Parliament was divided Tuesday over whether to shoot and kill people engaged in the pollution of water bodies through illegal mining 'galamsey' and other harmful environmental practices.
While the First Deputy Speaker, Mr Joseph Osei-Owusu, and the Majority Leader, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, felt that the shooting would deter the continuous pollution of water bodies, the Second Deputy, Mr Alban Bagbin, and the Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, argued that the method of shooting to kill was unconstitutional.
But the Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, concluded by cautioning criminals that the security agencies had the right to use force to prevent crime.
He said the use of force, which was allowed in the Constitution, might result in the criminals losing their lives.
The contributions followed a statement made by the Member of Parliament (MP) for Kumbungu, Mr Ras Mubarak, on the military operation in his constituency to prevent people from polluting the Nawuni River, which is a source of water supply to the Tamale Metropolis and its environs.
He said the military operation in the constituency had resulted in the destruction of an excavator, tipper trucks and motorbikes belonging to people engaged in sand winning.
Recent military operations had led to burning down of equipment belonging to alleged illegal miners in some parts of the country.
'Shoot to kill'
The First Deputy Speaker, Mr Joseph Osei-Owusu said nobody had the right to mine illegally in the country.
He said the approach used in preventing illegal mining was not yielding the needed results and added that if he had his way, he would legislate for security agencies to shoot and kill people engaged in the destruction of the environment.
That, he said, would deter others from engaging in illegal mining and destroying the environment.
Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said the Constitution did not frown on the use of force to prevent the commission of crime, explaining that such exercise of force might lead to death.
Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said the illegal miners had destroyed water bodies, while illegal sand winning and harmful activities had destroyed the forest cover.
He challenged Mr Mubarak to speak to the damage that the activities of illegal sand winners had on the environment instead of speaking only of the destruction of equipment.
Mr Bagbin said the use of force was a wrong approach in dealing with galamsey operators, adding that the use of force would not end galamsey operations in the country but rather the government should appeal to the conscience of the illegal miners.
"I don't believe in the use of force. It is only in war situations that you have to shoot and kill. We have appealed to their conscience. Let’s work together and find a solution," he said.
Mr Iddrisu said Ghana was not a lawless country and that "might cannot be right" and stressed that "Our loyalty is to the law of the country."
He said the days of impunity were over and that what was required was the use of legitimate means to preserve the law, because lawlessness cannot be supported.
Mr Iddrisu said the New Patriotic Party (NPP) said it believed in property owning and therefore the burning of the equipment of miners was rather a property destruction move.
"The action of the government is extra judicial, excessive and a mark of lawlessness," he said.
Mr Iddrisu said the government owed the country an explanation as to why it seized some equipment and burnt others.
He said those whose equipment had been destroyed deserved some compensation.
Minister defends action
Meanwhile, the Minister of Defence, Mr Dominic Nitiwul has defended the action of the military in burning the equipment.
He said it was not the first time that the military had burnt such equipment.
Mr Nitiwul said as a result of the continuous destruction of the water bodies through galamsey, the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) had given indication that its water sources would deteriorate further if nothing was done about the activities of illegal miners.
He said the military were in the area on four occasions and the people ran away, but on the fourth occasion, the military burnt the equipment.
He stressed the need for the people not to politicise the work of the military.