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Friday, July 27, 2012

Strike looms at AG’s Dept.

State prosecutors working for the Attorney General’s Department have had enough of the daily attacks and death threats they receive from critics, especially loyalists of the Mills government. 

Upset with the rising level of acidic criticism from pro-government elements, lawyers of the Attorney General’s Department are planning a crippling nationwide strike. It’s meant to protest the accusations that the office not only advised the State on legal and constitutional matters but also prosecuted cases in court.

“We are certain that this strike will come off,” said one senior official of the Attorney General Department. “The question of when to begin the strike is what we are discussing now,” a senior source at the Attorney General’s Department, who wished not to be named, told The Globe

“During the strike, state prosecutors across the country will be asked to abstain from attending hearings in any civil, criminal, tax, or administrative proceedings and to sign a petition urging the Government to call to order its spokespersons and followers who have made unceasing criticism of the AG’s department as a full-time job,” our source said. “It has reached a stage where some of the officers are receiving death threats. This nonsense cannot be allowed to continue.”

Also, The Globe learned that non lawyers working with the Attorney General’s Department may also join the strike, which is coming at a time the Mills government is under intense pressure to win the remaining few cases it initiated against former State officials who served under John Kufuor’s government.

Insiders say the looming strike threat has seen Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Dr Ben Kumbour, working around the clock to stop the ring leaders from calling what could be crippling industrial action that could bring the Ministry for Justice and Attorney General’s Department to a standstill. 

It is feared that the looming strike could cripple thousands of state-sponsored legal actions in courts around the country, including the widely publicized Woyome and Kennedy Agyepong cases. 

It comes at the time when the ruling NDC’s legal team, which has been very critical of the performances of state lawyers who handled high profile cases that went against government in court, is preparing to publicize a list of persons they believe engineered the courtroom defeats.

“We are keeping the list of NPP members in the AG’s Department very close to our chest,” Chris Ackumey, a member of the NDC legal team told The Globe yesterday. “There are about five of them and they are in very vital offices in the AG’s department.”

Pressed by this reporter to put out the names, Mr. Ackumey only said that “In the coming days we will put the list in the public domain for Ghanaians to know why the State, since the NDC came to power, has been losing high profile cases in court.” 

The AG’s department has been constantly harassed by NDC loyalists and, in some cases, members of the general public since the State lost a string of high profile cases that were initiated after the Mills administration came into office in 2009. Among the big state-sponsored cases that collapsed in court is the Ghana @ 50 lawsuit, the Amina Yutong case, and the Kwesi Osei Agyei case. The State has reportedly lost more than 18 of such high profile cases, sparking spiraling anger among loyalists of the Mills government.

“I know the Attorney General, Dr. Ben Kumbour, is worried about the attacks on this department and has been working very hard to ensure that the increasing discontent here does not spiral into full-blown industrial action,” our source said. “I know he is doing everything possible to keep his team of lawyers here at the AG’s Department at post because he is fully aware of the possible consequences of such a nationwide strike,” they added.

News of the looming strike comes weeks after former law lecturer, Ace Ankomah, jumped to the defense of state prosecutors at the AG’s department as public criticism of state lawyers reached a new high.

In a Republic Day message posted on his Facebook wall, the respected lawyer wrote: “In recent times, I have been angered, incensed and infuriated by those who don’t know and those who should know better, spewing arrogant ignorance (and sometimes plain nonsense) at the lawyers in the AG’s Department. I concede that there are some issues; but nobody leaves the Law School a finished product. Every lawyer needs to be shaped and sharpened by close professional supervision and vigorous training. We cannot expect them to do miracles when their ultimate bosses, the politicians, are pursuing blind political agenda, and simply throw them at the deep end to go and do the impossible, especially in court. They will get mauled! 

“We should also ask how much we are putting into their training. It is expensive to hire, train and keep a lawyer. I should know. Their mates and colleagues in private practice (and by that I mean all non-government work) make an arm and a leg in fees and salaries. We cannot expect them to produce the same quality of work, when we pay them chicken and rice, song and dance salaries, and then don’t give them the same level of post-qualification training,” he wrote.

Ring leaders of the planned strike hope that the strike will delay court proceedings via an automatic postponement of several months. Thus, the proposed strike would force government to call its spokespersons, who have a reputation for attacking lawyers in the AG’s Department.
Repeated calls by The Globe to the Attorney General’s phone were neither answered nor returned.

Source: The Globe

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