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Rawlings asks for ‘community vigilantism’ to fight insanitary conditions

BY: Edmund Smith-Asante
Former President Jerry John Rawlings
Former President Jerry John Rawlings

Former President Jerry John Rawlings has recommended community vigilantism to deal with the insanitary canker that has engulfed the nation.

“No one supports people parading as vigilantes. However, the need for responsible citizen vigilantes to protect the environment is an absolute necessity; an absolute must, especially against the random and persistent dumping of refuse along roadsides.

“There is no reason why such vigilantes cannot be mobilised to play a responsible supportive role to the security agencies,” he said, adding that even before the security agencies get there, citizens should have disciplined the errant community members.

Speaking as a special guest at the 12th edition of the Jospong and Zoomlion Group’s annual thanksgiving service to end the year on Friday, the former President said the issue of sanitation was no more about education which had gone on for a while, since there were now many universities educating Ghanaians.

The special service which attracted Ministers of State as well as Members of Parliament and the clergy, was on the theme; “The Lord has done great things for us.”

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He said “as we go into the New Yea,r every Ghanaian must commit to keep the environment clean by employing good disposal habits, serving as good citizens by policing our community and standing up to errant ones who refuse to adhere to basic sanitary behaviour.

Calling for a social sense of responsibility in managing the insanitary conditions, the former President said; “This kind of behavior takes us very close to the edge of tension and anger.

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Sanitary inspectors

Former President Rawlings reminisced what pertained years ago during the time of the sanitary inspectors referred to as ‘Tankas’ [Town Council] who hurled people to court for failing to keep their surroundings clean.

Then “traditional leaders also played their role. The social sense of responsibility of our communities was so high. If we misbehaved, the king, the queen mothers and the elders could discipline you.”

“In those days, people didn’t defecate along the beaches and all over the place, people didn’t piss left and right. But I guess as soon as we won independence and we were in a hurry to probably make the presence of the state felt and we had to establish arms of the courts around the country and policemen; so with that it is like our chiefs, opinion leaders have now lost that traditional power they had to talk to us and hold us socially responsible because the government is there to do it,” he said.

Sanitation Ministry

Lauding President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo for setting up a ministry responsible for sanitation, Mr Rawlings said “The opening up of waste management operations to other businesses will in the medium to long-term create a more efficient and effective waste management climate in the country.”

He, however, said there was something he would have done in addition, which he knew would have made people unhappy but he would have still gone ahead and done it because no one had “the right to do some of the things we do when it comes to the issue of the environment and refuse disposal.

“It is uncivilised for us to continue the way we are going. No matter how successful or how many Jospongs and how many others would be brought on board, if we cannot dump our refuse responsibly in a place that is carved out for it they cannot help us clean this environment. No number of ministries that will be established will help us live in a very civilised manner,” he stated.

The former President said, “What is worse is that our irresponsibility on a global scale is leading to global warming.”

He said from 1.5 degrees global warming was headed for three degrees.

Jospong commended

He, also, commended the Jospong Group of Companies for its integrated waste management solutions and the employment of over 200,000 Ghanaians, the introduction of the 'borla' taxi, the establishment of a waste treatment plant and for bringing an end to “Lavender Hill”.

“I remember someone saying oh he was just a kiosk man. When just a kiosk man can do things like this you have to respect it,” he said.

“God has given him some talents and I am grateful that we have such people. He picked on the worst kind of job in this country and has almost made a success of it.”

He explained that Mr Joseph Siaw Agyepong, CEO of Jospong had almost made a success of managing waste because “we haven’t quite cleared the refuse in the environment. Nothing portends how civilised or uncivilized a human community is or can be if you are not handling the refuse collection responsibly.

“We would have been much worse if people like him were not playing the role he has played so far,” he said.

He said hitherto he got angry at the mention of the name of Zoomlion asking how many people would do that kind of demeaning sanitary job “because I heard that a huge percentage of district assemblies’ budget had been carved out to them alone and there were no competitors. And I thought some of that money could have been carved out to other private entrepreneurs to ensure that there was competition.”