Renowned legal practitioner and former Chair of the International Advisory Commission of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative and a member of the Commonwealth Lawyers Association, Sam Okudzeto, has asked the lawyers who claim the standard of the legal profession has fallen lately, what they have done to deal with the situation.
Mr Okudzeto explained that if these lawyers have made any observation at all, they will have to communicate that to their regional bars for the matters to be taken up and worked on.
He further urged the lawyers to be circumspect in their comparison of the bar, then and now, because the situations are not the same.
Some lawyers, some of whom are members of the Ghana Bar Association (GBA), have called on members at the Association’s annual conference held in the Upper East Regional capital, Bolgatanga, to use the opportunity to “navigate a clean break from the Association’s recent history”.
The lawyers who have appended their signatures to what they call an ‘open statement to the Ghana Bar Association’ say this has become necessary because there is an unprecedented decline in confidence in the Association.
“This conference comes at a time when all-time confidence in the GBA is at its lowest; and the reputation of the GBA as a vanguard of truth, justice and accountability has lost its shine”, they said.
The lawyers are concerned that the Association is beginning to lose focus and failing in its mandate.
“Gradually, over the course of our longest democratic era, we are pained to see that the Ghana Bar Association has lost the fire in its belly and its role as the guardian of the little person. The Association we love has lost its voice and its fire. It has lost its desire to fight for democratic accountability. We have allowed our lights dim so low that we have disappeared as protectors of this democracy.
“Our disengagement has been felt. Our indolence has allowed illegality, abuse of rights and injustice to fester. The Ghana Bar Association today looks like a pale shadow of itself. The moral weight of its history now stands devalued by successive leaderships that have given the Association little sense of purpose or direction. Not only does our history indict us, but our present now counts only as proof of how much we have defamed this Association and made cheap its promise to “concern itself with the defence and upholding of freedom and justice in Ghana’”
But reacting to this development, Mr Sam Okudzeto said, “It depends on the historical context in which we talk about this situation. Every generation has its own problems, and people may rise to the problem as it arises.
“We didn’t have democratic governance at the time some of us were in there. There were dictatorships, and we as the leadership of the bar thought that we were the voice of the voiceless, and so we spoke for the public, bearing in mind that many of the people could not open their mouths for the simple reason that they will vanish, arrested or be locked up.
“Some of us were a little crazy in the sense that we realized that our lives were at stake, and yet we spoke up. Now, we have democratic governance, and so the situation is a little different.
“The media is alive, vibrant; they can interview anyone on almost every issue, even confront a minister as the case may be without the fear of being arrested or locked up.
“And so when we are trying to make comparisons, we should be careful the way we do the comparisons because, as I said, every situation demands what it is.”
He further indicated that the Bar Council is yet to receive any petition from the lawyers who have raised the issues against the profession.
“I am a member of the Bar Council, and nothing like a petition has been brought to our attention. Those who are writing the petition, what have they done? Because they are members of the bar. They belong to regional bars, and if something like that happens, they are supposed to take up the matter within their own regional bars and then voice it out to the leadership of the bar,” he told Joy News.