Dec 28


Daily Guide 28 December 2013

Mrs Georgina Wood, Chief Justice of Ghana:
Madam, your undoubted eminence is acknowledged throughout the Commonwealth. So much so that the Kenya Government has entrusted the selection of its superior judges to a committee of Commonwealth jurists, of which you are an esteemed member.
It is this committee that recommended the appointment of Mr Justice Willy Mutunga as Chief Justice of Kenya in 2011. When a dispute arose over the results of the Kenya presidential election held on 4 March 2013, the Supreme Court you helped to appoint, decided that it would determine the case within two weeks. The panel of the Kenya Supreme Court constituted to adjudicate over the election petition, was presided over by – the president of the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice, Mr Willy Mutunga.
The Kenya panel did precisely what it had said it would do, and handed down a verdict on the election petition, on 30 March 2013. Two weeks to the day.
Now, Madam Chief Justice, Kenya is a country in which the elections held in 2007 and also in 2013, had produced ethnic conflict on a monumental scale. Thousands of killings of innocent people had occurred, and even greater numbers had been displaced from their homes, to become refugees in their own country.
The Kenya Supreme Court was well aware of the charged atmosphere in which it was adjudicating over the sensitive issue of the election petition. It knew precisely what terrible consequences a “wrong” decision could give rise to.
But the Kenya Supreme Court  did not shrink from its constitutional duty, but duly handed down its decision in exactly two weeks, as I have pointed out already. No violent incidents of note were recorded after the verdict, controversial though it was.
Now, Kenya gained its independence in 1963 – six years after Ghana gained its own. The Kenyans are a proud and sometimes arrogant people, but they nevertheless respect the Ghanaian judiciary so much that they appointed a Ghanaian, Mr Justice Fred K Apaloo, as their own Chief Justice, in 1993-94. And you, Madam, as a member of their judicial appointments committee, as already noted.
A presidential election similar to that in Kenya was held in Ghana in December 2012. It too resulted in the presentation of an election petition before the Supreme Court – as provided in the Constitution of Ghana.
But instead of presiding over the Supreme Court yourself to determine the petition, you, Madam, rather constituted a panel chaired by a Supreme Court judge who appeared to have dodged classes when lessons in English syntax were being taught.
Not only was this judge notorious for speaking in half-sentences, but also, he seemed to be unduly emotional, whereas judges, in order to render “blind” justice, ought to be cold and detached and sometimes  technical.
This judge got angry when asked to recuse himself, though the petitioners were legally entitled to demand that he did so, if they did not fully trust in his impartiality. It is not a pleasant  occurrence in court, of course, but neither is sentencing. But judges are required to encounter both.  It comes with their territory.
This judge was incensed by admittedly illiterate comments made outside the court, so much so that he imprisoned two commentators, though in a case that is not being decided by a jury, but by eminent Supreme Court judges supposedly incapable of being influenced by outside ejaculations, the sub judice rule must necessarily be of limited, if not academic, interest only. Contempt of court rules could easily have been overlooked as well.  Can you, Madam, see Lord Denning imprisoning someone because of silly comments the person had made on a case on which Lord Denning was sitting? I dare-say Lord Denning would have laughed at the idea.

Madam CJ, the judge you appointed to preside over this most important case was an unmitigated flop.  And that YOU selected him was a disastrous blot on your record. He allowed one witness to be cross-examined in a most boring and repetitious manner by parrot-simulating counsel, for a period of thirteen days – that, is, only one day shorter than the period taken by the Kenya Supreme Court to dispose of the entire election petition before it!

Worse, the case as a whole was spread over a period of eight months! Your Supreme Court  panel, Madam CJ, couldn’t have cared less whether Ghana burned or froze  to death during the period it treated the nation’s most highly-charged political case as if it was a mere land case of the sort which only those cursed from on high ever place before the courts of Ghana.

The incredible denouement of all that had gone before, Madam CJ, occurred on that infamous day, 29 August 2013. The public waited for four hours and more to hear the verdict of the highest court of the land. And what did the public get? Only a staccato four-minute rendition of judicial scores, almost like the results of football matches announced on the radio! This was the judgement that would live for ever in Ghanaian history?

Madam CJ, did you get a feedback on what your fellow-countrymen made of that judgement when its full noisome version eventually appeared? Some said the eminent judges were bought and sold like kenkey and fish in the market! Kings were allegedly involved in the sale. One Deputy Minister indiscreetly “revealed” what she had heard, and things got so bad that  you  were forced to  appoint a committee — headed by a retired judge who should, in the eyes of many,  have presided over the petition case in the first place — to investigate what she had allegedly said onto a tape!

Others claimed that the judicial chambers became a boxing ring that morning, as judges accused each other of mendacity and misrepresentation, arising out of possible cupidity.

Others opined that even the mere technical tallying and enumeration of who voted for what ground(s)  in the petition, was not free from error.

Indeed, when the full judgement was eventually published,  the Ghanaian public was shocked to  learn from its learned judges (pun intended!) that the absence of  signatures of returning officers on “pink sheets” did not matter; that “polling agents” were as important as the paid electoral commission officials, as far as the authenticity of declared results was concerned.

One judge, however,  endeared himself to the public by describing the reputation of our egoistic Electoral Commissioner as having been “torn to shreds”. The entire judgement appeared to many to be “bogus and fraudulent!”

Madam CJ, the individuals concerned in effecting the fiasco do not matter to me. It is the institution that concerns me, namely, the august judicial establishment  of Ghana.

You are responsible for that institution.
And you failed to preserve its dignity and sacrosanct stature before the Ghanaian public, whose taxes pay for it.

For that failure — which stemmed entirely from the original lack of courage on your part that made you refuse to preside over the case yourself– I hereby award you The Order Of The Dead Vulture, First Class Division.
My congratulations, Your Ladyship!


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