Friday, 13 January 2012

Incorporate Lessons From Report Of The National Reconciliation Commission In Training Of Security Services PersonnelNow!

If true, then the shocking and totally unacceptable story of the apparent assaulting of journalists from the Daily Guide - amongst them, Ms Gifty Lawson, a photo-journalist - by individuals alleged to be officers of the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), is yet another example of the urgent need to incorporate lessons learnt from the sittings of the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC), into the training courses of all our security agencies.

It is typical of the perfidious Kufuor & Co that when they received the NRC's report, no such thing was thought of - because the sittings were meant to serve a political purpose: embarrass ex-President Rawlings and his closest associates over the years - such as Kojo Tsikata and Tsatsu Tsikata.

Naturally, those of us who recommended that that ought to be done, were simply ignored - because we were not regime praise-singers. But, clearly, the time has now come for the security services, to incorporate lessons from the report of the NRC, into the training of all their personnel.

For years, since the overthrow of Nkrumah in 1966, a culture of illegality has evolved in our secret services - reaching its apogee in the dark-days-of-impunity, during the tenure of the perfidious Kufuor & Co.

Amongst their many sins, were: the psychological torture of innocents; illegal detentions; the entrapment-of-innocents by agent provocateurs - an example being Victor Smith's entrapment and subsequent trial for allegedly threatening to kill Kweku Baako and Margeret Amoakohene; and, today, the tapping of phones and hacking into emails.

It must cease forthwith - for they are all building blocks for a future tyranny.

Let Mr. Yaw Donkor make the implementation of the same kinds of reforms that the UK's secret services have made to ensure that their agents always act within the law - except when terrorism is involved - his goal and preferred legacy.

In our democracy, the secret services must always seek approval from judges, in the law courts, before detaining people, tapping phones and hacking email accounts.

Above all, they must understand that they are not undercover wings of ruling parties - and that critics of our rulers are neither traitors nor subversionists. Period.

I am no fan of the Daily Guide - indeed only yesterday I was castigating them in a blog posting - but it is a newspaper, and in our democracy, the media plays a watchdog role for society. So I sympathise with them in this particular instance.

Individual journalists - no matter how unprofessional their work might be, incidentally - in a sense embody the right to freedom of expression of all Ghanaians in our democracy.

The alleged assault on Ms. Gifty Lawson, and her subsequent detention, amount to an assault on freedom of expression in Ghana, and an attempt to suppress our right to free speech, no less - and that cannot be tolerated in our democracy.

If all the facts in the story now in the public domain, are true, then the Daily Guide must head straight for court - and sue the BNI: and hopefully get the law courts to order it to pay a huge sum in compensation to Ms. Gifty Lawson.

It is time someone brought such a case before the law courts, so that a definitive judgement can be delivered, which clearly sets the boundaries, beyond which personnel of the security services, cannot, and must not cross, in their daily interactions with the civilian population.

Why brandish weapons in the grounds of the law courts - in arresting a fragile and unarmed female journalist, I ask? If true, then that was totally wrong - and highly irresponsible. And all the officers involved must be disciplined.

Individuals who serve in the security services of today, must understand clearly, that we no longer live under the jack-boots of tyrants in uniform who wield unfettered power.

The highly intelligent and well-spoken director of the BNI, Mr. Yaw Donkor, must ensure that all the officers under him understand perfectly that they are employed by Ghanaian taxpayers, to serve them - not brutalise Ghanaian citizens and their kith and kin with impunity.

He must recommend to his superiors that the lessons from the sittings of the NRC, contained in its final report, are incorporated into the training of all those whose work it is to secure the safety of the general public, and that of the Republic of Ghana.

That will finally ensure that in our democracy, the personnel of the security services, always treat the civilian population with respect, tolerance and understanding. A word to the wise...

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