Justice Kwesi Anin-Yeboah
The Minority Caucus in Parliament has described the invitation of Dr Dominic Ayine by the Disciplinary Committee of the General Legal Council (GLC) as an attack on free speech and on Parliament.
Dr Ayine was invited by the disciplinary committee based on a request by the Chief Justice for the GLC to investigate some alleged statements made by Dr Ayine.
Dr Ayine, who is the Member of Parliament (MP) for Bolgatanga East, is alleged to have made the statements at a panel discussion hosted by a civil society organisation, Centre for Democratic Development (CDD), on the theme: “Presidential election petitions and their impact on Africa’s democracy.
Addressing the media, the Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, said that action was an affront to democratic and academic freedom.
“This invitation is also seen to be an attack on freedom of expression and deepens the growing concern about the culture of silence, which is gradually lingering its ugly head in our democratic dispensation,” Mr Iddrisu stated.
He said Dr Ayine’s comments must be appreciated as a matter within the public interest and a comment seeking to improve the democracy and the functioning of state institutions.
Duty to speak
Mr Iddrisu noted that Dr Ayine was speaking as a Member of Parliament and Chairman of the Subsidiary Legislation Committee of Parliament and not only as a Lawyer at the forum.
“He has a duty and responsibility as a Member of Parliament and Chairman of the Subsidiary Legislation Committee of Parliament to speak to the public on matters of public interest as he did at the forum of the presidential election petitions and their impact on African’s democracy.
Demonstration of intolerance
He said the Minority had in recent times noticed the demonstration of intolerance by the Chief Justice.
“We note with regret that the Chief Justice is on record in recent times to have demonstrated his intolerance for dissenting views, particularly those emanating from Minority Members of Parliament. Not long ago, Mr Rockson-Nelson K. Etse Dafeamekpor, the NDC MP for South Dayi, received a similar invitation to appear before the disciplinary committee of the GLC.
“We are also aware of invitations to other members of the National Democratic Congress in the very recent past for statements which allegedly criticised some decisions of the Supreme Court. It must be observed that this is the first time that any Chief Justice in Ghana is descending into a pure matter of discourse to prevent a Member of Parliament and lawyer from freely expressing his right to free speech in a matter not pending in court but a judgment of the Supreme Court,” he stated.
Free to critique after ruling
He said it was trite knowledge that practitioners are restrained from commenting or making any prejudicial statements relating to pending matters before the courts but they are free to critique the judgments after delivery.
“The fact that Dr Ayine appeared before the court for contempt and was cautioned is no bar for him to hold opinions and to express them after the Presidential Elections Petition case had been decided. The judgment was now in the public domain for scrutiny,” he explained.
He said the minority was therefore calling on the Chief Justice to reconsider his request to the disciplinary committee of the GLC to investigate the alleged statements made by Dr Ayine in the interest of peace, national cohesion and to safeguard the country’s democracy.