President John Mahama has in a rather audacious response to those claiming that he pardoned the Montie FM trio due to their affiliation to the ruling party, noted that, he would have exercised that power even if the men were not sympathisers of the party.
The President, who was speaking for the first time since the controversial decision, told the Host of Metro TV’s Good Evening Ghana, Paul Adom-Otchere, that he acted in the interest of Ghana and in line with the Constitution.
“I think that the overriding consideration must be that, all arms of government must act constitutionally and I swore an oath on the 7th of January 2013 to abide by the Constitution and so every action I take must be in consonant with the Constitutional provisions. The young men were called before the Supreme Court for scandalizing the court and even before they were called before the court, they had shown remorse; they had apologized for what they said and before the court they apologized again.”
“When they were sentenced in mitigation they asked for mercy; apologized and retracted everything they said. And even after they were sentenced and left the court and went to prison; they still in written and verbal form expressed absolute regret for what they did. I don’t know what benefit it would have been to anybody the three extra months they would have served in prison; I don’t know.”
Montie trio are still ex-convicts – Mahama
The President also noted that the three remain ex-convicts, except that their sentence was reduced.
“They remain convicted, they paid Ghc30, 000 in fines and that money is in the state coffers. But what I did was that, instead of letting them spend four months in prison, they spent one month in prison. Indeed if you look at the conviction and the sentencing, the general consensus was that, four months was quite a harsh punishment to have been imposed for that kind of crime. And so I believe that I acted constitutionally and it was in the interest of Ghana.”
Salifu Maase, alias Mugabe, Host of the pro-government radio station’s political show Pampamso, and the two panelists, Alistair Nelson and Godwin Ako Gunn, were jailed four months in July and fined Ghc10, 000 each, after the Supreme Court found them guilty of contempt.
The owners also paid fines in excess of Ghc60, 000.
The men had on the said radio programme issued death threats to the justices of the Court over their handling of a lawsuit that was questioning the credibility of Ghana’s voters’ register ahead of elections in December.
But on August 26, the men walked out after spending only a month. This was made possible when the President exercised his prerogative of mercy under Article 72, and remitted their sentence.
This was after the lawyers of the three as well as members of the NDC and government officials, had made the request through a petition.
Generally, the critics believe the President only bowed to pressure in the interest of his party considering the upcoming elections, and not in the larger national interest.
However, when he was asked on Good Evening Ghana if he would have exercised that power if the three were not members of the NDC, the President responded; “absolutely”.
Pushing further, the Host, Paul Adom Otchere, asked the President if he would have pardoned his [Paul’s] younger brother who found himself in a similar contempt case at Asankragua; and this was his response; “It depends on the grounds. I mean if your younger brother went a raped a girl and you come with a petition asking me to mitigate the sentence, I most probably wouldn’t.
He explained that, “For the spoken word; you are a journalist and I am a journalist; and you can find yourself in the same situation. All of us must walk that fine line of being careful about what we say. But there are times when journalists have found themselves in this situation. Haruna Atta, Kweku Baako is one such case; these things happen; and that’s why the Constitution created escape valve.”
My decision wasn’t arbitrary – Mahama
The President noted that, he had acted not in isolation, but with inputs from the Council of State as recommended by the Constitution.
“Our Constitution is that of checks and balances; so you have the Parliament checking the powers of the President, you have the Supreme Court as the arbiter. And the Constitution drafters put in the prerogative of mercy, for the circumstances where even though a conviction may be right, there must be some exonerating power that is able to say that; yes you were convicted properly but we are able to grant you this remission based on certain factors. It must not be arbitrary; and that’s why there again; they say it must be in consultation with the Council of State. The Council of State is an elderly body; it’s a body above the President; some of the members are elected; others have served in very important positions in their lives and so it says the President must consult the council. And so even though they give the President that power, again they put a check on it so that it’s not done with arbitrary discretion” Mr. Mahama explained.