Following backlash over comments at a townhall meeting abroad, Senior Minister, Yaw Osafo-Maafo’s office has moved in to give clarity.
Addressing a townhall meeting in the United States recently, the Senior Minister sought to explain why a notorious Chinese woman, Aisha Huang, known for her exploits in illegal mining was only deported after she was arrested by state authorities.
A participant at the event wanted government’s justification for letting go of the woman known as “Galamsey Queen.”
Aisha Huang was notorious for illegal mining activities that destroy water bodies and the environment.
Responding to the questioner, the Senior Minister said Ghana has great diplomatic relationship with China and intends to partner them in key infrastructural projects citing the $2 billion Sinohydro deal.
“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 $2 billion to us,” he said.
"So, when there are these kinds of arrangements, there are other things behind the scenes. Putting that lady [Aisha] in jail in Ghana is not going to solve your economic problems,” he said.
This response has been condemned.
A prominent figure in the fight against illegal mining has described the comment as a “fatal blow” to ending galamsey.
However, the Office of the Senior Minister has moved to clarify. In a Facebook post, the Office made the following comments:
“What he meant was that the matter of prosecution had been dealt by a court of competent jurisdiction and that Ghanaians should focus on the economic gains of the government and how best we can consolidate the gains. The Akufo-Addo's government is highly committed to the fight against GALAMSEY to the extent of establishing an inter-ministerial committee to deal with the worrying situation. However, there are pertinent issues we should be looking at as a nation such as creation of employment for our teeming youth, industrialisation, infrastructural deficit, domestic revenue mobilisation, emphasis on technical not gramarian education and how to sustain funding for governments policies and programmes. These were the issues Senior Minister was emphasising instead of limiting the town hall meeting to the discussion of Aisha when the matter had been determined by the court. May God help us!”
Miss Huang was arraigned before court on May 9, 2017, for engaging in galamsey activities at Bepotenten in the Amansie Central District in the Ashanti Region.
Senior journalist Abdul Malik Kweku Baako had said on MultiTV/Joy FM’s Newsfile show that she has video recordings of sexual encounters with powerful politicians and security capos which she uses for blackmail.
He said that enables her to wriggle herself out of the claws of the law.
According to him, her connections gives her the power to take people's land at will and mine as she pleases because the law is consistently held in abeyance for her, allowing her to act with impunity.
Subsequently, the Attorney General’s office in December 2018 withdrew the case against her and four other Chinese nationals believed to be engaging in illegal mining. They were hurriedly repatriated to their country.
The Media Coalition Against Galamsey expressed its worry over the decision of the state to discontinue the prosecution of the notorious illegal miner.
In a petition to the Attorney-General, the coalition has asked that the chief state prosecutor explain why she dropped the charges.
The Coalition was unimpressed with the deportation of the ‘galamsey queen’ as it says this would send the wrong message; that is, foreigners can enter Ghana and deplete the land and leave without punishment.
“We…humbly petition you, Attorney General, [Gloria Akuffo] to offer an explanation for the Nolle Prosequi filed,” the statement said.
But defending the decision, Senior Minister Yaw Osafo Marfo said government made the right call.
“We have a very good relationship with China.
"...I am saying that there are many other things beyond what we see in these matters and everybody is wide awake, the most important thing is that we have banned this...we have established regulations and we are protecting our environment.
“That is far more important than one Chinese woman who has been deported out of the country," he said amidst dissent from some people at the venue.
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