THE TRUE purpose of the law, if I may answer my own question, is to create conditions under which all the members of a society may live together in peace, and if possible, in prosperity.
To achieve the purpose of enabling all members of the society to live together in peace and prosperity, it may be necessary, at times, to use methods of coercion to bring errant members of the society to their senses. Such measures of coercion are unpleasant, and that is why it is necessary to obtain as much agreement from the society on their implementation as possible. Democratic debate, followed by a majority decision, is the best way of achieving this type of agreement.
The existence of agreed coercive measures – namely laws – does not mean that they should be applied without taking account of human weaknesses. That is why the Police, although armed with powers of arrest and prosecution, try, first of all, to PREVENT crime.
That is why I was shocked when as learned a lawyer as my friend, Ace Ankomah, argued against the burning of excavators seized by the authorities at galamsey sites. The purpose to which the excavators were being put was destruction of water bodies. Such water bodies once destroyed, cannot be brought back to life speedily. So, the best way to safeguard their continued existence is to make sure that they are NOT DESTOYED to begin with. And our social reality is that bribery and corruption come into play, once such equipment is seized.
The Police, sometimes, release seized excavators to their owners, upon receiving telephone calls from “above”. Now, the public is never told who constitute the entity known as “above”. But they have a pretty good idea that “above” in this case, means “those in power and the elements in the society who can influence those in power to take action AGAINST, or to PREVENT ACTION BEING TAKEN against law-breakers. In the circumstances (and it must be understood that there never is an ideal solution to problems of this sort) preventing the harmful machines from being able to continue ravaging our water sources, is the best option.
I mean, who could have imagined that machines seized under the glare of publicity, could end up (a) being given back to their owners, or (b) in the hands of influential party hacks who would, unscrupulously, use them for the same activities as they were seized to prevent them from engaging in? Or, worst of all, that they might be sold to new law-breakers and the money pocketed by people claiming to be building a “war-chest” for the party in power?
I am afraid that is the reality under which we live in this country, and to advocate that the same lawful process under which, elsewhere in the world, the arrest, seizure and confiscation of excavators, bulldozers and changfans would take place, should apply to those seized at galamsey sites here, would be unrealistic to a dangerous degree. In other words, the Rule of Law does not work in a vacuum, but within specific spheres, with limitations peculiar to those spheres!
I think the question we must answer is this: Were the US authorities, for instance, wrong to use normally undesirable methods, to nail Al Capone and other members of the Mafia?
Look at us now – we stopped burning excavators. And what has happened? Our water authorities are shutting down water treatment plants at an alarming rate. In the next six months, we shall begin smelling water shortage (pardon the pun) at its worst!
I would like to end this piece with a note penned by Prof. Kwesi Yankah, academic, author, and professor of linguistics and oral literature, to our mutual friend, Ace Ankomah.
QUOTE: Dear Ace Ankomah, the Birim River is gone!
Dear Ace… you and I have one thing in common: Akim Akyiase, where you come from and where I did a year of my basic education…
… I derive part of my schooling from Akim Ehyiamu, Akim Achiase, Akim Osenase. Today, our Birim River, and the pride of my Akim colleagues, is gone. And oh! That is home of the President himself, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the great Akim-born and his great ancestry…
“The Birim River is gone, suffering a terminal paralysis. Lost to galamsey. So then, what happens to the great appellation of the Akim people: ‘Akyemkwaa an onom Birem’? [The proud Akim born those drinks of the great Birem River?]
Today the river is gone. My Dear Ace Ankomah, you are gone. It is a virtual declaration of your non-existence.
The rivers have been part of our defining features as a nation, our cultural and natural heritage, apart from the huge economic benefits derived. They are sites that have nurtured our great statesmen – the Ofori Attas. They were all Akim Akyemkwaa that derived pride and sustenance from Birim. But Where Is Birim?
The Ankobra River is gone too. Amputated by Galamsey. The river that nurtured Osagyefo himself…. Rivers of Nkroful, Nkrumah’s birthplace, is currently flooded with galamsey! And the Ayensu River. We boasted of you. Even in times of drought, you Ayensu overflowed your banks. The Volta is not gone; but Pra is at the precipice, raped and dripping in blood; ravaged beyond parental recognition…
These great landmarks of our history and heritage are under attack. The sovereign nation, Ghana, is currently under attack from a merciless terrorist within. This is not the time for business as usual, please. If our collective heritage is terminated, so are we as a nation.
Wanted is the declaration of a state of emergency by the President, to defend our sovereignty as a nation!”
BY CAMERON DUODU