|The Jubilee house. INSET: President John Evans Atta Mills|
“Let me tell you that there are serious security concerns at the place, and my security advisors have advised me on that, and until such matters are resolved, it would not be safe for me to occupy the Jubilee House,” he said.
Interacting with editors and senior reporters at the presidency yesterday, to mark his one year in office as President of Ghana, President Mills, who was on his feet for close to two hours answering questions, stated that despite the problems, his able security advisors were seriously working to put things together, for him to occupy the house.
The President, who was given moral support by most of his cabinet ministers, disagreed with the assertions that the Founder of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings, had been pain on his neck.
According to him, Mr. Rawlings served this nation for eighteen years, and that he had enough experience, which must be tapped for development.
According to him, he was not the least perturbed about the criticisms of the former President, since it rather helps his government. “Mr. Rawlings has been a head of state for so many years. He has a lot of experience, and he has toiled hard to bring peace and sanity to the country. He has every right to criticise me, and his criticisms are welcome. Probably, he is coming from a position of experience. Seriously, he is not a problem at all. He will not be a pain on my neck,” he said.
To him, if previous administrations and their members had embarked upon ‘soul searching,’ various pitfalls would not have occurred, adding that self-criticism by leading members of the NDC, including the founder, was in a right direction.
“It is not strange that criticisms are coming from within the NDC. It is part of democracy. That is the price you pay, when you choose the path of democracy.”
President Mills reiterated his commitment to fight corruption, and deal ruthlessly with people who infringe upon the laws.
On corruption, when quizzed about the case of the former Minister of Youth and Sports, Alhaji Muntaka Mubarak, he strongly defended his actions, and noted that the cause of the Minister’s resignation was a result of acts of indiscretion.
According to him, the ex-minister’s action does not border on corruption, but rather indiscretion, and took time to school the media on the definition of corruption, forgery and many others.
He could not agree further with persistent questions on his actions on Alhaji Muntaka, saying: “How many people had the courage to resign under previous administrations? Nobody had the courage, but once he has accepted that he erred and decided to step aside, there was the need to accept his resignation,” he stressed.
On whether or not the one-time premium of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) was feasible, President Mills, nicknamed “Asomdwehene,” stated that the NDC inherited a mess from the previous administration, to the extent that most service providers have not been paid for close to six months.
He said under his administration, a lot was being done to pay all the service providers, and was hopeful that when such problems are resolved, it would be easy to have the one-time premium for the NHIS.
“We are looking forward to streamlining the system. I believe that the one-time premium is still feasible.”
On the ex-gratia to the former Presidents and other ex-government officials, the smartly dressed President stated that after the review of the Chinery Hessee Commitee’s report, the government had accepted all the recommendations, and payments were made to individuals concerned.
He however dismissed the notion that he had committed illegality in reviewing the report.
President Mills, demonstrating his capacity of handling issues, expressed concern over the Dagbon crisis, and was of the view that behind closed-door discussions were being done to find lasting solutions.
“It is a major issue of concern to us. We are undaunted that we would achieve peace. We are on course,” he said.
President Mills further disputed the allegations that Mr. Carl Wilson, Chairman of the government’s confiscated vehicles, and his deputy, were still in office when various reports in the media suggested that the duo had mis-conducted themselves.
President Mills said he had a lot of confidence in Alex Segbefia, who is being accused of protecting Carl and his friend.
“I am happy that you say reports. When allegations are made, it will be fair and proper that we investigate the matter. This is because there is the need to find concrete evidence to act upon.
We are not taking the allegations lightly, but I can tell you that I have full confidence in Alex Segbefia. He is a lawyer, and he cannot do anything untoward. I can tell you that when we find anything wrong, we shall let the law takes its course,” he intoned.
Touching on the national thanksgiving services he promised to be observed every February, he underscored that he had been in a communication with members of the Christian Council to fix a date for the service, adding that since such religious leaders were the principal actors, there was the need to dialogue with them.
“There is no point in foisting a decision on them,” he said.
On whether his Ashanti Regional Minister, Mr. Kofi Opoku Manu, should be sacked, based on his comments which suggested that he was inciting Ghanaians, Mr. Asomdwehene pleaded with Ghanaians to forgive him, since he had admitted that he erred, and had subsequently apologised.
On assets declarations, President Mills noted that he had declared all his assets, and was of a firm belief that his ministers had done same. As in a form to respond to President Mills’ inference, all the ministers present, raised their hands to indicate that they had complied.
The nation’s Chief Executive noted further that he, together with his team, would look at the Justice Douse Committee’s report, to see whether or not recommendations that Mr. Kwadwo Mpiani and Dr. Charles Wereko-Brobby, former Minister of Presidential Affairs and former Chief Executive of the Ghana@50 Secretariat respectively, would be prosecuted for willfully causing financial loss to the state or not.
The President was however grateful to God for taking the nation through the year under his administration, and hinted of better days ahead of Ghanaians.
According to him, even though he would not grade himself about the successes he chalked within the year, he believed strongly that he and his team had done well, taking into account the mess the NDC inherited from the New Patriotic Party (NPP), in addition to the global crisis. In a jokingly manner, President Mills said: “If team B people can perform like this, what would happen if team A comes. I am the captain, and I can assure you that better days are ahead of us.”