The election dispute of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) has been resolved after the litigating parties opted for a mediation to have the case settled out of court.
Consequently, the terms of mediation settlement, which was agreed upon by the litigating parties on Friday July 28, 2017 were presented to the General Jurisdiction Division of the Accra High Court on Monday and the court, presided over by Mr Justice Daniel Mensah adopted the 'Consent Judgement.'
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This means that the election of new national and regional executives to run the affairs of the association for the next three years, which has stalled since March 31, 2017 can now go ahead.
Counsels for the plaintiffs, Mr Sam Wood and for the defendants, Mr Egbert Fabille Jnr informed the court about the 'Consent Judgement' on Monday morning.
The specific terms of the settlement are that, an Inter-Candidate Elections Committee (ICEC) made up of the candidates vetted and passed by the Elections Committee as well as those approved by the Elections Dispute Adjudication Committee (EDAC) of the GJA is to be established to organise the elections.
The ICEC is to discuss the road map and modalities necessary for the smooth conduct of the elections and in addition all candidates are to be given certified copies of the Roll of Voters as well as commit to ensure trust and fairness.
In line with that, the Chairman of the GJA Election Committee, Mr Ben B. Assorow, is therefore to convey a meeting of the ICEC and the EC on Tuesday, August 1, 2017 at 12 noon at the Ghana International Press Centre to discuss the election timetable and other matters.
Again, upon the mediation meetings with Mr Austin A. Gamey, as the Sole Mediator, the parties decided that nominations are closed for the purpose of the elections and that all the plaintiffs who had been passed by the EDAC are qualified to stand for the election together with those already vetted and approved by the EC.
Other terms of the settlement are that all candidates are entitled to have polling agents at all polling centres, all candidates are entitled to have agents at the collation centres, a definite number of agents at all the polling and collation centres for each candidate, collation centre must be determined in consultation with all the parties and there must be transparent and open channels of communication before, during and after the elections.
The parties agreed to live in harmony and to give mutual respect, trust and recognition to either party.
Why the court action?
Following an earlier disqualification of some candidates, including Lloyd Evans and Mathew Mac Kwame, in the upcoming association election, they petitioned the Elections Dispute Adjudication Committee (EDAC) of the GJA but because of the short period to hear their petitions, the election was postponed indefinitely from March 31, 2017 at the request of the EDAC.
After hearing the petitions, the EDAC said, "Candidates who were disqualified from contesting the election on the basis other than (i) not being members or (ii) whose membership was below three years should be given the opportunity to contest the elections".
That meant that Mr Evans and Mr Mac Kwame were to be given the opportunity to contest.
Before the postponement, all aspirants had been vetted, however on Monday, May 15, 2017, the Election Committee issued a statement and announced that it was re-opening nominations for all prospective candidates.
The plaintiffs contended that the move was “unconstitutional” since the EDAC whose pronouncement, according to the GJA constitution was final, did not say the process should start afresh but said it should continue.
They argued that the manner the Election Committee was handling affairs was problematic and, therefore, decided to challenge the decision to re-open nominations after the EDAC had pronounced that the process should continue.
The plaintiffs explained they went to court after several letters sent to the Election Committee to rescind the decision to re-open nominations had been ignored.
They said they were yet to receive a response to any of their letters to the Election Committee and therefore sought a court order to assert their rights Under the GJA constitution.
The presiding judge, Mr Justice Daniel Mensah at the court's sitting on July 13 recommended an out of court settlement, a similar move which had unsuccessfully been initiated by some senior members of the GJA before the matter went to court.
However, on Wednesday July 26, 2017, the litigating parties prayed the court to be allowed to settle the matter through the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism of mediation, and the court granted the request to have Mr Austin A. Gamey to serve as the Sole Mediator.
Upon mediation meetings, which the parties had with the appointed Mediator, they agreed to settle the dispute after concessions from both sides.
During the meetings, counsel for the defendants, Mr Egbert Fabille Jnr acknowledged that if the Election Committee had responded to the letters from the plaintiffs when they raised issues with the re-opening of the nominations after the EDAC recommendations, the matter would not have ended up in court.
He therefore apologised for that as well as acknowledge that the re-opening of nominations was unlawful.
Both parties agreed and made concessions for peace to prevail in the GJA.
The resolution agreement was signed by Mr Affail Monney on behalf of the defendants and Mr Lloyd Evans on behalf of the plaintiffs. The lawyers for both sides witnessed.