The Chief Justice, Georgina Wood, yesterday launched the 3rd Edition of the manual on election adjudication in Ghana amidst power outage (popularly called dumsor).
The auditorium of the Accra International Conference Centre, venue of the event, was thrown into darkness, following an unexpected power cut that lasted for the entire period of the programme.
Strangely, there was no fuel in the standby generator to help the situation.
The organizers of the event were compelled to improvise with the torch lights of their mobile telephones, to reduce the darkness.
The lights went off five minutes into the programme, with the British High Commissioner to Ghana, John Benjamin; the Attorney General, Marietta Brew Appiah-Opong; the Chairperson of Ghana’s Electoral Commission (EC), Charlotte Osei and the Judicial Secretary, Justice Alex Poku-Acheampong, among other dignitaries, in attendance.
The election adjudication manual contains steps and processes to ensure a smooth adjudication of electoral cases in the event of any electoral dispute surfacing.
The 512-page manual sets clear guidelines for judges and lawyers to follow for the speedy adjudication of electoral disputes.
Speaking at the ceremony, the British High Commissioner, Mr Jon Benjamin, disclosed that his Government would pay for the printing of 6,000 copies of the document, which would be distributed to all election stakeholders.
According to him, the UK Department For International Development (DFID), had been working with a wide range of Ghanaian partners, including the EC, Ghana Police Service and civil society over the last eight months to develop a programme aimed at supporting successful elections on December 7.
“One key part of this includes over GH¢1 million worth of support to the Judicial Service,” he said.
There are three strands to this support, he said, adding that “the first strand is to provide a standardised manual on the resolution of election-related disputes by the Judicial Service of Ghana. We are paying for
6,000 copies of the manual.”
He noted that “the second strand is to provide some specific, tailored training so that electoral disputes can be resolved expeditiously.”
The third strand, Mr. Benjamin said, “will look at reforms for election adjudication. The Supreme Court will have a high level retreat to discuss the lessons learnt from the adjudication of the 2012 presidential election petition.”
This, he asserted, “will afford the other members of the court who were not empanelled during the 2013 petition, as well as other stakeholders, to discuss the Supreme Court Rules, administrative lapses and other reforms that are required to make the Judicial Service better prepared for any such petition – should it occur during the 2016 presidential election,” he added.
He indicated that about 250 judges would be trained in election adjudication, and 60 registrars, private bailiffs and court staff would be trained in their own supporting roles too.
“Ghanaian citizens know that free and fair elections require the rule of law to prevail if the intent of the voters is to be accurately reflected.
“They look to the Judiciary to take action when there is an interference with this basic principle. When the fairness of elections is called into question, we need an effective process of complaints adjudication to sift the facts and determine whether proper election procedures were followed, as prescribed in laws and regulations.
“Respect for the law and the constitutional process is vital. Likewise, the Electoral Commission must be independent, unfaltering in its administration of the process, swift and resolute in dealing with political intimidation, and open to listening and responding to legitimate concerns voiced by political parties, the media and the public.
“The whole purpose of this support is to help you, the Judiciary, to do this critically important job effectively to equip and enable you to serve as an impartial last arbiter in election disputes,“ Mr Benjamin underscored.
He continued, “We therefore, call on all of Ghana’s political actors to promote peace and to respect Ghana’s electoral and constitutional processes.
“All political parties should strongly urge their activists and supporters to refrain from, and indeed actively condemn any violence, incitement or intimidation which only serves to undermine democracy.”
Similarly, he said, political parties should hold their own members, who undertake such activities, to account.
“Aside from our support to Ghana’s Judicial Service, we are providing assistance to the Electoral Commission, civil society, the Ghana police and the media.
“All of this support is designed to ensure a strong process that provides a level-playing field where all candidates have a fair chance to make their case for election, and those who the majority of voters choose are the ones that end up in office.”
Source: Daily Guide