Gov’t confused on how to deal with illegal rosewood trade-Dr. Apaak

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The Member of Parliament for Builsa South, Dr. Clement Apaak has indicated the government is confused on how to address the illegal rosewood trade.

The legislator who has led campaigns against the illegal rosewood trade was worried his various petitions and calls on government to deal with the matter have been ignored.

Dr. Apaak noted the government has not shown the commitment towards the fight against illegal rosewood trade.

He was also happy the Lands Minister came out to say impounded rosewood would not be burnt as announced by the CEO of the Forestry Commission Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie aka Sir John.

He maintained the prudent thing to do is to give out to carpenters to produce furniture for deprived schools.

The CEO of the Commission, Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie aka Sir John had previously announced that all confiscated rosewood would be burnt to serve as a deterrent to others breaching the ban on the exploitation of

But Lands and Natural Resources Minister, Kwaku Asomah Kyeremeh, has said confiscated rosewood will not be set on fire as announced by the head of the Forestry Commission (FC).

“The Ministry is not aware… that rosewood seized would be burnt, and indeed seized rosewood will not be burnt. We will use it for a different purpose instead of burning it,” he told journalists Wednesday during a media encounter.

This, the legislator noted was a good decision and was happy the position taken by Sir John has been rubbished.

But was quick to add that the contradiction between the two appointees was part of his worry over who was in charge.

He quizzed about the agency responsible at the ministry for dealing with the matters he has identified.

He said it made no sense for the head of an agency to announce such a serious measure without first seeking clearance from the Ministry.

‘’If the Minister and the CEO were on the same page; if the Minister and the CEO were consulting each other around this issue, this should not be happening,’’ he added.

Referring to the EIA report, he said the government has been badly embarrassed and efforts were made to rubbish the report.

He said Sir John and the FC described the report as bogus despite the strong evidence that came with the expose.

The report released about a month ago alleged that the Forestry Commission is still issuing permits to members of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) to export rosewood despite a ban.

The report claims undercover investigators discovered that powerful Chinese and Ghanaian traffickers are still harvesting and shipping rosewood out of the country through “the help of ruling party members and complicity at all levels of government.”

“They have established an institutionalized scheme, fueled by bribes, to mask the illegal harvest, transport, export, and CITES [Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species]- licensing of the timber,” the report said.

Lands and Natural Resources Minister, Kwaku Asomah Kyeremeh, in March announced the renewal of a long time ban on harvesting, transportation, and export of rosewood.

His announcement came a few days after a Joy News documentary “Killing Our Roses” revealed previous bans were being flouted.

According to the report, the illegal trade had continued through the “fraudulent use of ‘salvage permits,’ misdeclaration of timber species, use of ‘escorts’ to deal with control points, forging of official documents, and retrospective issuance of CITES permits.”

EIA says its investigators discovered that rosewood species were exported from the country to China as recently as June 18, 2019.

According to a press statement accompanying the report issued by Head of Communications at EIA-US, Lindsay Moran, senior officials of the Forestry Commission are complicit in the illegal trade.

Dr. Apaak later petitioned the Special Prosecutor to investigate appointees indicted in the report.

According to tot him, the committee set up to probe the matter could not be trusted to do a thorough job.

‘’That was why I have questioned the motive behind the committee. The persons selected represented institutions that were complicit in the report. How can these persons do a thorough job when the report indicts the institutions they were drawn from…Government is confused about how to handle this matter. This confusion is also largely by the quick attempt to try and do something pretentious so that the international community would think there is seriousness in addressing this matter.’’

Dr. Apaak said he was emphatic and believes that the committee set up to investigate the EIA report should not negate his petition to the Special Prosecutor.

The petition he said would have to proceed so the persons involved would be prosecuted.

He slammed Sir John for attacking his person by describing his claims as bogus.

‘’Sir John thought I would be a conduit, but he has made a very big mistake because I am not one who speaks about matters that I don’t know. Before I speak about something, I make sure I have done my homework and understand the issues. I said there was complicity, it didn’t have to take the EIA report,” he told Kwabena Agyapong in an interview on Frontline on Rainbow Radio 87.5Fm.

By: Rashid Obodai Provencal

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