Thinking over recent incidents involving some Members of Parliament, I begin to wonder if all of them appreciate the weight of the ‘Honourable’ title that goes with their status.
‘Honourable’ is ranked with words such as: ethical, fair, honest, high-minded, moral, estimable, respectable and principled.
Why would a Member of Parliament make extremely damaging allegations about an unnamed Supreme Court Justice, of attempted bribery, and then ‘chicken out’ of naming and shaming the individual? When expected to name the offender, suddenly that MP decides to offer a dubious retraction and apology, but is that good enough?
Secondly, how could it be that MPs who reportedly tested positive for the COVID-19, continued to go to Parliament, putting so many others at risk? Why should the Speaker of Parliament have to threaten to expose them if they did not stay away from the House?
Question: Would those MPs be able to give their constituents guidance on the COVID-19 safety protocols?
And how is it possible that other MPs would refuse to go for the test, as was made known?
Can either behaviour and attitude described above be seen as ‘honourable’?
Anyhow, the latest development in this disturbing narrative is the announcement by the Speaker on February 9, that owing to the rising cases of the virus in the House, Parliament was taking a three-week break.
For the record, the bribery allegation was made in a Joy News TV programme by Alhaji Muntaka. He stated that ahead of the election of a Speaker on January 6, “shamefully, a Supreme Court judge called a lady colleague telling her what they will give her, if she votes for Prof Mike Oquaye.
“He told her that they will help her take care of her children. She can take fuel from a filling station for free for the next four years, he said.”
Naturally the alarming allegation generated much public discussion and deep concern in the justice system and Chief Justice Kwasi Anin Yeboah gave the assurance that it would be investigated, with Alhaji Muntaka’s assistance.
However, on February 6, the nation was astounded to learn from the headlines that Alhaji Muntaka had retracted the allegation and apologized in order to, as he put it, “let sleeping dogs lie”.
A summary of the apparently undated Muntaka press release follows:
“ALLEGATION OF CORRUPTION AGAINST A SUPREME COURT JUDGE
“RETRACTION AND APOLOGY
“I have reflected deeply and consulted broadly on the aftermath of the disclosure I made during an interview broadcast by Joy News TV on 10th January, 2021.
“The disclosure was based on a report from a trusted colleague which was that she had been approached by a Justice of the Supreme Court seeking to entice her to vote for a particular candidate during the contest for speakership of Parliament.
“Admittedly, because I did not specifically name any judge, this may have had the effect of scandalizing the judiciary in its entirety. This unintended consequence is deeply regretted.
“I therefore wish to respectfully retract same and apologise for the harm done to the image and reputation of my Lord Justices of the Supreme Court and the Judiciary as a whole.
“Based upon good counsel, I have also decided to let sleeping dogs lie and will consequently refrain from any further public commentary on the matter which, as I have indicated was originally reported to me by a female colleague Parliamentarian.
“Hon. Alhaji Mohammed-Mubarak Muntaka
“MP, Asawase & Minority Chief Whip”
Then on February 8, a Ghanaian Times report quoted Dr Dominic Ayine, the NDC Member of Parliament for Bolgatanga East and a former Deputy Attorney-General, as saying that he was one of the people who had advised Alhaji Muntaka to apologize and retract his allegation.
Even though he knew what actually happened, Dr Ayine said, “if we were making an enquiry into this and it is public enquiry, you’ll find out the two arms of government are at loggerheads and fighting each other so Alhaji Muntaka should have investigated before making the claim public.”
Of course changing one’s mind is normal and understandable. But a retraction should be as strong, definitive as the allegation being withdrawn. However, “I have decided to let sleeping dogs lie” is hardly in that league.
Dr Ayine’s statement is enlightening. So why did Muntaka go public with such a serious, unverified accusation, especially given his position? Notably, how could he not know it would lead to “scandalizing the entire judiciary”?
Evidently, this retraction is a half-hearted one and instead of calming the waters, it has generated more questions. Who is the “they’ the alleged judge was representing? Is the “disclosure from a trusted colleague” no more to be trusted? Why was that colleague not ready to tell her story herself?
Or, if the incident didn’t happen, then Alhaji Muntaka should be bold and just say he was misled. But if it happened, then he owes it to the nation to name the person for sanctions to be applied.
Also, if the incident did happen, what guarantee is there that it was only one NDC Member who was approached? Conceivably, the said judge would have had to bribe more than one MP in order to be sure of success.
Anyway, why would a Supreme Court judge feel it a critical duty to personally offer that bribe? Meaning the judge was on such familiar terms with the MP contacted?
The Muntaka allegation is too damaging to be just thrown onto the ‘let sleeping dogs lie’ heap. Therefore, I hope that the Chief Justice will carry out his decision to have this vicious allegation investigated, and as soon as possible, so that the truth will clear the innocent.
Besides, when the integrity of the Supreme Court itself is clearly at stake, once woken up, the sleeping dogs should not be allowed to go back to sleep. It cannot be as simple as that.