You Are Harassing My Witness, My Lord!
Mr Tsatsu Tsikata, Lead Counsel for the petitioner, John Dramani Mahama, in the 2020 presidential election petition, flared-up in court yesterday, following what he described as harassment of his witness.
His outburst followed what he also said was an opinion being put to his witness after the latter had answered questions within a certain context.
The witness, Dr Michael Kpessah Whyte, who is the second witness for the petitioner, had, on several instances told the court that the Chairperson of the 1st Respondent asked/instructed him and Rojo Mettle Nunoo, who were agents for the petitioner at the national collation centre, to go and consult Mr John Dramani Mahama on some pressing issues regarding irregularities they had detected.
He indicated whilst in the witness box that they obliged to the “instruction” in good faith, so as to have the concerns of the petitioner addressed before the result of the election was declared. His narrative was based on a follow up question from Counsel for the 1st and 2nd Respondents, and even some members on the Bench.
However, one of the panel members, having engaged the witness for some time on the reason they abandoned their main purpose for being in the strong room to obey somebody’s instruction, put it to the witness that they did not help the cause of the petitioner.
He added that the witness, who had indicated that they received training for their work, did not take the said training seriously. This statement forced Mr Tsatsu Tsikata to his feet to argue that the panel member was harassing the witness. Though the justice took a strong view to what Tsatsu said, he maintained his calm and went ahead to explain his point.
Read the rest of the encounter
Judge – Then, would it be right for me to say that by taking contrary instructions from the Chairperson of the 1st Respondent, granted what you are saying is true, you did not help the cause of the petitioner who sent you there?
Witness – My Lord, I don’t believe that is true. We were working in furtherance of making sure that the results that ultimately get announced by the 1st Respondent reflects and represents the will of the people, and if her asking us to consult with the petitioner was part of how we could get there, we were happy to do it.
Judge – Then, seriously speaking, you did not take your training seriously.
Some murmuring can be heard in the courtroom;as Counsel for witness flares up at this stage.
Tsatsu – This is not an appropriate answer.
Judge – I want to be clear. You’ve gone to do a particular job, and instead of you doing the particular job that sent you there, you take instructions from somebody else, then you leave your job. You see, that’s what I want to find out. Then you did not help the petitioner.
Tsatsu – My Lords, with respect, His Lordship is entitled to his opinion about what the petitioner did. In terms of the factual evidence; in terms of what the petitioner did and why he did it, he (witness) has answered the question, so I don’t think he can be harassed with these opinions.
Judge – Please, I take difference to that. I am not harassing the witness. It is not my duty to harass him. I know that he has been sent there by the petitioner to do the job for him, then somebody tells you to go to the petitioner and consult him. If the petitioner could do the work, he himself would have been there. That is what I would want to find out. How am I harassing him?
Tsatsu – Well, you are harassing him, respectfully, because, the witness has indicated that it wasn’t just anybody who told them to go and consult the petitioner.
The witness has indicated that the Chairperson, not just anybody, Chairperson who is the Returning Officer was the person with whom his colleague had the conversation, and on the basis of that, they were sent to talk with the petitioner, and he has given every account on why they deemed it fit that both of them should go. So, if repeatedly, an opinion is being put to him, that’s harassment of the witness, and that’s not allowed.
Meanwhile, the lead counsel for the 2nd Respondent, who did not spend much time on the second witness as with the first witness, put it to the witness that he was not credible and that the petitioner did not deserve any of the claims being sought.
But the witness thought otherwise.
The case was, however, adjourned to today for arguments to be heard on an application by the petitioner to inspect some six documents with the 1st Respondent.
The outcome of the motion which the Respondents have indicated they opposed, according to the counsel for the petitioner, will determine if the petitioner will call anymore witnesses.