Ghanaians have expressed varied reactions to the decision by President John Dramani Mahama to grant remission to the Montie trio.
Lawyer of trio
Kwame Asare Boadu writes that one of the lawyers for the Montie trio, Nana Adjei Ampofo, has mounted a strong defence of the President for granting the remission.
The lawyer said the President acted within the ambit of the law.
“The President has done well; we are grateful to him,” Nana Ampofo, who led the legal team that presented the three contemnors’ petition to the President appealing to him to exercise his prerogative of mercy, told the Daily Graphic yesterday.
He disagreed with arguments that the President’s action undermined the authority and independence of the Judiciary.
He stated that it was not the first time that a President had exercised his prerogative of mercy.
In his view, the justices of the Supreme Court who heard the contempt case were carried away by emotions.
“The punishment was too harsh. Punishment must not crush the victim but in this case the judges delivered a crushing sentence, even though the contemnors apologised and showed remorse,” Nana Ampofo submitted.
He stated that against the fact that the whole world was moving away from custodial sentencing for free speech, the sentence pronounced on the three by the Supreme Court was unacceptable.
Civil society groups
Caroline Boateng reports that the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), Imani Ghana and the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG) were unanimous in their views that the remission was in bad taste, although it was legal.
The Head of Research/Programmes and Deputy Director of CDD-Ghana, Dr Franklin Oduro, sharing his thoughts on the release, reiterated the fact that the remission granted the three was a “dangerous precedent”.
He did not think that the President had contravened any law in granting the remission but wondered what impact the action would have on the Judiciary and the administration of justice in the country.
“Will the action serve the national interest and augur well for our democracy? What message is being sent to a powerful institution like the Judiciary?” Dr Oduro asked.
The Founding President of IMANI, Mr Franklin Cudjoe, said given the “prevailing circumstances of upcoming elections, the President was caught between a mutating and howling gang of party activists who are on the campaign trail, getting their hands dirty for the elections and on his behalf and they have bared their teeth at him; and then the very few perceived uppity in the party who urged caution and good counsel”.
“What will you do in the face of this conundrum?” he rhetorically asked in his statement.
He said the President seemed to have balanced the act, politically and legally, well.
He expressed the hope that the three would be of good behaviour.
The Progressive People’s Party (PPP) has described the action as a sign of a weak President, writes Dominic Moses Awiah.
Three other parties — the National Democratic Congress (NDC), the All People’s Party (APC) and the Great Consolidated Popular Party (GCPP) — lauded President Mahama for showing mercy to the Montie trio.
The General Secretary of the NDC, Mr Johnson Asiedu Nketia, said there was nothing wrong with the decision to free the three, since the Constitution had given the President authority to exercise his prerogative of mercy.
“The President has acted within the remit of his powers. That is all. I don’t think it deserves the level of debate that is going on at all,” he said on Accra-based Okay FM, which was monitored by this reporter.
He explained that the remission “doesn’t mean that the beneficiaries are not guilty of anything. In fact, if they are not guilty then they don’t need mercy. Mercy is granted to somebody who is guilty”.
A statement signed by the General Secretary of the APC, Mr Razak Kojo Opoku, said the presidential remission was right, considering the level of punishment meted out to the three.
“The Judiciary used the law to convict the Montie trio without interference from the Executive and the same law has been used by the Executive, in consultation with the Council of State, to set them free,” it said.
Touching on whether or not the independence of the Judiciary had been undermined, it said the Judiciary exercised its authority under Article 127 of the 1992 Constitution and the Executive had exercised its authority under Article 72 to show mercy.
The flag bearer of the GCPP, Dr Henry Herbert Lartey, said although he was satisfied with President Mahama’s action, “I feel sad for him considering how he was cornered by his party”.
He said the President had done no wrong to have freed the Montie trio because it was his prerogative of mercy he used to remit their sentences.
In a statement, the National Secretary of the PPP, Mr Murtala Mohammed, described President Mahama as a weak leader for kowtowing to pressure from the members of his party to pardon the Montie trio.
“The President has proven weak amidst pressure from party members whose intentions are based on sentiments and emotions without looking at the interest of the state,” it said.
It also said the President’s decision “to pardon the Montie trio is in bad faith and will remain a scar on our democratic credentials”.
Source: radioxyzonline.com/ files from Graphic