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OccupyGhana disappointed by Osafo Maafo's comments on Aisha Huang

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong
Senior Minister, Mr Yaw Osafo Maafo`
Senior Minister, Mr Yaw Osafo Maafo

The pressure group, OccupyGhana has expressed disappointment in the recent comments by the Senior Minister, Mr Yaw Osafo Maafo, on the Chinese national, En "Aisha" Huang, who was recently deported from Ghana for engaging in illegal mining [galamsey].

At a recent town hall meeting in the United States, there was a question on why En Huang was deported and was not allowed to go through a court trial.

But responding to the questioner, Mr Osafo Maafo said, jailing the Chinese illegal mining "queen," was not important as it was not going to solve Ghana's economic problems.

In a video, he is heard justifying the decision to deport En Huang in December 2018.

She had been arraigned before court on May 9, 2017, for engaging in illegal small-scale mining at Bepotenten in the Amansie Central District of the Ashanti Region.

“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. Putting that lady (Aisha) 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 from Ghana..."

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"...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".

Aisha and four other Chinese nationals who were arrested for their involvement in illegal mining (galamsey) in Ghana, were deported after the state filed a nolle prosequi to discontinue the trial.

In a press statement dated April 23, 2019, OccupyGhana said it was highly disappointed by Mr Osafo Maafo's comment on the issue.

“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," it said.

Read also: TRANSCRIPT: What Osafo Maafo said about deportation of galamsey queen

Below is a full copy of the press 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

OccupyGhana®