Mr Martin Amidu is right in asking that the MPs who are reported to have engaged in fraud with the help of their diplomatic passports should be dealt with according to law. It was unfortunate that the British High Commissioner wrote to the Speaker about the matter.
He should have reported the matter to the Foreign Ministry. In some countries he would have been declared persona non grata and sent away home. But in Ghana today anything goes. The begging mentality has made us ignore the niceties of intercourse between sovereign nations.
It is the Foreign Ministry which should take up the matter and deal resolutely with the abuse of privilege and refer any possible fraud to the police authorities. The matter calls for questioning the issue of diplomatic passports to MPs. At independence important personalities were given the appropriate facilities when they travelled on duty upon the intervention of the Ghana Diplomatic Mission if necessary.
As a diplomat I informed my hosts of such visits if necessary and met them at the airport. They were afforded all the courtesies. Later however, a few Ghanaians gave the country a bad name through involvement in the drugs trade and the normal courtesies were not easily given. Unfortunately, the matter was exploited by the negrophobists and anyone with a Ghanaian passport was suspected of involvement in some illegality. Diplomatic passports were, therefore, issued to some personalities to save them from embarrassment at airports. The time has, however come to review the practice of issuing of diplomatic passports to MPs and those not normally entitled to them and insist on the protection and courtesies of a normal passport.
Bad practices by holders of Ghanaian diplomatic passports are nothing new. When I was in the service, a minister took a woman abroad (she had been refused entry) and claimed she was his wife. She was caught in illegal activities and was dealt with appropriately. The minister involved was relieved of his post. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should see to it that such incidents are dealt with firmly and appropriately.
The good name of Ghana should be held. Foreign immigration officials should not be given the chance to ignore international norms and treat Ghanaians with disrespect. It is pertinent to note that the treatment the President asks of the holders of diplomatic passports is the same as is asked of the holders of ordinary passports. Diplomatic passport requests and requires ‘these’ (holders) in the name of the President of the Republic of Ghana and “those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let and hindrance and to afford him or her every assistance and protection of which he or she may stand in need”. It is exactly the same request which is asked of the holders of ordinary passports.
Diplomatic practice has, however, come to confer some special courtesies on their holders. This practice is not, however, extended these days to Africans and we must insist on equal treatment. The real use of diplomatic passports is that it allows the holder who has immunity from legal processes to be identified early. The police need not travel miles or make frantic telephone calls to ascertain that Mr Kofi Darku is a diplomat. The production of a diplomatic passport may save the diplomat from being handcuffed before his or her diplomatic status is ascertained.
Our high personalities should not rely on diplomatic passports to enjoy the privileges of their status. They should earn special courtesies and treatment by their positive actions. One act of indiscretion may affect all their colleagues who should therefore insist on appropriate behaviour. High personalities who go against the rules of normal behaviour should be dealt with according to normal practice and the law.
It is the only way of preserving the good name of Ghana and ensuring the normal courtesies to Ghanaians on visits to foreign lands.