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Court cautions against use of foul language in election petition hearing

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

Tsatsu Tsikata

The Supreme Court has cautioned against the use of foul language in the hearing of the election petition.

The court said this after counsel for the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Mr Tsatsu Tsikata described Dr Mahamudu  Bawumia as a dishonest witness.

Mr Tsikata had wanted Dr Bawumia to identify a polling station outside the 11,832 to which counsel for the petitioners, Mr Philip Addison objected.

“We are not going to identify any polling station”, Mr Addison said and explained that the court had already ruled on that.

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Mr Tsikata then put it to Dr Bawumia that he deliberately chose to ignore irregularities in NPP strongholds.

“This obvious disparity in your attempt to annul votes that were in favour of the President as against votes in favour of your presidential candidate is because you chose to ignore similar practices in areas where the first petitioner had more votes than John Mahama”.

But Dr Bawumia said where irregularities occurred, some were won by the first respondent and some were won by the first petitioner.

“I am putting it to you that if you were honest in examining the 24,000 polling stations that you claimed you examined, you would have found numerous instances of practices that you are now claiming are malpractices”, Mr Tsikata said.

Counsel for the witness objected to the use of the word dishonest and accused Mr Tsikata of playing to the gallery.

“My lords, I don’t know why counsel can’t ask questions without using words like honesty and so on. It’s quite surprising coming from him talking about honesty. Really! This kind of words that he’s been using playing to the gallery, we have said that we do not want to reply in kind. He should choose his words carefully. There was no need to address the witness as being dishonest”, Addison said.

At this point, President of Panel, Justice William Atuguba urged all to try to be impersonal and professional in the matter and civil too.

Mr Addison said the petitioners have raised several times the issue about words counsel for the third respondent have been using and there has not been any pronouncement from the court and he keeps doing it.

Justice Atuguba intervened and said the penultimate issue arriving out of the matter was when Mr Tsikata used “shut up” and Addison in one breath used “if my learned friend is running out of questions he should sit down”.

“We didn’t comment and he also used some other expression in reply”

Justice Atuguba said the mudslinging was even and that there should be no generation of it “whether manually or electronically”.

He asked Mr Tsikata to proceed but Mr Tsikata chose to refer to Section 82 of the Evidence Decree that dealt with matters of relevance to the determination of credibility of the witness including the demeanor of the witness, substance of the testimony, the existence and non-existence of facts testified to by witness and capacity and opportunity of witness to perceive, recollect or relate to any matter about which he testifies.

Justice Atuguba said he found it difficult to follow the “battle” Tsatsu was still fighting and served notice that from now on, anybody who used language that was not civil or becoming of the profession, “we will insist that the person withdraws”.

Later on Mr Tsikata suggested to Dr Bawunia that the basis of his analysis was on his personal view of becoming a Vice President but Dr Bawumia said that was wrong.

He said it was not a personal interest but a fight for elections that had integrity.

“The elections conducted by the second respondent had been shown not to have a lot of integrity and if you give more time and we have more pink sheets, maybe you will become a co-petitioner against the first respondent”, Bawumia said.

Justice Atuguba intervened and warned that Bawumia should understand and take note of the warning the court issued about usage of language that was not civil.

Wednesday May 8 marked Day 13 of the hearing of the case and also marked the sixth day Mr Tsikata was cross examining Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, the star witness of the petitioners.

The court later adjourned sitting to Thursday May 9, 2013 for hearing to continue.

The petitioners, Nana Addo Dankwa Akuo Addo, presidential candidate of the NPP, his running mate, Dr Mahamudu Bawaumia and Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, Chairman of the NPP are challenging President John Mahama’s declaration as winner of the December 2012 elections.

Story: Enoch Darfah Frimpong/Graphic.com.gh