Dr. Apaak turns down an invitation from Lands Ministry over ‘bias’ committee probing illegal rosewood trade

The Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources has invited the Member of Parliament for Builsa South, Dr. Clement Apaak to appear before it as it conducts a probe into the allegations of illegal rosewood trade.

The invitation follows a recent investigative report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) into the alleged involvement of government officials into the activity.

The government a few months ago constituted the committee to investigate the matter.

The legislator had already petitioned the Special Prosecutor’s Office to investigate the same matter of which, he has provided some evidence to support his petition.

However, the Ministry says it would be of great importance should he appear before it to testify.

The committee in its letter of invitation said it would want to draw the experiences of the MP within the rosewood value-chain in Ghana.

”We, therefore, wish to invite you to give testimony at its sitting”, it said.

The Committee will be appreciative if you could provide it with any information that may be helpful to its work. The Committee will be ready to talk to you two weeks from the receipt of this letter.”

But the MP in a response to the committee said it is inappropriate to task the same people implicated by the EIA report to look into their own case.

In his response he said with the exception of Civil Society and Business Community representatives on the committee, the rest are drawn from the same institution and entities said to be complicit in the illegal harvesting and export of the rosewood. I, therefore, cannot appear before a suspect serving his own judge in his own courtroom. Based on the above reason, I wish to respectfully and on principle decline the invitation to appear before the committee.

Background

Dr. Clement Apaak after the committee was constituted expressed fears that the committee would be biased in probing the smuggling of Rosewood in the country may not be able to do a clean job.

According to him, the Board is made up of persons who have already been implicated in the smuggling hence their commitment to the job is questionable.

He said at the time that “In five weeks, we expect to see the report but within that period, we will continue to monitor, advocate and draw attention on such illegalities. When the Minister spoke about the terms of reference of the committee, I found it rather interesting that some indictments that were made in the report by the EIA suggested that elements of the ruling party, by and large, were beneficiaries of these permits. I would have thought that it should have been part of the choice of conditions for the committee because the Minister himself is supposed to be core when a particular political party is in power.”

“But these elements of that political party are beneficiaries of this illegality; then that certainly tells you that the quagmire that the Minister finds himself in. That is why I would have thought that in all honesty, the committee should have been formed outside of all the entities and ministries that have been implicated as far as the EIA report is concerned. You can’t have the same entities to investigate themselves over allegations made against them. It will simply not give room for a thorough, honest and proper investigation and that is my biggest worry”, he added.

Government through the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources inaugurated a seven-member committee to investigate the findings of the US-based EIA publication.

The committee is being headed by the Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural resources, Benito Owusu-Bio.

By: Rashid Obodai Provencal

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