NEW YEAR HONOURS LIST (3)
By CAMERON DUODU
THE RT. HONOURABLE EDWARD DOE ADJAHOE, SPEAKER OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
Order Of The Sick Parrot (Class 1b)
Mr Speaker, Sir!
The framers of the 1992 Ghana Constitution realised the importance of your office – and the necessity for the holder to be perceived to be wholly non-partisan — when they stipulated that if an MP was elected to it, he must vacate the position of MP forthwith.
MPs regard you as the “Father” of the House. Which means they expect that your decisions regarding Parliamentary business will bear the mark of true objectivity – i.e. insulated from party pressures.
In view of the fact that you need to enjoy the continued confidence of all MPs, you should have given a little more thought to the issue of the sale of Merchant Bank to Fortiz, when the Minority Group attempted to raise the matter in the House.
As a lawyer, you should be well aware that individual laws cannot be interpreted in isolation from the body of laws that constitute the Statute Book. Precedents and Conventions must be taken into account. And also, common sense.
In the Merchant Bank case, it was evident that the economic interests of the Ghanaian public were at stake – especially those who have made contributions into the funds of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT).
Now, even in the United Kingdom, where the sub judice rule evolved from, it is now recognised that in any matter that threatens the public economic interest, Parliament should not be fettered in becoming seized of the issue.
You see, common sense and legal history teach us that a scoundrel who wants to gain private control of a public enterprise can issue what is essentially a ‘gagging writ’ in a court, and thereby tie the hands of the nation’s elected representatives from protecting the public interest, as they were elected to do!
No Constitution worth its name would consciously allow that. The public interest must always over-ride an attempt by an unscrupulous entity to abuse the legal process in order to effect corrupt mulcting of the public purse.
Furthermore, judges – as distinct from juries – are not supposed to be capable of allowing themselves to be influenced by anything said anywhere on issues being argued before them. The US Congress was discussing the possible impeachment of President Richard M Nixon, even as his aides – such as Dean, Erlichman and Haldeman – were facing criminal trials relating to the same Watergate scandal that made Nixon finally resign.
But let us go to Britain, where our laws came from: A Member of the British House of Lords (you may know that this House contains many “Law Lords”) said of the sub judice rule during a debate in 1961:
LORD ROGER CHORLEY: “If a judge took into consideration in reaching his judgement, anything which had not been given in evidence in court, clearly his decision would be reversible on appeal.”
It was made clear, in that debate, that while Parliament ought not to discuss matters that were pending before the courts — in observance of the convention governing the “comity” between Parliament and the courts – good “sense” should be applied when determining whether the mere raising of an issue in Parliament would necessarily create a real risk of a judge being influenced to decide a case in one way or another.
Now to Ghana: the main issue being contested in the lawsuit by Awuni over the Merchant Bank case, is whether Awuni has the locus standi to contest the sale. The merits of the sale itself are nowhere near being brought up as yet. And even if they were, the court, presided over by a judge WITHOUT A JURY, would be hard put to it to take the slightest notice of anything that was said in Parliament about the case. Because, justice, it has been said on good authority, lies in the judge’s bosom and there alone.
Mr Speaker Sir, you have placed Ghana in a position where even if the court decides in favour of Awuni, he would have bolted the stable door after the horses had escaped.
You have allowed the existence of a mere writ in a court to prevent the elected representatives of the people of Ghana from investigating (1) whether a publicly-owned asset may have been been sold off corruptly, at a scandalously cheap price, to persons with connections to the party on whose ticket you were initially elected to Parliament. How do you expect the public to perceive your impartiality with regard to this action you took?
(2) Whether the new owners of Merchant Bank have enough capital to run the asset proficiently on behalf of SSNIT Fund contributors; and
(3) Whether there was hanky-panky in the sale, in particular, the possible bribery of directors who were required to appr0ve the deal, and if so, who were the individuals who benefited from such bribery.
It should be obvious to you, Mr Speaker, as a former MP yourself, that assiduous MPs can often assemble dossiers of information that would make the Criminal Investigations Department and the National Security Service shudder with sheer astonishment. This is because people are always going to vociferous MPs — VOLUNTARILY — to offer them information – sometimes secretly guarded information — about what is really going on in the country.
Have some MPs been briefed by former directors of Merchant Bank, who are deterred by the laws of libel from speaking out in public, but who are aware that MPs have the constitutionally-guaranteed privilege of being able to speak in the House without fear of a libel action?We don’t know, because in your high-handed manner, you prevented the MPs from telling their electors what they know.
By resorting to your ‘discretionary powers’ to make a narrow and technical reading of Parliament’s Standing Orders on the sub judice principle, and ignoring the public interest aspect of the matter, you have enabled Merchant Bank’s new owners to get possession of a publicly-owned asset. And possession, as your knowledge of the law should tell you, is effectively, the job done.
You have, Mr Speaker, unilaterally broken off the claws of the very Parliament whose powers you were elected by MPs — and which you solemnly swore — to uphold and protect jealously, and also strengthen.
One of the principles upon which the founding fathers of the country that became independent in the year of your birth, raised its citizens, was “The welfare of the people is the supreme law!”
For preferring a twisted interpretation of the sub judice rule to this noble ideal, and repeating by rote, technicalities like the “separation of powers”, without fully taking account of the historical background from which they sprang, you have earned yourself the ignominious ORDER OF THE SICK PARROT, Class 1b Division.
I refuse to congratulate you.