The Roland Affail Monney led Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) has been accused once again of subtle moves aimed at manipulating the upcoming association elections.
In a press statement issued and signed on Monday by four candidates contesting the upcoming elections, they expressed concern about “certain worrying developments that have the tendency to undermine the elections.”
“We have been compelled to blow the whistle now in order to thwart any diabolical attempt to subvert the sovereign will of GJA members at the polls,” the statement signed by Kofi Yeboah, aspiring General Secretary, Vance Azu, aspiring Organising Secretary, Francis Kokutse, aspiring Vice President and Lloyd Evans, aspiring President said.
According to them, some actions and inactions of the GJA Election Committee (EC) have raised concerns about “trust in, and the credibility of, the electoral processes.”
To them, the EC has given a stamp to a calculated plan by the GJA President, Mr Roland Affail Monney to ambush the Inter Candidate Election Committee (ICEC) meeting and upstage its decisions.
“If that is not the case, then what is the interest of the EC in responding to issues pursued by the GJA President with alacrity but to others with sluggishness?”, they questioned.
According to them, the EC has issued a press statement giving a 10-day window of opportunity to members who have not paid their dues up to 31st December, 2016 to clear their arrears and be included in the voters register but the window of opportunity is NOT opened to newly registered members.
“However, we have received credible information on a grand plot by some candidates to register new members with the criminal intention of smuggling them into the voters register.”
“We know that a drowning man will always clutch to a straw for survival. But while pledging our full commitment to the ICEC process, we wish to serve clear notice to the ‘axis of evil’ engaged in such diabolical plots that, we will fiercely and fearlessly resist any attempt to subvert the sovereign will of the GJA electorate,” the statement said.
The four aspirants called on GJA members to be vigilant in the run-up to the elections to ensure that fraud does not infest the GJA elections.
Below is a copy of the full press release issued by the four candidates
WORRYING DEVELOPMENTS AHEAD OF GJA ELECTIONS
We, the undersigned bona fide members of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) and candidates in the 2017 GJA national elections, wish to bring to the attention of members of the Association and the general public certain worrying developments that have the tendency to undermine the elections.
We have been compelled to blow the whistle now in order to thwart any diabolical attempt to subvert the sovereign will of GJA members at the polls.
Following the decision by the GJA Elections Committee (EC) to re-open nominations for the elections, which decision was incongruous with the recommendations of the Election Dispute Adjudication Committee (EDAC) on petitions filed by some candidates against their disqualification by the EC, and after the EC had treated our letters of protest against the re-opening of nominations with contempt, we had good cause to proceed to court to seek redress.
However, in the course of proceedings at the Accra High Court (General Jurisdiction), and after Counsel for the defendants (GJA National Executives and EC members) had proposed an out-of-court settlement through arbitration, we accepted same in good faith and in the interest of the GJA.
At the arbitration, which was mediated by Austin Gamey, we made a lot of concessions, again in good faith and in the interest of the GJA. It must be quickly added that, we were comforted by two significant interventions made by Counsel for the defendants: that, the failure of the EC to respond to our letters was not apropos, and that, it was legally wrong for the EC to re-open nominations.
Having mounted our legal action on the grounds of these two issues, we felt vindicated and comforted by those admissions.
The consensus reached at the arbitration formed the basis of a consent judgment given by the court to pave the way for dialogue going forward. One of the key terms of agreement in the consent judgment is the establishment of an ‘Inter-Candidate Election Committee (ICEC) to discuss the roadmap for the conduct of the elections.
The ICEC is akin to the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) and its decisions are to be based on consensus.
Since the arbitration, there have been five ICEC meetings held at the Ghana International Press Centre (GIPC) on August 1, August 10, August 15, August 22, and August 29, 2017. We wish to indicate that some actions and inactions of the EC have raised concerns about trust in, and the credibility of, the electoral processes. A few of the questionable actions and inactions of the EC articulated hereunder may suffice:
Given the fact that the voters register, which contains the list of members in good standing, is the only major outstanding issue that needs redress, we believe the issues could have been addressed promptly for the election to be held in a short time.
So when the EC Chairman indicated at the first ICEC meeting that the elections would be held in three months’ time, we disagreed and proposed September 12 or thereabout. But that date was dismissed as to short a time.
Later, the EC submitted a timetable which proposed September 29, 2017 as the date for the elections. We hope the elections will happen on that proposed date. Our hope is, however, shaken by the piecemeal manner the EC is approaching the agenda for the elections.
We suspect it is a deliberate strategy to work within the three months period the EC Chairman indicated earlier. Anytime we raised concerns about the date for the elections, the EC was quick to claim inviolable right to that function, dismissing corrective pointers that, that claim is contemptuous of the consent judgment, which underlines consensus-building as imperative in all matters.
We also want to put on record that at the first ICEC meeting held on August 1, 2017, a consensus was reached to issue a press statement to explain the outcome of the legal litigation and its implication.
The EC has not caused that press statement to be issued up to date, allowing some candidates to go about peddling falsehood in their election campaigns.
Again, at the ICEC meeting held on August 22, 2017, which discussed matters relating to members in good standing and voters register, it was agreed that a grace period be opened for members who have not paid their dues up to date to clear their arrears in order to have their names captured in the voters register. It was further agreed that there should be a cut-off point (three years before 31st December 2016) for such members to clear their arrears. Having reached consensus on these and other related matters, the meeting approved the issuing of a press statement to that effect.
Very strangely, the EC did not cause that press statement to be issued. Rather, it tabled a new press statement at the next meeting held on August 29, 2017 that substantially varied the agreement reached at the previous meeting. For instance, the EC removed the cut-off point (three years) and made the payment of arrears open-ended. That means a member who has not paid dues for 10 years can now clear the arrears and be captured in the voters register. In spite of concerns raised about the impropriety of a meeting undoing consensus reached in a previous meeting, especially so when the constitution of members in attendance at the latter meeting was entirely different from the former, the EC Chairman did not budge.
The ICEC meeting held on August 29, 2017 was the first time the GJA President [Affail Monney] personally attended the meetings. On previous occasions, he was either absent or represented.
Coincidentally, it was also the first time some regional GJA executives who are contestants in the elections attended the ICEC meeting. The ‘first timers’ promptly called for the matter to be put to vote; the EC Chairman responded to the call with alacrity, and with their numbers, the new press statement was adopted. Immediately after the meeting, the press statement was issued to the various media houses.
There could not have been a more extraordinary ICEC meeting than the last meeting.
We wish to clarify that, although the ICEC meetings, by proper interpretation of the platform, is opened to all candidates in the national and regional elections, only candidates in the national election had always been invited to the meeting since its beginning. But we found the presence of our regional colleagues at the meeting very strange, especially so when their presence resulted in a change of an already reached consensus.
Having opened the door to those regional colleagues, we believed it would be fair to extend an invitation to all regional candidates who are willing to attend the subsequent meetings to do so. As at the time of issuing this press statement (Monday), six days after the last ICEC meeting, and a day before the next meeting, our checks indicate that the EC has not extended invitation to candidates in the regions to attend the meeting. That leaves us with no other conclusion than the EC giving a stamp to a calculated plan by the GJA President to ambush the ICEC meeting and upstage its decisions. If that is not the case, then what is the interest of the EC in responding to issues pursued by the GJA President with alacrity but to others with sluggishness?
Registration of new members
After the last ICEC meeting, the EC issued a press statement giving a 10-day window of opportunity to members who have not paid their dues up to 31st December, 2016 to clear their arrears and be included in the voters register. The window of opportunity is NOT opened to newly registered members.
However, we have received credible information on a grand plot by some candidates to register new members with the criminal intention of smuggling them into the voters register. We know that a drowning man will always clutch to a straw for survival. But while pledging our full commitment to the ICEC process, we wish to serve clear notice to the ‘axis of evil’ engaged in such diabolical plots that, we will fiercely and fearlessly resist any attempt to subvert the sovereign will of the GJA electorate.
Need for vigilance
We wish to call on GJA members in particular and journalists in general, to be vigilant in the run-up to the elections. Let’s take a cue from the wise counsel of American abolitionist and liberal activist, Wendell Phillips, thus: “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty; power is ever stealing from the many to the few”. If we allow fraud to infest the GJA elections, we will forever lose our constitutional and professional mandate to fight against fraud in any realm.
Finally, we are aware that there are many members who have decided not to pay dues because of the manner the GJA has been rendered unattractive. This is an opportune time to correct the wrongs and heal the ills of the Association. We, therefore, urge all such members to regularise their membership status by clearing their arrears in order to be vested with the power to clear the system!
1. Lloyd Evans (Aspiring President)
2. Francis Kokutse (Aspiring Vice President)
3. Kofi Yeboah (Aspiring General Secretary)
4. Vance Azu (Aspiring Organising Secretary)