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Saturday, September 5, 2009

CJ On Ghana's Democracy

By Daily Guide - Daily Guide

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Chief Justice Georgina Wood

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THE LAST 16 years in Ghana's political history have been the best time in terms of rapid expansion, the right to free speech and the expression of freedom of the press.

The period has also seen the highest level of the preservation of rule of law and the protection of human rights.

Ghana's Chief Justice, Justice Georgina Wood, made the assertion at a public forum in London last weekend.

The forum, which was organized by the Ghana High Commission in the UK, in conjunction with the Ghana Union of UK and the Ireland, was attended by a large number of Ghanaians and non-Ghanaians, especially from the judicial fraternity.

The forum was aimed at providing an insight into the state of Ghana's democracy to the public. Her topic was; “The role of the Judiciary in consolidating democracy and good governance in Ghana”.

She observed that the last 16 years had “undoubtedly been the best period for the flourishing of fundamental human rights and the rule of law”, in the country.

A situation she attributed to the high level of commitment of the entire citizenry of Ghana.

Justice Wood mentioned effectiveness of the right to lawful assembly, procession and demonstration, the right to a fair trial, the right of equal access to state-owned media, and the freedom of speech and expression as the results of landmark decisions handed down during the 16 year period.

She said the Judiciary had been exemplary in this struggle, especially in the enforcement of the Constitution itself and the fundamental rights and freedom.

The Chief Justice expressed delight with the fact that Ghanaians as a people had now resolved and are more vigilant than ever to secure and consolidate the gains that had been made in returning the country to constitutional rule in January 1993.

She however warned that, “Complacency will not be our best ally in that regard”, and stressed the need for continuous vigilance and entrenching the ideals of good governance in all government structures and institutions.

Mrs. Wood noted that one area that had ensured the success of Ghana's democracy and had been hailed by the world had been the swift and effective manner with which The Bench had dealt with election disputes.

She announced that courts had cleared about 80 per cent of the election disputes that were pending at the close of the 2008 presidential and parliamentary elections.

She gave an assurance that all election disputes would be disposed of before the close of the year. The Chief Justice however admitted that, “In the past, we may not have been perfect in the discharge of our duties, in respect of handling electoral disputes, considering the delays which had often characterized the disposal of such cases, but it is undeniable that we have succeeded in managing electoral conflicts satisfactorily enough to be able to sustain the credibility of our electoral system”.

She said free and fair elections, devoid of rancorous disputes were always preferable, knowing the huge contributions they made towards deepening democracy and good governance, and urged Ghanaians to commit themselves totally to such forms of elections to ensure a peaceful and free country for all.

Ghana's acting High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Zed Grant-Essilfie, urged Ghanaians to continue the gate keeping role in ensuring good governance and also ensure that the enviable level of democracy and good governance chalked up as a people were not interrupted in any way.

Answering questions on the long delays of court cases, alleged corrupt personnel within the Judiciary, numerous land disputes, provision of legal aid to citizens and the role of the Ghana Bar Association in nation building, the National Public Relations Officer of the Ghana Bar Association, Thonny Forson, noted that it would require a high level of political will to address some important elements in the country's constitution to enhance swift disposal of court cases.

For example, he said, there would be the need for a referendum to set up such institutions as an Independent Prosecution Department, which would ensure the smooth dealing of court cases in the country.

He said the GBA had over the years limited its role in political issues to an advocacy role to enable the association push much more issues for the benefit of the entire citizenry rather than concentrating on only politics.
Source: Daily Guide - Daily Guide

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