The Minority on Friday said the withdrawal of courtesies to former President Jerry John Rawlings was unconstitutional and illegal.
The Minority in a statement signed by Mr Edward Doe Adjaho, Minority Chief Whip, said the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in its haste to “punish” former President Rawlings did not border to look at the clear provisions of Article 68 clauses 3, 4 and 9 and Article 71.
The Minority said it was dissatisfied at the government’s decision that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs “will no longer accord the former President Rawlings the courtesies that are due him under the provision of the 1992 Constitution”.
It said: “Much as the decision is petty, vindictive and constitutes an attempt to deflect public attention from the growing evidence of the NPP’s bad governance of our country, it also represents an affront to the constitutional regime and democratic culture we have nurtured over the past 10 years.”
The Statement said the former President has “the right to freedom of speech and the need to exercise that right was reinforced by the campaign of vilification and criminalisation that the NPP has waged against Rawlings and the NDC ever since the NPP took over power”. The Minority said for a government that claims to have instituted the process of national reconciliation, to indulge in punishing political opponents for expressing their views contradicted attempts at fostering national unity.
It said under the 1992 Constitution neither the President nor the Foreign Minister has the power to vary the pensions and facilities available to the former President to his disadvantage during his lifetime and that: “The so-called protocol courtesies are part and parcel of the pension and facilities.”
In a similar reaction on Friday the NDC at a press conference in Accra said the withdrawal of courtesies, which were hitherto granted to former President Rawlings, was a breach of the Constitution. It said the removal of “Appropriate Courtesies” is inseparable and part of privileges guaranteed under the Constitution and are not to be varied to the former President’s disadvantage.
Mr Haruna Iddrisu, National Youth Organiser, told the press conference that the latest action by the government was a clear indication of its disrespect for the Constitution and rule of law. He said the action was a continuation of the ill treatment being meted out to the former President in an attempt to gag him from expressing his views on important national issues.
“We are aware of the frenzied and hysterical campaign by the NPP to denigrate and ridicule the former President. The fact that he is a former President does not derogate him his right under the Constitution to freedom of speech and expression.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday said it turned down a request by former President Rawlings to grant him courtesies on his impending trip to Washington DC.
A letter dated September 11 and signed by Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Foreign Minister, in response to the request made by Mr Victor Smith, Special Assistant to Former President Rawlings said; “it is not possible at the moment for Government to grant the requests in your letter”.
The letter said: “It makes little sense to continue to accord courtesies to someone, who persistently refuses to reciprocate them, as his recent utterances in Nigeria vividly illustrate. Accordingly, it is not possible at the moment for government to grant the requests in your letter”.
First published on Friday, 12 Sep 2003