14 Mayıs 2013 Salı

Tsatsu punched over honesty

Lawyer Tsatsu Tsikata Smile
Tempers flared at the ongoing hearing of the presidential election petition at the Supreme Court yesterday when Tsatsu Tsikata, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) lawyer was cut down to size by Philip Addison, lead counsel for the petitioners, who told the former point blank that he should be ready for more reprisal attacks.

This followed the use of unsavoury words by Mr Tsikata on the petitioners’ key witness, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, who was being cross-examined.

It all started when Mr. Tsikata described Dr. Bawumia, the Second petitioner and principal witness in the petition, as being ‘dishonest’ in some of his answers during the NDC counsel’s sixth day of cross-examination.

The persistent description of Dr. Bawumia as a dishonest person did not go down well with the Mr Addison, who fired back at Mr. Tsikata for his use of indecorous language.

“My Lords, I don’t know why counsel can’t ask questions without using words like honesty. It’s quite surprising coming from him (Tsatsu Tsikata) talking about honesty. Really, coming from him is quite rich,” Mr Addison charged.

Addison Blows Tsatsu

The statements ruffled Tsatsu, who was temporarily dazed, struggling for words to continue with his cross-examination of the witness.

His body language suddenly changed with Justice Atuguba coming to his rescue.

Counsel: Dr. Bawumia, I’m putting it to you that this obvious disparity in your attempt to annul votes that were in favour of the President as against votes in favour of your presidential candidate. The obvious disparity is because you chose to ignore similar practices in areas where your presidential candidate had more votes than John Dramani Mahama…

Witness: No, that’s not the case, the evidence speaks for itself; we brought 11,842 polling stations where irregularities occurred. Some were won by the First respondent; some were won by the First petitioner…

Counsel: I am putting it to you that if you were honest in examining the 24,000 polling stations that you claim you examined, you would have found numerous instances of practices that you are now claiming are malpractices… (Philip Addison interrupts)

Mr. Addison: My lords, I don’t know why counsel can’t ask questions without using words like honesty etc. It is quite surprising coming from him talking about honesty. These kinds of words that he has been using, playing to the gallery. We have said that we do not want to reply in kind, he should choose his words carefully; there was no need at all to address the witness as being dishonest. Coming from him, it’s quite rich…

Justice Atuguba: Let us try to be impersonal and professional in this matter and civil too. The question he is putting has nothing to do with his personal…he is not the witness, so his particular…is not an issue…(Addison intervenes again)

Mr. Addison: My lords, I have raised several times, the issue of words that counsel for Third respondent has been using in this court, there’s been no pronouncement from the court and he keeps doing it. I’m saying that we are very much capable of throwing those words at him…

Justice Atuguba was forced to wade in to calm tempers, saying; “the mud-slinging was evened. So now, there should be no generation of it the personal attacks whether manually or electronically.”

Previous Incidence

Previously, Mr. Tsikata had described the petitioners’ legal team as being unethical and when Mr. Addison called on him to retract the statement after the court’s ruling vindicated the petitioners’ stance, the NDC counsel flatly refused in open court.

Again on Monday, May 6, Mr. Tsikata asked Mr. Addison to “shut up” in full glare of television cameras beaming the hearing live, when the petitioner’s counsel tried to object to his line of cross-examination.

Mr. Addison demanded that the NDC lawyer withdrew the insulting words but the judges overlooked it as if insults were allowed at the Supreme Court, setting bad precedent in the court proceedings.

Interestingly, Justice William Atuguba, chairman of the nine-member panel hearing the petition, rather advised the petitioners’ legal team to seek redress from the bench, if any, when Mr Addison protested Mr. Tsikata’s indecorous language.

The court could not ask Mr. Tsikata to withdraw his comment and the NDC counsel was also clearly not prepared to retract his statement either.

Court’s Resolution

Yesterday, sensing that things could degenerate into open confrontation casting slur on the panel, Justice Atuguba quickly stepped in and issued an ultimatum for all the parties in the case to immediately cease using insulting language.

Justice Atuguba made it clear that henceforth, anybody who used indecent language in the proceedings would have to render an apology before the trial could proceed.

The Give-and-take

In the cause of Mr. Tsikata’s cross-examination, counsel for the petitioners felt the line of questioning was repetitive, forcing him to intervene…

Mr. Addison: My lords, this question has been asked and answered. This is why he brought in that pink sheet that he said he wanted the witness to identify….Counsel keeps repeating himself, and my lords, if he does that, he should allow the witness to fully answer these repeated questions.

Counsel: My lords, I have not asked this question, and my lords, this question arises directly from the line of cross-examination that I’m pursuing, this interruption again, with respect, is prejudicial to my line of cross-examination. It is clear that the witness had answered some of my earlier questions, and we are leading in a certain direction in order to make it clear to the court his lack of credibility in this matter.

Justice Atuguba: As far as what I can recollect, I think he asked a question before ID 1 came in. The question was; “You would agree that if there were other areas in respect of which similar practices occur, the same annulment will ensue”, That is as far as I can recollect but not this particular one [question]. But if you have it on your record, let’s see.

Mr. Addison: We don’t have yesterday’s record [now], but we are very confident it’s on the record; he did refer to the fact that all these malpractices have been taken from the stronghold of the NDC. He did say so, he did ask a question on that and it is on the record, we are very sure about that.

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