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IGP fires British Diplomat: Keep off domestic issues

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In a rare twist of events, the Ghana Police Service through an official letter signed by the Inspector General himself, Dr. George Akuffo Dampare, has cautioned the British High Commissioner to the country, Her Excellency Harriet Thompson, to operate within her limits as a foreign diplomat and stop poking her nose into Ghana’s domestic security affairs.

The restricted letter addressed to the British Diplomat, dated May 20,2022, reminded her of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961 which restricts her dealing in her host country to international relations.

IGP Akuffo Dampare, in his letter to the diplomat, quizzed her some 15 rhetorical questions which seem to question her conduct as a diplomat.

There is no public information, as at press time, that Harriet Thompson has responded to the 15 questions contained in the letter or even addressed the issue altogether .

The Police Service wrote the rather unusual letter to the British Diplomat in response to a tweet from her which read: “Oliver Barker Vormawor, convener of #FixTheCountry movement, arrested again, I understand for a motoring offence on his way to court. I’ll be interested to see where this goes…”.
The arrested Oliver Baker in question is a front-liner in the #FixTheCountry group which has called on Government to fix the country’s problems.

He is currently facing trial in court after he was arrested for making comments the police have described as a clear threat to Ghana’s security. He was arrested again with others who had flouted road transport regulations and he is on bail.

PUBLIC RESPONSE.

Opinions are split over the police letter to the diplomat.

Professor Emmanuel Kwesi Aning, Director of the Faculty of Academic Affairs and Research at Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center ( KAIPTC) has said the British Diplomat is not above the law and that the letter to her was in order.

Meanwhile , Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, Member of Parliament for North Tongu Constituency who doubles as the Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of Parliament, has described the IGP’s letter as an “ill advised attack on the British High Commissioner”
Okudzeto Ablakwa said the “Inspector-General of Police, Dr. George Akuffo Dampare should have raised his concerns about the British High Commissioner’s tweet on Oliver Barker-Vormawor’s latest arrest with Ghana’s Foreign Minister for it to be addressed through the time-tested diplomatic channels.

“Ghana and the UK share strong cordial bilateral relations and official communications do not have to be caustic, virulent and intemperate so as to create the impression as though we have become sworn adversaries”, he added.

Below is the unedited letter in full:
The British High Commissioner
British High Commission
Julius Nyerere Link
Accra.

Dear Madam High Commissioner,

POLICE ADMINISTRATION’S RESPONSE TO YOUR TWEET ON TUESDAY
17TH MAY, 2022

The attention of the Ghana Police Service has been drawn to your tweet, which Reads “Oliver Barker-Vormawor, convener of #FixTheCountry movement, arrested again, I understand for a motoring offence on his way to court. I’ll be interested to see where this goes.

Ordinarily, the Ghana Police Service would not have responded to comments such as yours, obviously made from either a biased or uninformed position.

However, we have learnt from previous, painful experience that it has not been helpful to ignore such misguided, unwarranted, and biased comments intended to tarnish the reputation of the Ghana Police Service and that of our Country.

What is more, we consider your tweet a violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961 which enjoins diplomatic missions not to interfere in the internal affairs of their host country.

Your Excellency, the fact that you used the phrase ‘arrested again’, we believe, must mean you were making reference to the previous occasions Mr. Barker- Vormawor was arrested for threatening the security of the State, and recently for motor traffic offences. We intend therefore, to address both issues in this letter.

Since you may be unaware of the charges against the person of interest in your tweet, we are happy to give you some background. Among other things, in February this year, Mr. Barker-Vormawor threatened the security of the State by categorically stating his intention to stage a coup d’etat and cause instability in the country if the Army, which he referred to as ‘useless’, was unable to do so.

These same threats have subsequently been repeated by Mr. Barker-Vormawor on his social media handles.

In line with the laws of the Republic of Ghana, he was arrested and taken through due process and was granted bail by a court of competent jurisdiction. That matter is still pending before the law courts.

On Tuesday 17th May, 2022, Mr. Barker-Vormawor was among other drivers who were arrested separately for road traffic offences. They were all arraigned before the courts, where some pleaded guilty, were convicted and paid their fines accordingly. However, this person pleaded not guilty, was granted bail by the Court and was released after fulfilling the bail conditions.

Against this backdrop and in view of the fact that he is not the only person who is being taken through due process for committing an offence in this country, it is difficult to understand why he is your only focus. Are we to understand that you are concerned about the law enforcement process in Ghana or only as applied to your person of interest?

We are not oblivious of how, as a country, Britain reveres its army and continuously celebrates both serving and retired officers in the British Armed Forces. It might not be what you expect, but please be informed that as a country, Ghana similarly treasures its Police Service, the Armed Forces and all other security agencies and we are anxious to build these institutions into strong and revered pillars of society that perform their duties excellently.

As our former colonial power and the source of our legal, judicial and criminal justice architecture and indeed, of our Police Service, we continue to look up to Britain among other countries for guidance with regard to how difficult situations are handled.

We note that some leaders of faith-based organisations in your country made pronouncements that were considered as national security threats, they were branded as terrorists, arrested, prosecuted and in some cases were extradited. This, we believe, your country did in its quest to safeguard the security of the state and ensure the sustenance of the peace the inhabitants enjoy.

Do you not think we the Ghanaian people also deserve a peaceful country? Maybe reflecting on these questions will help you appreciate our position on such matters:

i. Are there instances in your country where people are permitted to openly threaten the security of the state with a coup?

ii. In instances where individuals have threatened the security of a state, does your criminal justice system celebrate such persons and urge them on to destabilise your country?

iii. As a Foreign Service officer, even though you might not have personal experience, you doubtless have access to the records of the periods of unrest and coups in Ghana; are you really wishing on us, a return to those times?

iv. Are you able to direct us to instances in your country where citizens are permitted to insult, attack and incite your Army and other security apparatuses to destabilize the Country?

v. Do people get arrested for traffic offences in your country?

vi. Is it the case that a person on his/her way to a British court cannot be pulled over for traffic offences or any other offences for that matter?

vii. Are you still persuaded, three days after your Tweet, that you were within the bounds of the Vienna Convention which regulates the conduct of diplomats in the countries in which they serve?

viii. Should you get involved in the domestic/internal affairs, especially security issues of the sovereign state in which you are serving as a diplomat?

ix. Do you know of any instances where Ghanaian diplomats in Britain have involved themselves in your internal affairs?

x. Is there any particular reason why of all the people arrested daily for various offences in Ghana, you are especially interested in this person’s case?

xi. Is it the case that you don’t have confidence in our justice delivery, criminal justice system and our court processes as a whole?

xii. Do you know the number of Members of Parliament, Chief Executives and other high-profile Ghanaians who have been arrested and prosecuted for road traffic offences and have submitted themselves to due process? If you care to know, we will be delighted to share the list with you.

xiii. Have the legally and internationally accepted limits associated with freedom of speech and association been stretched to the point where people can now say and act without regard to the sanctity, security and the very survival of a country? When it comes to such matters, are there any limits in place in your country?

xiv. Are you interested in the number of lives lost to road accidents and the number of injured persons, as well as families who have become destitute as a result of such accidents, caused by the infractions of people like the person of interest to you?

xv. Have you taken note of the innovations being introduced by the Ghana Police Service in recent times to deepen discipline, law and order, as well as protect lives and property in this country? Are you interested that we are doing our best to get it right?

For the moment, we would recommend a Ghanaian saying that might guide
you in your diplomatic engagements. The saying goes: -“di wo fie asem” – it
means learn to keep within the limits of what concerns you.

Please accept the assurances of our highest consideration.

SIGNED
GEORGE AKUFFO DAMPARE, Ph.D
INSPECTOR-GENERAL OF POLICE

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