Mr Speaker, that was unconscion- able. It was introduced in this House and the then Majority side was hilarious that it should be introduced. What it meant was that the President could sit in the comfort of his bedroom, formulate any law, append his signature to it and then it would become law in this country. That was the implication. We had an Attorney- General come to this House and make that proposal in this 4th Republic and the Majority side then was hilarious in their applause of this devilish intention.
Mr Speaker, I must be bold on this. This House debated this for two continuous days and the majority was a sizeable one but the country was saved by the intervention of just one person. That was Hon Alban Bagbin who had been a former Hon Majority Leader. He had exited to the Ministry and when he returned, he chided his Majority side that, that was wrong and that was what saved this House.
Otherwise, today, in this Republic, we would have allowed the President to sit in the comfort of his bedroom, formulate laws and append his signature to them and this nation would have had to adhere to a law formulated by the President in his
bedroom and assented to by the same person. What kind of attitude do we, as Hon Members of Parliament have? Should anything from the Executive be applauded?
Mr Speaker, the role of Parliament in creating dictators is something that the letter Dr J. B. Danquah wrote to Dr Kwame Nkrumah should agitate our conscience.
Ghana had just been born at the time and Dr J.B. Danquah; one of the Big Six who had helped in no small measure, in giving birth to Ghana, soon thereafter was incarcerated and he begged to be released to contribute his quota to the building of the “infant Republic”. That cry went unheeded.
Mr Speaker, in the letter, Dr J.B. Danquah related to what he and Dr Kwame Nkrumah suffered when they were arrested by the British colonialists and he drew attention to the fact that when they were arrested, they were accommodated in three bedroom houses. They were given the opportunity to write letters, to read newspapers and so on, but here, after independence, his own black colleague arrested him, put him in jail and he was denied space to write a letter to his wife. That is the height of man's inhumanity to man. That was the lot of the post-independence leaders, not only in Ghana but across the length and breadth of Africa.
Dr J. B. Danquah went to prison, died in a condemned cells and arising out of all these, the Constitutions that we have had thereafter now guarantee rights and freedoms informed by what happened in the First Republic, Ghana has grown wiser. That is why Parliament should assist in expanding the frontiers of human rights and that is why reclining backwards, I said that the disaster that was to be introduced in this House by the then Hon Minister for Justice and Attorney-General was averted by the intervention of just one person.
Mr Speaker, the rest of us in the Minority had spoken against this and yet our Hon Colleagues in the Majority then would not listen. I say that this nation should count ourselves lucky when Hon Bagbin came to this House after listening to the debate, he said; no, dear friends and brothers in the Majority, on this occasion, I think we are wrong. That is what saved the day for this country.
So today, the right to life is guaranteed by the 1992 Constitution in article 13(1). Today, the personal liberties of individuals are guaranteed under article 14(1) of our Constitution and a person arrested, restricted or detained shall be charged. If he is not, he shall be released within 48 hours
according to article 14(2). All these are informed by what happened in the First Republic just because one person wanted to dominate the Republic and the entire nation, including the representatives of the people in Parliament who submitted wholly to the dictates of one person. This country should say never again.
Mr Speaker, that is not to say that former President Nkrumah did not do anything for this country. He did tremendously well in the development agenda of this country but his human records are appalling. As a nation, we should rise up in unison to that.
Today, if a person is arrested, restricted or detained and not tried, the Constitution charges us in article 14(4) that that person should be released which I beg to quote:
“Where a person arrested, restricted or detained under paragraph (a) or (b) of clause (3) of this article is not tried within a reasonable time, then, without prejudice to any further proceedings that may be brought against him, he shall be released, either unconditionally or upon reasonable conditions, including in particular, conditions reason- ably necessary to ensure that he appears at a later date for trial or for proceedings preliminary to trial”.