

  • Hahahahaha! But who would be foolish enough to ask a pot belly like yours to propel itself at speed on a track?

 

  • Koo, mockery does not credit to you! Let me tell you – I used to do a decent 220 yards in school.
  • That was when Methuselah was only seven years old, right?
  • Hahahahahaha!
  • How much beer has entered your blood circulation system since those school days?
  • Beer? But beer is nothing? It’s the cholesterol from eating meat, man! Remember a time when we used to think that a chicken that was not fat could not be tasty?

  • We only wanted fat cows, fat goats and fat sheep!

  • Women were judged by whether they could make a soup that was “smiling” – with fat!

  • A smiling soup?
  • Yes! When the fat had spread all over the ‘top’ or surface  of the soup, it was said to have made the soup ‘smile’!
  • Oo-la-la!  We also used to adore women who had “flesh” on them!
  •  Yeah, how perceptions do change with time!
  • Once, I heard a chap praise a rich man’s wife for cooking “soup that looks like mmorosa” – i.e. whiteman’s drink: whisky or brandy!
  • Hahahahaha!
  • Well, the flattery worked. The woman called him aside, and when he came back, he couldn’t concentrate any longer on how to trap his opponent in the draughts game! The woman’s soup, as we had all secretly noted, had so much fat on the  surface because it was made with goat meat which had the skin left on it after being singed  on the fire!
  • Wow! That’s a killer! How my mouth waters, Koo!
  • Hmm — we were jealous of the guy who was given some of that, for days.
  • Well, it didn’t matter if people ate fatty foods in those days, did it? Because, of course,  most people actually worked hard then. They had to walk miles to their farms. Everything required a lot of hard labour. And that burned the fat away. Whereas today, we sit on our fat bottoms and get fatter every day because we eat good meat and drink sugary sodas but don’t burn off any of it. Food and drink manufacturers deliberately go out of their way to add sugar and fats to food to make them more tasty. They don’t care if we consume them and die! Profit before good health.

  • Funny you should say that — Usain Bolt hasn’t got an ounce of  spare fat on his body, yet he says one of his favourite foods is chicken nuggets!

  • Yeah – but he has a different rate of metabolism than you and me. His body  burns off any fat that enters his body more quickly than your body or mine.

  • Have you heard the rumour that Usain’s mother was struck by a bolt of lightning when she was carrying Usain!

 

  •  Hooooo! Is that why fat can’t form in his body? Some of the fire from the lightning is still burning in his body?

 

  • Could be! He runs like a bolt of lightning anyway. Especially in the middle part of a sprint.  And the way he demonstrates the flying arrow!

  • Yes. He has so much self-belief that no-one can ever beat him.

  • Until dark matter is tamed and put to human use! Can you imagine something more powerful than nuclear energy? That’s what Usain is waiting for!

  • Hahahahahahah!

 

Aug
22

WELL DONE, ATTORNEY-GENERAL’S DEPARTMENT

WELL DONE, ATTORNEY-GENERAL’S DEPARTMENT

By CAMERON DUODU

I am pleased that the Attorney-General’s Department has filed an application at the Accra High Court, praying the Court to set aside the 10-year prison sentence imposed on Charles Antwi by Mr Justice Francis Obiri on 28 July 2015.

The appeal is welcome because the current trend in this country is that Government departments do not pay the slightest heed to public opinion. Secondly, the judgement in question was so bad that were it to prevail, it would constitute a blot on the administration of justice in the country. Finally, the judgement was so full of errors that it would have undermined the work being done at our Universities and the Ghana School of Law to impart a true knowledge of jurisprudence to their students.

 

I mean – a guy sweats a lot, after obtaining his first degree, to pass his entrance examination to the Ghana Law School. He sweats even more profusely to pass exams that seem designed to fail as many students as possible. Thereby, he becomes qualified to practise as a lawyer in the courts of Ghana.

Then he goes to court to practise law. And he meets a judge like Mr Justice Francis Obiri.

He sees Mr Obiri conducting a case brought before him in a manner that rubbishes everything he has been taught. The judge does not know that if a person gives the appearance of being of unsound mind, his plea must not be taken. For the case to go ahead, the judge must first send the accused person to a psychiatrist hospital, where a qualified psychiatrist would put him through tests to establish his true condition of mind. It is only when a competent psychiatrist has certified that the accused person is of sound mind that his trial can begin.

Mr Justice Obiri also said that he had listened to the accused person and was satisfied that the accused was “confident” in what he had said!
Shock horror! Does being “confident” about what one says mean it cannot be nonsensical? If that were so, we would have, ages ago, seen the fulfilment of the prophecy often made by psychotics that “The end of the world is nigh!”, would we not?
But that aside, a judge simply cannot transform himself into a psychiatrist by his own fiat. What would a newly-qualified lawyer make of that? If a man who had successfully passed through years of legal instruction and had practised in the courts of the land long and well enough to be adjudged competent to sit as a Circuit Curt Judge, could make such elementary mistakes, then what was the point of all that legal education? All that sweating – and ”swotting” – at the Law School?
And look also at that change of plea by Antwi from “Not guilty” to “Guilty”. What pressure can result from this sort of advice: “Change your plea, because your case is so “weak” that a plea of “Not Guilty” can only earn you a harsher sentence, you hear?” Innocence be damned!
It was almost like something that was happening in the inferior, traditional courts of yesteryears, where a plea of “guilty with explanation” was almost always accepted! It was the forte of semi-literate court registrars.
No – If the Obiri judgement had remained unchallenged, it would have set a very bad precedent for the prosecution of cases before the country’s courts. Even in places like Britain, where miscarriages of justice are rare, one or two judges used to earn the notoriety of being a “hanging judge” ( during the days when the death penalty was still legal). So just imagine lazy prosecution officers in Ghana being able to say, “Let’s send him to this or that court! They will bang him in!” Would it not undermine the administration of justice altogether?
With regard to the inflexible attitude adopted by Government departments to matters about which the public clearly expresses unease, we have the evidence for that before our very eyes right now. Here is a Government that is in dispute with the doctors it employs, over their conditions of service. This happens all over the place between employers and employees.
So, negotiations begin. But somehow, the Government seeks to crush the doctors by all means, in order to demonstrate that it is a macho government and won’t tolerate what it believes to be a “politically-inspired” strike.

“Politically-inspired?” Does the Government mean to tell us that  with all their education, doctors cannot tell when they are being cheated by politicians who are themselves living well – unless they are prodded by a political party? What a patronising attitude! How infantile!

But in its desire to show the doctors where power lies, the government leaks the proposals which the doctors have sent to it, to its propaganda attack dogs. These guys, of course, take the doctors to the cleaners, heaping insults upon them. But when that fails to win the argument, the government threatens the doctors with the mass importation of doctors from Cuba!

All that is well and good, but has the Government taken the trouble to find out what the relationship is between what the Cuban Government pays its doctors and what it pays its Ministers and Deputy Ministers? Has the Government bothered to study the history of medical education in Cuba at all? Is it aware that when Castro took over power in 1959, many doctors left the island and that the new ones who were trained, were subjected to a socialist orientation and that this worked, because they operated in a “ration-economy” in which whatever the country produced was shared equitably amongst all sectors of the populace? Does Ghana, with its IMF-inspired economic policy based on “market forces,” think our society is akin to a socialist society?

Our President now says that he is no longer “a dead goat” but a “living” one. Well, he’d better apply a “living goat” approach to the doctors’ issue. For even if the Cubans come to prop up a system that makes Ministers and their minions more equal than others in the society, they cannot be in Ghana for ever.
In any case, so many people and institutions that are aware of the hardship caused by the impasse have appealed for an equitable settlement of the dispute that to ignore them and continue with the machismo policy will cost the Government dear in the long run.

The Attorney-General’s Department, in appealing against the Francis Obiri decision, is exhibiting an attitude which other arms of government would do well to emulate. As the saying goes in one of our proverbs: “If you didn’t hear what was said the first time, do go back and listen to it again!”

In a word: Sankofa!

Does our Government realise that this ancient principle is embossed on our Sword of State and our presidential chair, among other State artefacts?

That emblem is not there for nothing – except to a government led by a dead goat!

Aug
04

THE UNEXPECTED CONSEQUENCES OF FRUSTRATION IN OUR DAILY LIVES

 

THE UNEXPECTED CONSEQUENCES OF THE FRUSTRATIONS OF DAILY LIFE

By CAMERON DUODU

If you want to study what is going on in real life in a country, one of the best ways of doing it is to study the crimes committed in that society.
For instance, we have all got stories to tell about ‘Dumsor. But are we all aware that Dumsor is creating a new type of criminal, who seizes upon  our current frustrations to exercise his cleverness?
Please read this story from the Daily Graphic of 3 August 2015 for verification:
QUOTE: “Three suspects believed to be behind the theft of power generating sets at Spintex and Baatsona in Accra have been arrested by the police. They … use a truck fitted with a crane, to steal from generating-set dealer shops, on the pretext of being hired by the owners of the shops to fix the generators, which they claim have minor faults….
At about 8 a.m. on July 27, 2015, the manager of Sulas Enterprise, a dealer in generating-sets, reported to the police that some men had used [this modus operandi] to steal two generating-sets, a 20 KVA and a 10 KVA Kipor, from the premises of his company …..The two sets were valued at GHc45,000 and GHc35,000 respectively. Police intelligence led to the arrest of [a man] who had displayed the generating-sets for sale at Lapaz, in Accra, for GH¢8,000 each.
Police investigations showed that though the generators had been sold to a buyer in Kumasi who had paid through mobile money, the [suspects] were yet to transport the sets to the buyer…
On July 26, 2015 between 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m., [one of the suspects had gone] to the Kakari Shopping Centre, on the Spintex Road, where Sulas Enterprise was located, with a crane truck and told the security personnel that he had been hired by the owner of the company to pick up some generating-sets for servicing. [He] then sent the generating sets to [another of the suspects] at the Mannet Junction on the Spintex Road, who also called [the third suspect] at Agbogbloshie, informing him about the generating- sets which were up for sale.
[A potential purchaser was then called] in Kumasi and told … about the sets… [This man] agreed on GH¢8,000 as the price for the sets…
[The police further revealed that the the brains of the syndicate] was [already] wanted by them in connection with a [similar]  case where he was said to have hired a Kia Rhino truck, fixed with [a] crane … to steal generating-sets on the premises of [a] Money-lending Company on the Spintex Road, on July 21, 2015. The truck happened to be the same truck used for stealing the generating-sets from the other companies. UNQUOTE
A bit of a rambling story, agreed. But you get the picture, don’t you? It’s an “opportunistic” crime created by the current Dumsor conditions. Criminals are adept at hitting the populace where it is most vulnerable and therefore least likely to be suspicious. Generators are the hot subject of conversation, so what’s strange if someone says he’s been told to collect generators for servicing?
 
Indeed, criminals can be even cleverer than astute business entrepreneurs, for whereas an entrepreneur takes time to identify a line of business that will earn him good profits, a criminal only needs to locate the current “demand” psychology of the society in order to profit from it.
When generators are selling for between C35 and C45,000 each, who is going to be too interested in the source of supply, if offered one for C8,0000? Especially, if it is delivered in broad daylight by “a truck fitted with a crane”? That is the normal business of the people, the prospective buyer will say to himself. They are not hiding anything.
 
So, even though the stuff is relatively cheaply-priced, it must be legit. Maybe the owner is short of cash and wants to make a quick kill. “God has heard my cries;” says the purchaser. “Now my family and I can go to bed in air-conditioned comfort and also keep the things in our freezer fresh.”
The story reminds me of the kalabule days (from about the mid-1970s to the early 1980s). My young children were about to go back to their boarding schools at the end of their long vacation, and, like other parents, I was thrashing about everywhere, looking for soap, tinned fish, toothpaste and other things that they could store in those ubiquitous “chop-boxes” and use as needed.
 
But there were long queues everywhere. Sometimes, even when one managed to collect a “chit” from a storekeeper, there was nothing to collect with the “chit” when one got to the warehouse to which one had been directed! Imagine driving in the traffic to a warehouse, queuing again, presenting one’s chit, and being told, “Sorry, we are out of supplies. Try next week!” Next week? The kids are going  off in two days’ times! 
After one such unrewarding run-around, I was, of course, in a grumpy mood, and I just  unloaded  my frustrations onto a respected guy with whom I happened to be  talking.
He gave me the sympathy I needed. He did more: he immediately volunteered to ask his wife to get me something called, I think,  “Tom Brown” (porridge powder made from roasted corn, I believe).
 
“My wife knows a shop owner. She can get you a bag.”
A bag?
A bag of anything was worth its weight in gold in those days when there was a shortage of everything.
I asked, “How much would a bag cost?” (I had never bought the said  “Tom Brown” before in my life!)
The guy went downstairs to talk to his wife and he came back with a figure. I eagerly produced the money.,
That was the last I ever saw of the money. 
But no “Tom Brown” was ever produced either!
I was too ashamed to tell my wife that I had been “had”.
Bad mistake. For almost simultaneously, a very good “friend” of hers (she used to sit up all night, sewing very nice clothes for this ”friend!) told her she knew someone who could get us a bag of rice.
 

What? A bag of rice?

She thanked her lucky stars!

 
Without telling me, my wife promptly gave her the money. Again, neither rice – nor money – was ever produced.
I shook my head when my wife related the story to me  later. I understood what had happened only too well.
Two friendships had thus been destroyed in the course of a single holiday period. Was it any wonder that the country soon encountered serious political difficulties?
Our shattered inter-personal relationships bore eloquent witness to the way things were falling apart in the society. The ruthlessness we were experiencing at the personal level was to be reflected at the political level, in a manner that few of us could ever have associated with “peaceful Ghana.”
Even in our worst nightmares.
Just imagine what could have happened to the people who defrauded us if we had been stupid enough to report them to some of the sadistic “revolutionaries” who rampaged all over Ghana in later years, preaching “justice”? How could wed have lived with our consciences if something terrible had happened to them — at the instance of we, their victims?
Yes, fraudsters and confidence-trick artists thrive best when a society is undergoing unusual stresses.
 
But, indeed, it isn’t only in the area of crime that frustration can cause acute vulnerability. Stress can also undermine our intellectual and moral standards. And thereby, our  self-confidence.
Right now, for instance, some sensible  people I know are cheesed off over a report that Kenya is to construct a 900-kilometre railway line to link Nairobi with the Kenyan port of Mombasa. A branch line will also hook Uganda into the system. It will cost over $13 billion.

 

Guess who will be financing and building the railway?

 

Yes – the Chinese.

 

What my fellow Ghanaians who have been discussing this issue want to know is this: how could the Kenyans, who got their independence six years after we had got ours, have crafted such a complex plan and convinced the Chinese of its efficacy to such an extent that they have agreed to finance and build this railway, when we in Ghana can’t even get the Chinese to complete a mere section of our main arterial road – the Accra-Kumasi road – for us?

The answer has nothing to do with the number of years either country has been independent for. If you get the Chinese to agree to finance a project, and you renege on paying the Cedi counterpart funds which you had agreed to make available for the project, and instead, spend money on  political projects such as GYEEDA or SADA, how can the Chinese take you seriously?

 

If you show that you are not committed to your own development, why should they be?

 

Go to China and see them at work on their own projects. Then you will understand what real commitment is.
Come to that, if you ask the Chinese for a new loan, and they look at your Annual Financial Statement, and conclude from it that you are already overburdened by debt (which constitutes over 60% of your annual GDP) will they provide you with new money? No – they will deduce that you do not know the meaning of fiscal discipline.
Yes, other people take you seriously when you plan seriously and execute those plans with single-minded commitment. That is how the Chinese got their train system, part of which is among the fastest in the world.
 
 
With all that experience, the Chinese have convinced themselves that  the Kenyans have the required level of  commitment to enable the system to be built for them, just as the Tanzanians and the Zambians demonstrated enough seriousness to get the Tazara Railway built for them by the Chinese in the mid-1970s. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TAZARA_Railway )
With us, the Chinese probably look at us in sheer bemusement: how can we be taken seriously when we are not even able to present the Chinese with a realistic, workable plan that they can back, to end the ghastly galamsey nonsense that is destroying our rivers, farms and environment, and threatening the future of cordial relationships between our two countries?

Aug
01

THE POLITICS OF INSANITY

Home / Columnist / The Politics Of  Insanity

The Politics Of Insanity

By CAMERON DUODU

Daily Guide August 1, 2015

cameron duodu
K1: Koo, what at all is happening in this our country?
K2: Ei, so you too have noticed?
  • Why shouldn’t I?
  • I know, I know! But sometimes we are not struck by the same thing.
  • I take it you are disturbed by the way and manner in which a judge
  • dealt with Charles Antwi, who unlawfully took a gun into the church where the President usually worships?
  • Bingo! What did you find strange about the case?
  • Well, some of the things he is alleged to have said about himself….
  • Yes, he said he should be the President!
  • Not even a District Chief Executive or Minister! But President!
  • Where do they get these ideas from?
  • Ask me!
  • Yes, I see where you could take this.
  • The cult of personality in our politics does create its
  • inconveniences.
  • Aand unexpected consequences.
  • But if you and I could see the ego aspects of the matter, although we are not trained psychiatrists, why couldn’t the judge?
  • Maybe he too has an ego problem!
  • So many elementary things went wrong in that court-room!
  • The judge should not have taken Antwi’s plea!
  • Once the question of his sanity had been raised!.
  • Indeed, the issue was argued by a lawyer in the court…
  • Yes, acting as an amicus curiae (friend of the court)!
  • Because he had not been formally instructed?
  • Yes. He sought to draw the judge’s attention to the need…
  • To send Antwi for psychiatric observation?.
  • Right!
  • But the judge ignored him and took the plea of a person whose unbalanced state of mind had been brought to his notice?
  • Yep! The judge should have ruled that the accused was “unfit to plead”; then entered a plea of “not guilty” on the accused’s behalf, pending a report from a psychiatrist, that the accused was fit to plead.
  • But the judge took the chap’s plea twice, right? First, he allowed him to plead “not guilty”, and later, that was changed to “guilty”? He allowed him to change his plea after he’d been talking pure nonsense?
  • It’s all extremely odd.
  • When the amicus curiaerequested the judge to send the accused person for psychiatric observation,  do you know what the judge said? The learned judge stated that he had observed the accused himself, and had found him “confident” in what he had  said and he  was therefore fit to stand trial!
  • Lord have mercy!
  • And he gave the accused ten years, after the accused had said in open court that it was he who caused the death of President John Atta Mills, and that he had expected to succeed President Mills, only to find that Mr John Mahama had been allowed to steal the accused’s “birthright” and become President?
  • Yes!
  • Koo, I am not a psychiatrist. But as for this, I can say that to judge from Antwi’s statements, he is both a schizophrenic and megalomaniac!
  • Tu bra! (Bring it on!)
  • I should add delusional into the mix! For Antwi does not live in the real world. He lives in a world which he has created for himself.
  • In other words, he’s living in a delusion. And he has more than one personality: he can at times behave quite “normally”, but at times he  takes on a different personality that makes him act in a “strange” way. For instance, he is alleged to have been able to drive a taxi in his home-town…..
  •  But he drew attention to his driving by going too fast. He probably regarded himself as having been given supernatural “powers” which would prevent him from being involved in motor accidents (delusion.) And there’s  also megalomania at work here  – a person who is bigger than everybody else.
  – Yeah – he thought he was even  bigger…
Than the President who was in office!
  • Yeah! The President in office was a ‘usurper’ to him! It was he, Charles Antwi, who had been designated to succeed Mills, after Antwi had “killed” Mills by merely wishing that Mills should die!
  • And the judge heard all this and concluded that Antwi was “sane” and “confident”?
  • Yes o! Methinks the Chief Justice would be well-advised to call for the papers of the case immediately and give them to a senior judge to review. This is not a matter that should go to appeal and waste taxpayers’ money. Antwi should be removed from prison and taken to a psychiatrist hospital, and if found to be insane, committed into psychiatric care.
  • Why is it important that this should be done?
  • The reason is that a person suffering from mental illness is not responsible for his actions and cannot, therefore,  undergo a trial. Mental illness is like any other illness – it incapacitates the sufferer; in this case, it is the sufferer’s mind that is incapacitated — which is worse than prdinary ailments, because, of course,  the mind controls the entire human body. A large number of illnesses, grouped under the single word depression, can deprive a human being of his mental faculties. A judge would not wish to diagnose the illness of someone who faints in his court, for instance, would he? No – it would be wrong for the judge to turn himself into a physician or doctor. Similarly, he shouldn’t turn himself into a psychiatrist, either. A psychiatrist is also a doctor, only that he deals with mental and emotional illnesses. A judge who neglects to send an accused person who shows signs of insanity to a mental hospital for him to be  professionally established as either sane or insane,  has patently infringed the constitutional rights of the accused person. And the earlier the head of the judicial service sorted out the injustice, the better. Otherwise bad judges would make slaves of all of us.

  • But what about the politicians who are using the case to….
  • Make accusations at one another?
  • They are doing real harm to the country.
  • How?
  • By over-publicising the case, they could put ideas…
  • Into the heads of weak-minded persons, who…
  • Might want to seek attention for themselves, too?
  • Yes, by imitating the behaviour of an equally diseased person.
  • Imitative crime?
  • Sure! Especially when targeted against people in the public eye!
  • Such as Presidents.
  • It  is in fact a nightmare for every security service in the world.
  •  So, people like the NDC General Secretary, Mr Asiedu Nketia
  • “General Mosquito”?
  • They ought to be very careful…
  • Yes. Because  they might create unnecessary problems…
  • For the professionals trained to protect our bigwigs?
  • You’ve got it in one, Koo!.

Jul
28

PARLIAMENT AND DEMOCRACY

PARLIAMENT AND DEMOCRACY
By CAMERON DUODU

A robust debate has broken out – mainly on the Internet – over whether Parliament has the right to punish people for “contempt of Parliament”.

Some people do not think that Parliament has the right to lay such a charge, given that we live in a country whose Constitution guarantees “freedom of speech”. Others say that the Constitution empowers Parliament to punish people for contempt, but that this power should not be used lightly.
Certainly, the Constitution offers full protection to “freedom of speech” and other fundamental human rights. It says:
QUOTE:
(1) All persons shall have the right to –
(a) freedom of speech and expression, which shall include freedom of the press and other media;
(b) freedom of thought, conscience and belief, which shall include academic freedom;
(c) freedom to practise any religion and to manifest such practice;
(d) freedom of assembly, including freedom to take part in processions and demonstrations.
(e) freedom of association, which shall include freedom to form or join trade unions or other associations, national and international, for the protection of their interest;
(f) information, subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in a democratic society;
(g) freedom of movement which means the right to move freely in Ghana, the right to leave and to enter Ghana and immunity from expulsion from Ghana. (2) A restriction on a person’s freedom of movement by his lawful detention shall not be held to be inconsistent with or in contravention of this article.
UNQUOTE
But at the same time, the Constitution also provides that:
QUOTE: An act or omission which obstructs or impedes Parliament in the performance of its functions, or which obstructs or impedes a member or officer of Parliament in the discharge of his duties, or affronts the dignity of Parliament or which tends either directly or indirectly to produce that result, is contempt of Parliament.
Where an act or omission which constitutes contempt of Parliament is an offence under the criminal law, the exercise by Parliament of the power to punish for contempt shall not be a bar to the institution of proceedings under the criminal law.
UNQUOTE
On the face of it, the second provision of the Constitution may appear to contradict the earlier one. But that is not the case.
Freedom of speech is to be exercised “lawfully”, which means it must – for instance – not be exercised to defame others; or incite citizens to breaches of the peace, or to engage in treasonable acts, and that sort of thing.
The Constitution also implies, further, that freedom of speech must not be used to “affront the dignity” of Parliament. Whoever uses freedom of speech to that effect can be punished by Parliament.
In fact, the Constitution – exceptionally, it seems – allows the possibility of such a person being punished twice for the same offence – first the offender can be punished by Parliament, but then (the Constitution adds) Parliamentary punishment “shall not be a bar to proceedings under the criminal law”.
Does this mean that in a case where a person had, for instance, committed perjury before Parliament, Parliament could, if it so chose, punish him for “contempt”, but still hand him over to the prosecution authorities to be charged with the criminal offence of perjury?
Perhaps, the provision must be viewed more as a deterrent than as a licence to visit “double jeopardy” upon the head of the offender.
But that is by the bye – the discussion on the Internet has been largely concerned with examining whether Parliament is empowered to punish people who make utterances that MPs may find “insulting”; i.e. which constitutes (in the technical language of the Constitution) “an affront to the dignity” of Parliament.
There is no equivocation over the Constitution providing Parliament with that power. The reason why Parliament is thus protected is that Parliament is responsible for passing the laws that govern the daily lives of every citizen. In order that we should live in harmony, the state uses coercive power to ensure that these laws passed by our own elected representatives are  obeyed.
Yet, can we obey laws passed by people whom we despise? If we despise MPs, then we also disrespect the laws they pass, and if we disrespect the laws of our country, then we are living in anarchy.
That is why those who incite us to despise Parliament can be punished by Parliament.
For when a country descends into anarchy, everyone in it tries to do what he or she likes. The only limiting factor is the ability of individuals to organise violent acts to back their disrespect for the law.
For instance, if people in the country organised “land guards” and used them to grab lands and houses that did not belong to them, without the police and the army stopping the land-grabs, we would have an anarchic situation on our hands. Eventually, bands of “land guards” could even  be used for other purposes, especially,  to achieve political objectives. How? Well, “land guards” could be used to break up political meetings, couldn’t they?
So, the protection given to Parliament by the Constitution – and thereby its laws – is to prevent individuals from undermining the rule of law, in the final analysis.
Of course, Parliament must be very careful in exercising this power. For democracy is achieved largely by “compromise” – each arm of the state must understand and co-operate with the other arms. And that includes taking account of enlightened public opinion.

Actually, if Parliament tries to use its powers of contempt arbitrarily, without respecting the democracy that underlies the spirit of the Constitution, it could end up seriously ridiculing itself.  I shall illustrate this possibility with a personal anecdote. 

As Editor of the Daily Graphic, I was tipped off one day in March 1970 that some Russian trawlers that belonged to the Ghana Fishing Corporation, had been sold cheaply to a British businessman called Victor Passer, and that he was about to sail with them to Brazil, where he was expecting to sell them at a good profit.

I was puzzled: if the Brazilians wanted them, then Russian-manufactured though they were (there was much anti-Russian prejudice about, at that time) they were not as useless as the Ghanaian public had been led to believe. Why could we not use them ourselves to catch fish and bring down the cost of living for our people?

I published the story prominently  on the front page. The Government of Prof K A Busia reacted promptly by ordering that the trawlers should not sail. But this decision was apparently leaked to the purchaser, and he tried to sail away with them clandestinely out of Ghana’s territorial waters, and thereby, to present the Government with a fait accompli!

But again, I was tipped off  that this was about to happen and published the news of the attempt to sneak away with the boats. Very prominently on the front page.

The Government then sent the Ghana Navy to bring back the boats!

They were brought back to Tema. I went to Tema myself to report on the return of the boats by the Ghana Navy. The memorable headline to the story was “BACK TO BATAAN!”

Meanwhile, the publicity surrounding the boats had alerted Parliament, and some MPs got the Speaker to set up a Parliamentary Committee to investigate the circumstances surrounding the sale of the trawlers. But as soon as Parliament became involved, party politics reared its head over the matter. Opposition MPs became anxious to use the affair to embarrass the Government, which then closed ranks around the Minister of Agriculture, Dr Kwame Safo-Adu, whose Ministry was in charge of the sale of the trawlers.

Simultaneously as the parliamentary tug-of-war was going on, the Ghana Government was put under tremendous pressure by the British Government, which was demanding to know  why a lawful sale agreement between a Ghanaian Ministry and a British company, was not being honoured.

Meanwhile, I published a list of questions about the sale of the boats, and challenged the Parliamentary Committee to find the answers to them.

This annoyed some of the MPs, who claimed that I was “usurping” the work of a Parliamentary Committee!

Ridiculous as this attitude was — I mean,  why couldn’t the Press and Parliament each carry out its own functions autonomously? —  the MPs persuaded the Speaker to write to me to ask me why Parliament should not summon me before it to answer a charge of  “contempt of Parliament!”

But even as I was thinking about how to reply to the Speaker’s letter, I received a report that the Ghana Government had caved in to the pressure from the British Government and allowed the boats to leave the country’s territorial waters!

I could have wept! I wrote a strong reply to the Speaker’s letter, telling him that it was my duty, as a Ghanaian, to do everything in my power to prevent my country from “bolting the stable door after the horse had escaped”! While he and his MPs were fussing about who should say what, the boats had gone, I pointed out!

It was a  cheeky reply, but I was so enraged that I would gladly have suffered any punishment the Speaker and his MPs thought fit to inflict upon me.

The Speaker did not reply to my letter!

Yes – Parliamentarians have power, but they must not exercise it without taking the real interests of the people who elected them, into account. I hope the discussion that has attended the Ebola test trial incident has been a good lesson to us all. It is such an airing of issues that enables democracy to grow deep roots in a country.

Older posts «