The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Kwaku Asomah-Cheremeh, has stated categorically that the comments made by the Senior Minister, Mr Yaw Osafo-Maafo that jailing Chinese illegal miner, En “Aisha” Huang, was not important because it had no economic benefit for the state is not the position of the government.
He also stressed that the deportation of the Chinese illegal mining [galamsey] kingpin was not because of the Sinohydro energy loan agreement as being speculated by some groups.
En “Aisha” Huang and four other Chinese who were arrested for their involvement in galamsey, were deported after the state filed nolle prosequi to discontinue the case.
Speaking at a recent town hall meeting, Mr Osafo-Maafo said jailing her was not important as it was not going to solve Ghana’s economic problems.
In a viral video, Mr Osafo-Maafo was heard justifying the decision to deport her last December after she had been arraigned before the court on May 9, 2017, for engaging in illegal small-scale mining at Bepotenten in the Amansie Central District in the Ashanti Region.
A transcription of Mr Osafo-Maafo’s comments read:
“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 kind of arrangements there are other things behind the scenes. Putting that lady 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 deported from Ghana…
” . . 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”.
The comments by the Senio Minister generated a huge uproar among groups from members of the public, with the Minority in Parliament and other organisations calling for his head.
Speaking at a press briefing in Accra Thursday, Mr Asomah-Cheremeh stressed that Aisha Huang was not the only foreigner that was deported for engaging in galamsey so there was no point linking her deportation to the Sinohydro energy loan agreement.
“Since the fight against illegal mining started 194 foreigners from China, Mali, Nigeria and Burkina Faso [have been deported,] so for someone to say that it is only one person that has been deported for the Sinohydro energy loan deal is neither here nor there.
“We have not deported Aisha Huang because of the loan agreement and government officials did not shield or pampered her,” he stressed.