vi. Re-examination of principal witness on account of summary of evidence from entire procee- dings.
Proceedings of the Committee
The Committee held a total of three (3) sittings to consider the referral. Even though members of the Press were not invited to cover the evidence session, the Committee, having regard to the nature of the allegation and the concerns it had generated, permitted members of the Press who were in attendance to cover the proceedings.
The witnesses who took turns to subscribe to the oaths administered by the Committee, prior to giving their respective evidence were as follows:
i. Hon David Hennric Yeboah - Complainant (Member of Parliament for Afigya-Sekyere East).
ii. Abubakar Ahmed, a.k.a. Blakk Rasta -- Principal witness
iii. Mr George Mbea - Witness (Corporate Human Resource Manager, Multi-Media Group).
iv. Mr. Ken Kuranchie - Witness (Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Searchlight Newspaper).
v. Mr Mark Okraku Mante - Witness (Programmes Coordinator, Hitz
Materials/evidence tendered before the Committee
The underlisted materials were tendered in evidence by witnesses summoned before the Committee:
i. Daily Searchlight newspaper (Wednesday, 17thJune, 2015 Edition) (Exhibit A).
ii. Audio Recording of Hitz FM Entertainment news (Exhibit B).
The evidence session of the Committee was held on Thursday, 25th June, 2015, during which session the complainant, the principal witness and the other witnesses, at the request of the Committee, took turns to lead evidence and were cross- examined as considered appropriate.
Evidence of complainant
In his evidence, Hon David Hennric Yeboah informed the Committee that he read from the Wednesday, 17th June, 2015 edition of the Daily Searchlight newspaper in which Mr. Abubakar Ahmed, a.k.a. Blakk Rasta was reported to have said that eighty per cent (80 per cent) of Members of Parliament smoke “wee” (Indian hemp). Hon David Hennric Yeboah indicated that the remarks, in his view, constituted contempt of Parliament.
He indica ted fur ther tha t the
contemptuous remarks by Mr Abubakar Ahmed sought to bring the name of Parliament into disrepute and also thwart Ghana's efforts at fighting narcotics in the global community.
He drew attention of the Committee to Standing Order 30 (2) relating to conduct constituting breach of privilege or contempt of Parliament to include --
“any act or omission which affronts the dignity of Parliament or which tends either directly or indirectly to bring the name of Parliament into disrepute.”
He, therefore, submitted that the principal witness was in contempt of
Parliament since in his view, Mr Abubakar Ahmed's comment was an “affront to the dignity of Parliament and sought to bring the name of Parliament into disrepute.” He therefore, called for Mr Ahmed's punishment in accordance with the rules of the House.
He finally tendered in evidence the Wednesday, 17th June, 2015 edition of the Daily Searchlight newspaper to sub- stantiate his case against the principal witness.
Cross -examination of the complainant by Counsel for principal witness
Counsel for the principal witness, Mr Thaddeaus Sory, at the invitation of the Committee, cross-examined the com- plainant. Counsel asked the complainant whether he did his checks from the Publishers of the Daily Searchlight newspaper and adomonline.com before lodging his complaint on the floor of the House and the complainant answered in the negative.
Following up on the response of the complainant, Counsel sought initially to refute the entire publication referred to by the complainant and emphatically stated that the publication could not be attributed to his client.
Counsel subsequently back-tracked from his initial stance by confirming that some portions of the publication were indeed, attributable to his client. Counsel, however, did not specifically state the portions he believed were attributable to his client. Neither did he indicate the aspects of the publication not attributable to his client.
Evidence of principal witness
The principal witness, Mr Abubakar Ahmed was apologetic in his testimony.
He stated that he did not intend to denigrate Members of Parliament nor impugn the integrity of the House. He was only alluding to the fact that legalising Indian hemp could be a very profitable venture, which could earn the country enough resources. He stated further that he did not actually accuse MPs of smoking “Indian Hemp”.
The Committee deferred further hearing of his testimony until the audio recording of Hitz FM Entertainment News was played to the hearing of all for the substantiation or otherwise of the claim for or against the principal witness.
Evidence of other witnesses
i. Editor-in-Chief, Daily Searchlight Newspaper
Mr Ken Kuranchie, a Journalist and Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Searchlight newspaper, in his evidence, confirmed that his newspaper published the alleged contemptuous remarks attributed to Mr Abubakar Ahmed and cited adomonline. com as his source.
Responding during cross-examination on whether he crosschecked from the principal witness about the factual accuracy of the alleged contemptuous remarks, prior to publishing same in his newspaper, he responded in the negative.
He explained that he did not cross- check his source prior to publishing because he relied on the mutual credibility between his outfit and other partners such as adomonline.com.
He accordingly apologised to the Committee and the principal witness about his inability to crosscheck his sources.
Mr Kuranchie also drew the attention of the Committee to an editorial he published on the matter in the same edition of the paper containing the alleged contemptuous remarks. He indicated that in his editorial on the alleged remarks, he chastised Mr Abubakar Ahmed for those comments, even though he had not contacted him to confirm or deny.
i i . Corporate Human Resources Manager, Multi-Media Group
Mr George Mbea, Corporate Human Resources Manager of the Multi- Media Group, also appeared before the Committee on behalf of the C.E.O. of the Group, who had then travelled out of the jurisdiction.
He accordingly tendered in evidence an audio recording (Exhibit B) containing the alleged contemptuous remarks made by the principal witness as his evidence.
In his response to cross-examination on whether he had read the publication of the Daily Searchlight newspaper on the alleged contemptuous remarks made by the principal witness, Mr Mbea responded in the negative. On a further question about whether he had listened to the tape he tendered in evidence to the Committee, he again, replied in the negative.
He explained that he did not listen to the tape, because he was attending upon the Committee, together with the Programmes Co-ordinator of Hitz FM, who was in a better position to speak to the contents of the audio recording.
Regarding the question of whether the Multi-Media Group had laid down rules to regulate the conduct of its staff, particularly their show hosts, he indicated that the Group had comprehensive rules to that effect.
On the issue of ensuring that the right content is put on the air waves, Mr Mbea indicated that every programme on the Group's platform had Programmes Co- ordinator and a Producer, who ensure that all the programmes complied with the ethics of broadcasting.
Mr Mbea also drew the attention of the Committee to an apology rendered by
the Programmes Co-ordinator of Hitz FM Entertainment News on Adom FM for the alleged contem-ptuous remarks.
Responding to a question by Counsel for the principal witness, on whether he was aware that his client, the principal witness had contacted the Editor of Adom FM, to cause the Editor of adomonline. com to “drop the news story”, Mr Mbea responded in the negative.
iii. Programmes Coordinator, Hitz FM
The evidence of Mr Mark Okraku Mantey, the Programmes Co-ordinator of Hitz FM confirmed that the contemptuous remarks were made on the Hitz FM Entertainment News and not the Taxi Driver show, and were indeed, attributable to Mr Abubakar Ahmed, a.k.a. Blakk Rasta.
He confirmed to the Committee during cross-examination his role in Hitz FM as the Programmes Co-ordinator. He also confirmed that it was his duty to ensure the broadcasting of right content for all the programmes aired on Hitz FM.
Mr Mantey again, during cross- examination, intimated that Mr Abubakar Ahmed was indeed, the host of Hitz FM programme dubbed “TAXI DRIVER”, which the Daily Searchlight newspaper cited as the platform on which Mr Abubakar Ahmed made those contemp- tuous remarks against Parliament. He however, categorically denied that the said contemptuous remarks were made during the Hitz FM programme dubbed “Tax Driver”.
According to Mr Mantey, the contemptuous remarks were indeed, made by Mr Abubakar Ahmed rather in an interview Mr Abubakar Ahmed granted as a reggae musician and not as a member of staff of Hitz FM.
Mr Mantey informed the Committee about the audio recording which was tendered in evidence by the Corporate Human Resources Manager of the Multi- Media Group containing the “Taxi Driver” programme and the interview the principal witness granted on Hitz FM entertainment News for the information of the Committee.
Accordingly, the audio recording was played back to the hearing of all present to ascertain the truthfulness or otherwise of the claim against the principal witness.
The case against the principal witness
The Committee, after playing back the audio recordings to the hearing of all present, confirmed that:
a. the testimony of the Programmes Co-ordinator that the alleged contemptuous comments made by the principal witness were not made on the “Taxi Driver” programme on Hitz FM, but rather in an interview he granted on Hitz FM Entertainment News.
b. Mr Abubakar Ahmed, indeed, made the alleged contemptuous remarks against Parliament, that 80 per cent of Members of Parliament smoke “wee'” (Indian hemp).
Although the principal witness was offered the opportunity to cross-examine the Programmes Co-ordinator and the Corporate Human Resources Manager of the Multi-Media Group on the content of the audio recordings, neither he nor his Counsel did so.
Cross-examination of principal witness by the Committee
Counsel for the principal witness, having listened to the content of the audio recording, admitted that the remarks made by his client were indeed, contemptuous and at that point, rendered an unqualified apology on behalf of his client to the House.
The Committee also granted audience
to the principal witness, who broke down and unreservedly apologised for his comments against the august House.
Before he was discharged, the Committee drew the attention of Mr. Abubakar Ahmed to the following contemptuous statements he had allegedly made on other social media platforms against Parliament, following the complaint against him on the floor of Parliament:
“Ghana should get wiser like other countries that have legalised the use of “marijuana”.
“I am not afraid of Parliament”.
“Ghana's Parliament is too small for me”.
“The work I currently do is bigger than the work of an MP”.
The principal witness, however, denied making the above statements.
The Committee, considering the totality of evidence adduced by the complainant, the other witnesses and having regard to the content of the exhibits as well as