Parliament on Wednesday threw the searchlight on the threat of global terrorism, querying how prepared the nation was to deal adequately with the phenomenon should it strike in the wake of recent attacks in some neighbouring countries in the West Africa.
Members queried the level of the security of the House itself, the hotels, the shopping malls, the universities and the beaches among others and citing the reason for terrorist attacks in some East African countries, pointed out that the nation was not safe because it also contributed to peace-keeping missions across the world, for which some of those countries had been attacked.
The issue took centre-stage following a statement by Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, MP for North Tongu and Ranking Member on Foreign Affairs.
He said: “Right Honourable Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to make this statement which seeks to denounce terrorism, solidarise with sister nations affected in these horrific times and share some perspectives on the global fight against terror.
“Mr Speaker, depraved terrorists are determined to make 2017 another year of senseless terror.
“Only last week, the Parliament and Mausoleum of Ruhollah Khomeini in Iran were attacked killing 17 people and leaving 52 injured. Before this, Britain came under another attack in as many months when terrorists armed with a van and knives inflicted mindless horror on pedestrians on London Bridge and the Borough Market leaving eight dead and 48 injured.
“This happened at a time Britain and the world were yet to recover from the shock of the Manchester Arena bombing that claimed the lives of 22 persons and injuring 116 concert goers most of whom were teenagers. Preceding this was the vehicle and stabbing attack at Westminster that left five dead and 49 injured.
Earlier in April, Russia was at the mercy of a suicide bomber who blew up Saint Petersburg Metro on the day Vladimir Putin was due to visit the city, killing 16 people and injuring 64.
“Mr Speaker, other nations such as the United States of America, Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, India, Australia, Colombia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Algeria, Egypt, Mali and Libya have not been spared this evil visitation.
“Indeed, thus far, in 2017 alone, Wikipedia’s tracking of terrorists attacks on its Lists of Terrorist Incidents concludes as follows: January recorded a total of 156 incidents, February recorded a total of 117 incidents, March recorded a total of 106 incidents, April recorded a total of 99 incidents, May recorded a total of 152 incidents with June so far recording 47 incidents.
“In essence, 2017 has so far recorded a scaringly mind boggling 677 terrorists incidents and we are only in the middle of the year.
Without a scintilla of doubt, the global fight against terror must engage the attention and effort of all of mankind including this Parliament.
Mr Ablakwa reminded the House that “an attack on any citizen of the world and on any nation must equally be an attack on us, and “we share a common humanity and these incidents diminish humanity in its universality,” and it ought not to be lost on Ghanaians that “the effects of this terror jamboree even when we are not directly victims impacts adversely on our daily lives.”
“The downright humiliation we go through at airport checkpoints when travelling since 9/11 is a clear example. The invasion of our privacy by Governments and the global intelligence community has left all of us virtually naked in the current scheme of things.
The North Tongu Legislator cautioned against the temptation to assume that because Ghana has so far escaped unscathed, it may not be a target of terrorist organisations, which might make the nation opt for a business as usual approach.
“The reality is that modern terrorism is a messy free for all without boundaries and limitations and no country or nationality stands immuned, “Mr Ablaka said, and urged the House to ensure that it offered all the assistance Members could marshal to support all three arms of Government in protecting the nation’s territorial integrity and guaranteeing safety of all Ghanaian lives.
“Mr Speaker, in this fight against global terror, we must begin to make some honest admissions. We must concede that we have not been that successful in this fight because we are not confronting certain hard truths.
“Though there can be no justification for terrorism, all nations must commit to building a fair and just world. We cannot continue to actively fund and resource terrorist groups to fight our enemies on our behalf in myopic suicidal proxy wars in Syria, Libya and Iraq and still expect to achieve positive results in the war against terror.
He commended the nine Arab countries who last week cut diplomatic ties with Qatar demanding that Qatar stops funding terrorist groups, and called for more of this to happen even to the greatest of nations who stand implicated in tacitly supporting terrorist organisations and their warped ideologies when it suits these nations.
He said: “When we pretend publicly we do not negotiate with terrorists but succumb to their ransom demands behind the scenes, we resource them and by so doing sustain their reign of senseless cowardice,” and “ that weapon manufacturers and the wealthy Chief Executives of Cyberspace must stop abdicating.
“We cannot continue to allow these companies to go scot-free as they enjoy their blood-stained profits. Likewise, sanctions must apply to social media owners who allow their mediums to be used to radicalise the youth and recruit terrorists,” Mr Ablakwa said.
While condemning the appalling media reportage of some terrorist attacks, Mr Ablakwa called for a total media blackout of the terrorist attacks and rather Highlight “bravery and emphasise how these attacks do not affect the foundations of our great human values.
“It also serves no useful purpose for the statements of terrorists taking responsibility after these attacks to be given media coverage.
I contend that there’s no need publishing the identities of terrorist groups responsible for any attack. This information is only useful to the intelligence community and should be left with them.
“The media should aim at achieving total blackout of terrorist organisations and starve them of the cheap pleasurable publicity they currently enjoy and use as trophies. The only time the media should focus attention on them should be when they are being defeated and retreating. The media can decide to be a more useful ally in defeating global terror and undermining the recruitment drive of these psychopaths from hell or they may decide to continue to offer pleasure.”
However, Mr Ablakwa’s commendation of Saudi Arabia and a number of Arab countries including Egypt and Bahrain for cutting ties with Qatar for funding terrorist groups drew reactions from Defence Minister Dominic Nitiwul and former chairman of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Patrick Yaw Boamah, who asked that Ghana stays neutral in the tussle between the Arab countries so as not to draw attention to the country.
The Defence Minister assured the nation that the Ghana Armed Forces are ready to defend the nation at all times.
Deputy Majority Leader Ms Sarah Adwoa Safo queried why some youth engaged in violent acts on the grounds of unemployment, advising that there was hope to secure a decent job one day. “Is it a decent job to go and kill people?” she queried.
Minority Chief Whip Alhaji Mubarak Muntaka, Mr Alhassan Suhyini MP for Tamale North, and Mr Alex Afenyo-Markin, MP for Efutu Constituencies stressed that Islam is a religion of peace and people should not hide behind religion to engage in terrorist attacks.