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The Judge, The Law And The Truth


The Judge, The Law And The Truth

The task before the nine Supreme Court justices hearing the New Patriotic Party’s petition disputing the results of the 2012 presidential election is probably not such an awfully daunting one after all, Jomo:

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Theirs is to rule on whether on the basis of the evidence made available by the petitioners to the court, malpractices at the elections had indeed been deliberate and so systematic and widespread as to have affected the outcome of the election, fraudulently tilting the results in favour of the incumbent.

In doing this, will the justices apply the law as a sanitised, cut-on-stone, Mosaic, technically sealed and thoroughly sacrosanct statute, or will they do so on the basis of their own interpretation of what the law says?

I actually never thought much about it until counsel for the National Democratic Congress, Tsatsu Tsikata, and lead witness for the petitioners, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, engaged in a nice little quarrel over the question of the law and its interpretation during counsel’s cross-examination of Dr. Bawulmia on Tuesday.

Dr. Bawumia keeps reminding counsel of the statutory dictates of the law: “That is what the law says” he keeps repeating, which argument so chagrins Tsikata, that counsel asks the 2012 vice-presidential candidate to stop referring to his own interpretation of the law as the law, and seeking the court’s annulment of the results on the basis of that interpretation.

Interpretation of the law appears to me to be the basis for the administration of justice, Jomo.

That is why an aggrieved citizen seeking legal redress may take his case through a chain of courts starting from the lowest court of jurisdiction through several superior courts to the almighty Supreme Court.

Different judges interpret the law according to their own understanding of its provisions: A hypothetical figure of a panel of five judges sits on a case: Three vote in favour of a conviction or the granting of reliefs sought.

Two dissent. The accused or respondent files an appeal. Seven judges sit on the appeal, and hear the very same evidence as the lower court and by a majority decision, uphold the appeal.

In determined pursuit of justice, an aggrieved citizen dissatisfied with an Appeal Court ruling may proceed to the Supreme Court which, surprise, surprise, can overrule its own decision. It makes the process of the administration of justice appear most interesting and intriguing if also rather unscientific, anaa..?

Anyhow the anticipated duel of wit and logic between counsel for the National Democratic Congress, Tsatsu Tsikata, and the lead witness for the petitioners, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, came on at the Supreme Court this week right on time.

The initial hostile stances of counsel and witness was replaced by a mutually more friendly disposition early on Tuesday with a few mild wisecracks to spice things up but as the day wore on and strain took its toll on both men, the façade fell away, with counsel back to his aggressive ways and witness at a point almost shouting at counsel to “stop shouting at me!” Eyeh asem…oo, Jomo!

One of Tsatsu’s key objectives in his cross-examination of Dr. Bawumia it appears, has been to convince the court that the petitioners had included in their evidence reliefs not originally sought in their petition and that the petitioners had also included illegible, barely legible, blank, duplicated, unsigned and multiply signed pink sheets in their evidence, in a bid to magnify the scale of alleged rigging.

Counsel did get Dr. Bawumia to admit early in the week, that there had been some errors in presenting the petitioners’ evidence but continued with his insistence that by and large, most of the pink sheets referred to by counsel had actually not been analysed as evidence in the petitioners’ claim of massive electoral fraud in more than 11,000 polling stations across the republic.

As far as suspicions of dishonest conduct on the part of parties in the election dispute are concerned Dr. Bawumia had his own darts to throw at counsel this week, alleging that Tsikata had introduced as evidence, faked letters purportedly written and signed by NPP 2013 presidential candidate Nana Akufo-Addo, appointing agents to represent him at polling stations the petitioners say were unauthorised voting centers.

I found time away from the hearing at the Supreme Court to think about cyanide and horses, Jomo. Ask any chemist, Jomo: A gram or even a needle point-sized quantity of that deadly chemical called cyanide can kill a horse in seconds. Yet it is used in the mining industry.

In the mid-1980s I ran into a scientist called Dr. Tsikata from the University of Ghana, Legon, at the Minerals Commission and he appeared to be investigating a possible correlation between some chemicals used in mining and the prevalence of some health problems in mining areas.

It also appeared to me that mercury and cyanide were top of the list of his suspects. I was at the Minerals Commission myself on a mission that was not too dissimilar: To find out if commission officials would say something that would enable me to get a front page scoop about a medical link between the use of mercury in mining and the outbreak of the buruli ulcer disease.

I find it extremely puzzling and very strange indeed, that one of the most horrifying diseases in medical history, which is prevalent mostly in mining communities in Ghana, is also the most under-reported health problem. Something does not look quite right here, Jomo.

Many television viewers turned away in horror and disgust and others lost their appetite for food, when television first showed pictures of human creatures with half of their bodies literally eaten away by buruli ulcer.

So you wonder whatever happened in those mining areas where the disease is prevalent.

Has the terrifying medical scare suddenly gone away? Whatever happened to the hundreds of people with huge, raw lacerations and limbs half eaten away? Those are the questions I have been asking myself, Jomo.

The bacterial organism that causes buruli ulcer belongs to the same micro-organic family as the organism that causes leprosy and tuberculosis.

My own suspicion was {is} that victims were infected after drinking, washing or being in constant contact with water from sources contaminated by mercury and other chemicals washed into the sources or inhaling fumes from heated mercury.

One method small scale miners use in extracting gold, is to heat an amalgam of mercury and ore in cloth or other suitable container and squeeze out the mercury along with the gold. I am bringing all this up because this week, Asante-Akyem North Municipal Tuberculosis Programme Coordinator Dr. Paul Ntiamoah says there just might be a link between illegal gold mining and the strange lung disease that has killed about 100 people so far.

A national investigation appears necessary to determine the levels and impact of pollution of water courses and sources in mining districts of the country by small scale miners and giant mining firms alike, and the possible link between mining and the buruli ulcer disease, as well as other health problems suspected to be linked to mining activities. Anaa..?

Source: Daily Graphic/Ghana



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