In less than twenty-five months, Parliament has conducted vetting and approved twelve, including five women and a Chief Justice, to the Supreme Court of Ghana.
Earlier in 2017 and later after the creation of the six new regions, it did a similar job approving an historic and bizarre one hundred and over a double-dozen ministers and their deputies for this small ‘poor’ country.
Apart from candidates for Attorney-General, there are no specific skills set or academic qualifications for the ministerial jobs. One must however be an MP or be qualified to be elected an MP.
But to be an MP you satisfy conditions in article 94 of the Constitution including tax compliance and not having been convicted for crimes involving fraud, dishonesty, and moral turpitude (i.e. an act or behavior that gravely violates the sentiment or accepted standard of the community).
All the over 125 nominees passed the job interview and that is always expected, however strangely. But today’s article is about vetting judges. Their job, as once observed by a Chief Justice, is more like take the role of God on earth as some may have done in the Bible.
The central qualification to be a judge, according to the Constitution, is to be “a person of high moral character and proven integrity”. A judge swears an oath to keep fidelity to the law and dispense justice to all manner of persons without fear or favour, ill-will or affection.
The question is, do our MPs do anything close to assuring us, the people they approve, in fact, pass the moral character and proven integrity tests? In the recent exercises, it is undoubted that most of the judge candidates have known proven track records while some may even be overqualified.
But how many of the MPs demonstrated a search for a vetting to benefit the country? Why must it take only opposition MPs to ask searching questions, and where their probing give citizens a sense of someone who may not be fit for the sacred job of a judge, they still get approved?
Younger people follow the vetting and may go away with the thinking our society does not abhor let alone punish those who do not keep to clear standards and ethics. They may go away getting affirmation that this is not a society of meritocracy.
The MPs who sit in those vetting sessions shouting the praise of nominees do so without a sense of embarrassment, and that’s a sad reflection of our society. Judges are public office holders but are hardly in the public eye and thought not to be subject to the rules of public accountability.
I have spoken and written many times in defence of judges and the judiciary especially when they have come under vile attacks by wicked partisans and ignoramuses.
But I am not unaware of the problems highlighted by Anas Aremeyaw Anas exposing judges who breached their oath and code of conduct with impunity. The judge selection process has improved a bit with advertisements requesting members of the public to object to candidates.
Yet our MPs have an even greater duty to ensure the greater transparency expected in the process for those nominated to serve in the Supreme Court. Remember a single indiscretion or act of travesty of justice of one judge can plunge this country many years back in its democratic journey.
Samson Lardy ANYENINI
May 30, 2020