Kweku Paintsil criticizes GBA for failing to defend interest of lawyers over lockdown snub
An Accra based legal practitioner, Mr Kweku Paintsil, has criticized the Ghana Bar Association (GBA), for failing to defend the interest of lawyers when the government decided not to include them on the list of workers who are permitted to work during the lockdown period.
He is equally unhappy with the apparent attempt by the Chief Justice to interpret President Akufo-Addo’s speech on the lockdown directives. “Consequently, I find as most unfortunate the CJs directive which in one breath sought to create 28 special courts to deal with lockdown- related matters whiles at the same time seeking to interpret the President’s speech to exclude lawyers from the category of exempted persons who could boldly come out in defence of Justice itself,” he said in a statement exclusively released to The Chronicle.
The following is his full statement. The Chief Justice is the Head of the Judiciary. He speaks best for that arm of Government. Unless he presides over the Supreme Court in an active matter affecting the Bar, he does not interpret legislation to guide the Bar. The Ghana Bar, or most of us, have constituted ourselves into a Constitutionally- recognized Ghana Bar Association with a National Executive who constitute our spokespersons in or on all matters.
In the matter of the President ‘s covid address that got the country into a lockdown with exemptions, we were genuinely concerned about the omission of lawyers or the Ghana Bar Association among the groups of exempted persons or groups who could move about when, indeed, the speech found space for and exempted” VALCO workers” from the lockdown.
Be it as it may, it is illogical to conceive of functioning courts in a time of lockdown without the active participation of lawyers in the process.
Consequently, I find as most unfortunate the CJs directive which in one breath sought to create 28 special courts to deal with lockdown- related matters whiles at the same time seeking to interpret the President’s speech to exclude lawyers from the category of exempted persons who could boldly come out in defence of Justice itself.
I am even more befuddled by the complete silence or apparent satisfaction expressed by the Bar Executive by their silence over the CJ’s apparent clarification of the President’s speech.
Unless I just awoke from a Rip Van Winkle sleep, I am not sure everything is right with this state of affairs. The soldiers and the police are not funny people to deal with when you are a lawyer without a police escort. I think the lawyers’ role as watchdogs of the people’s human rights is being actively curtailed by such an interpretation delivered by the CJ. I am not happy that I have not got a clear statement made by our own Association regarding the way forward. I even consider as dangerous the complete surrender by our Association to the CJ to define our position at this crucial time in our Constitutional history.
Do we accept that there are 28 special courts created to deal with lockdown situation and that lawyers are not exempted like others to step out to assist in any way?
I have read the Constitutional history of this country and I have concluded that the role that was played by lawyers at every stage must not be allowed to be locked down at this time amidst COVID-19.
I recall a favourite statement by Dante, the Italian poet who said
” the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in moments of great moral crisis maintain their neutrality “.
End of Submission.
Kweku Y Paintsil, Esq