In a speech disinfected from 'boom speeches", former president Jerry Rawlings has chided sections of the media, praised Justice Atuguba's sense of humour and called on Ghanaians to switch to peace, just as Ghana switched from driving on the left to the right.
He was speaking at a national peace summit in Accra on Friday. The summit, under the theme ‘Justice, Peace and Reforms will strengthen Ghana’, was organized by the National Peace Council and Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG) among others.
It brought together political party leaders, religious leaders, security chiefs and civil society. .
It comes on the heels of an Election Petition hearing that is challenging the declaration of John Mahama as winner for the 2012 December polls.
It was brought to the Supreme Court by three stalwarts of the opposition NPP- its 2012 presidential candidate- Nana Akuffo Addo, vice-presidential candidate - Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia and chairman of the party - Jake Obetsebi Lamptey.
The former presidents identified three entities for his speech. The media, the presiding judge of the panel that is hearing the Petition and Ghanians as a whole.
Read full text of speech.
ADDRESS BY H.E. JERRY JOHN RAWLINGS AT A HIGH LEVEL SUMMIT BY NATIONAL PEACE COUNCIL AND MANHYIA PALACE
THEME: JUSTICE, PEACE AND REFORM WILL STRENGTHEN GHANA
BANQUET HALL, STATE HOUSE, ACCRA – JULY 19, 2013
His Majesty Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, the Most Reverend Professor Emmanuel Asante, His Excellency John Agyekum Kufuor, Naa Professor John Nabila, the Inspector-General of Police, Nananom, Niimei, Honourable Members of the National Peace Council, representatives of Civil Society and Political Parties, Distinguished Guests, members of the Media, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Issues of national importance and perhaps international relevance have again brought us together to participate in a forum on justice, peace and reform with thegoal of further strengthening our democracy and political development.
Ghanaians have been witnesses to the fascinating spectacle of our electoral process being placed under judicial scrutiny over the past few months. As we inch closer to the conclusion of the process there are natural concerns that the high-adrenalin that characterises our political competitiveness and discourse may spill over when a verdict is finally given.
Allow me to commend our Supreme Court justices for their composure and moderatinginfluence throughout the hearing process. Their performance so far, under the scrutiny of television cameras, is worthy of mention.
At a similar forum in November 2012 ahead of the Presidential and Parliamentary elections, I counselled that our political leadership have a huge responsibility to give proper direction and guidance to their supporters across the country, to desist from acts of reckless impunity.
Today, I can only reiterate that our political parties, especially the two who areopposing each other in the law courts, have a patriotic responsibility to protect the sanctity of our democratic process by properly educating their supporters on the role of the judiciary and the fact that decisions may notautomatically go in favour of their party.
Our weakness when it comes to politicking is the impression political leadership often creates that their individual party has to win at all costs and failure to win means something untoward may have taken place. We cannot allow such attitudes to affect supporters’ perceptions in the run up to the Supreme Court ruling.
Ladies and gentlemen, for us to achieve an incident-free post court-ruling scenario we need the full support of the media and indeed every citizen of this country. We have to concede that some of our media have not helped to objectively disseminate news about the on-going judicial process but have contributed to unduly raising the political temperature. The media have to revise their approach to reporting electoral disputes and be guided by the principle that their agenda-settingrole should always protect the national interest and not be tarnished by the petty, biased and parochial political agenda some of them pursue.
Many Ghanaians now have access to various social media forums so this admonishment does not only go to the mainstream media but also to all those who have taken it upon themselves to abuse their freedoms in chat rooms by pursuing a vitriolic political agenda that has the capacity to negatively influence unsuspecting users of such forums. Hiding behind the Internet to pursue a dirty political agenda is cowardly. And this is no less cowardly than those journalists who boldly fabricate stories as a way of protecting their paymasters.
Our political leaders, traditional leaders, opinion leaders and indeed every Ghanaian, has a part to play in ensuring peace and unity for our country. Let us not relegate the responsibility to a select few. We can all play our part within our communities and circles of family, friends and associates.
At the end of the day our response to the ruling will indicate how mature we are as a people and how our political process has evolved. We cannot afford to fail this test.
We will of course also expect our judiciary to deliver a ruling that will inspire the confidence of both the winners and losers and further go to strengthen and protect our political process, national cohesion and self-belief. Justice is perhaps one of the most essential and intrinsic contributions to the internal equilibrium of the soul.
There are serious battles ahead of us – corruption, economic battles, the burning down of our markets and crime. Let us get this one out of the way and take on the others. We need to move on.