Friday, January 11, 2013
January 11, 2013 (Front page) A Supreme Court judge, Justice William Atuguba, has taken a swipe at persons he perceived to be casting doubt about the independence and integrity of the Judiciary. “This country is solid but is breaking down because principles are being chopped down,” he said, adding, “This is not good.” “We have a strong and solid independent Judiciary in this country which must be preserved,” Justice Atuguba said, in apparent response to a challenge to his being a member of the panel constituted by the Chief Justice, Justice Georgina Theodora Wood, to hear the NDC’s motion for joinder to the petition challenging the declaration of President John Mahama as winner of the December 7, 2012 presidential election. “If we perceive the Judiciary not to be independent, we will be gambling with the destiny of this country,” the president of the nine-member panel stated after he and his colleagues had emerged from their chambers following a meeting with lawyers representing the parties in the case. Looking visibly unhappy, Justice Atuguba said he did not want to be part of a group that gambled with the destiny of the country and turned to his colleagues, indicating, “I do not think my colleagues want to be part of it.” The other panel members did not flinch, while lawyers and other observers listened quietly as Justice Atuguba spoke while making gestures with both hands. But in a quick rebuttal, the lead counsel for the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Ms Gloria Akuffo, told newsmen that the NPP was interested in the stability of the country and that accounted for its decision to contest the election results in court and not through crude methods. “We came to court to strengthen Ghana’s democracy and stability,” she explained, adding that “the NPP is committed to protecting the security of the country and will, therefore, not do anything to compromise the country’s interest.” Ms Akuffo, who is a former Deputy Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, maintained the NPP’s belief in the Judiciary and the rule of the law in the country. The parties in the case are the Electoral Commission (EC), the National Democratic Congress (NDC), President Mahama, and the leadership of the NPP which is challenging the results of the December 2012 presidential election. The petitioners, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the presidential candidate of the NPP; his running mate, Dr Mahamadu Bawumia, and Mr Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, the Chairman of the NPP, argue that the election results were doctored in favour of President Mahama. The other members of the panel were Justice Julius Ansah, Justice Sophia Adinyira, Justice Rose Owusu, Justice Jones Dotse, Justice AnninYeboah, Justice P. Baffoe-Bonnie, Justice G. S. Gbadegbe and Justice Vida Akoto-Bamfo. Many had anticipated that the hearing of the first leg of the application challenging the election results at the Supreme Court would be chaotic but that was not so. Heavy security was mounted at the outer perimeter of the court, within the Supreme Court building and some yards to the courtroom. Scanners were placed at the lower and upper floors of the court, while supporters of both the NPP and the NDC were visibly absent. Only accredited journalists, lawyers, party functionaries and members of the public were allowed entry into the courtroom.