Pressure group, OccupyGhana, said it is disappointed in the senior minister Yaw Osafo-Maafo over his comments about the release of an illegal Chinese miner Aisha Huang to safeguard the country’s relationship with China.
Mr. Osafo-Maafo justified the government’s decision to discontinue the prosecution of Aisha Huang. According to him, jailing her in Ghana will not have solved the country’s economic problems.
He made the comments at the government’s recent town hall meeting in the US in response to a question from a participant at the program who sought to know why the government deported the Chinese national instead of jailing her in accordance with Ghanaian laws.
Osafo Maafo in his response stressed Ghana’s diplomatic ties with China and the huge investments Chinese companies are making in developing the country’s infrastructure, citing the $2 billion Sinohydro deal.
“We have a very good relationship with China. Today, the main company that is helping develop the infrastructure system in Ghana is Sinohydro, it is a Chinese Company. It is the one that is going to help process our bauxite and provide about two billion dollars to us… So when there are these kinds of arrangements, there are other things behind the scenes,” the minister stressed.
“Putting that lady (Aisha Huang) in jail in Ghana is not going to solve your economic problems. It is not going to make you happy or me happy, that’s not important, the most important thing is that she has been deported out of Ghana,” he added.
However, in a statement OccupyGhana said the senior minister’s comments are “distasteful and disrespectful” to Ghanaians and must apologise.
“The Senior Minister’s comments make a complete mockery of the fight against galamsey and the critical steps government and the coalition against galamsey have taken to address this issue. This statement suggests that, at the right price tag, foreigners implicated in the appalling desecration of Ghana’s environment, rivers and laws can be exonerated. It positions foreigners who break/flout our laws as untouchable and above the law because their countries offer economic partnerships and benefits. It sacrifices the enforcement of our laws and the safeguarding of our environmental resources on the cheap altar of present gain,” the statement said.
Below is the full statement:
OCCUPYGHANA® PRESS STATEMENT
OCCUPYGHANA® DISAPPOINTED BY SENIOR MINISTER’S COMMENTS REGARDING AISHA HUANG
OccupyGhana® is highly disappointed by the recent reported utterances of Senior Minister Yaw Osafo Maafo at a town hall meeting in the United States. We are dismayed by the Minister’s attempt to water down government’s abysmal use of its discretion with respect to the deportation of Chinese galamsey queen Aisha Huang, who was on trial for her illegal mining operations in Ghana. As a leading member of government, the Senior Minister’s attempt to justify the lack of prosecution of Aisha Huang on the basis of Ghana’s relationship with China and the prospect of receiving $2 billion under the Sinohydro bauxite project is distasteful and disrespectful to all of us in this Republic who have worked hard to bring about an end to illegal mining activities.
The Senior Minister’s comments make a complete mockery of the fight against galamsey and the critical steps government and the coalition against galamsey have taken to address this issue. This statement suggests that, at the right price tag, foreigners implicated in the appalling desecration of Ghana’s environment, rivers and laws can be exonerated. It positions foreigners who break/flout our laws as untouchable and above the law because their countries offer economic partnerships and benefits. It sacrifices the enforcement of our laws and the safeguarding of our environmental resources on the cheap altar of present gain.
We note that far from expecting their nationals to be exonerated from criminal activities abroad, China dissociates itself from their actions in similar matters. In Tanzania, as reported by international media for example, notorious Chinese ‘Ivory Queen’ Yang Fenglan, involved in the illegal trading of elephant tusks, was prosecuted and handed a jail sentence of 15 years in February 2019. The ruling was supported by Beijing, and the Chinese government apparently refused to extend any help or support to this Chinese native.
OccupyGhana® has followed keenly the unfortunate resurgence in galamsey activities and the continued destruction of Ghana’s forest reserves and water resources. We have also taken due notice of government’s slow work at unraveling the issues and exacting justice for this country from government appointees fingered by investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas for engaging in allegedly corrupt practices that have undermined the fight against illegal mining. In this light, we are dumbfounded to have learnt of the discontinuation of Aisha Huang’s prosecution and her subsequently swift deportation that has deprived and denied this country of its due justice.
We infer from all that has gone on before, that government did not intend for Aisha Huang to answer to the laws of this country. Government’s reluctance to hold the galamsey queen accountable reared its head when the Charge Sheet in the case of Republic v. En Huang & 4 Others (Case No. CR 344/2017) and dated 8th May 2017, laid and filed offences against the Accused Persons that did not match the severity of the act of employing or being employed “illegally at a small-scale mining site.” It was only when OccupyGhana® objected strongly in a petition dated May 16, 2017 to the office of the Attorney General that her charge sheet was amended. In our petition, we requested the Attorney-General to slap Aisha Huang with charges under Section 99 of the Minerals and Mining Act. Under that Act she, a foreigner, would have attracted a maximum fine of GH¢3.6M, and/or a maximum jail term of 20 years upon conviction. We disagree vehemently with the Senior Minister’s unfounded declaration that making Ms. Huang face the full wrath of Ghanaian law would have had no economic benefits. 3.6M Ghana Cedis could do more for a robust Emergency Response System than letting her off the hook, unless the Senior Minister somehow believes, in spite of government’s own concessions to the Sinohydro project that the Chinese facility is offered to Ghana under philanthropic conditions.
The comments from the Senior Minister are deeply troubling when examined under all the facts available to us where Aisha Huang is concerned. The relationship of Ghana to foreign nations and investors should have little to do with the enforcement of the rule of law, the punishment of perpetrators of serious wrongdoing, and the critical deterrent effect such prosecutions have on the actions of other would-be wrongdoers. We expect the Senior Minister to withdraw his remarks and apologise unreservedly for same. Failing that, we expect the office of the President to dissociate itself from his misguided comments and show proper leadership by calling the Minister to immediate order. Only thus will we retain what faith we have left of this government’s commitment to ending illegal mining activities in Ghana.
Yours, for God and Country