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18.06.2006 General News

NGO demands apology from Forestry Ministry

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Accra, June 16, GNA 96 A human rights nongovernmental organisation (NGO) is asking several government officials to apologise to victims of the April Volta Lake boat disaster affecting evictees from the Digya Island.

The Ghana Penal and Justice System Observatory (GHAPEJUSO) said the Minister of Lands, Forestry and Mines, Professor Dominic Fobih; Mr Solomon District Chief Executive of the Afram Plains, Mr Yaw Fordjour and the Digya Park Manager, Mr B. Asamoah Boateng should apologise to victims of the disaster while the State made efforts to compensate such people.

It also demanded that the District Chief Executive of Jasikan, Mr Solomon Donkor should apologise for allegedly demeaning the death of the 10 people who drowned during the disaster while the Director of the Game and Wildlife, Mr Owusu Frimpong and the Volta Regional Minister, Mr Kofi Dzamesi should do the same.

Mr Ahumah Ocansey, Head of Legal Affairs Committee and Deputy General Secretary of GHAPEJUSO, told a press conference that should the officials refuse to apologize within a week they would be forced to proceed to take court action against them.

GHAPEJUSO implored the Government to establish a trust fund for the benefit of the families of such victims as a constitutional or international obligation while immediate steps should be taken to assess the safety, reliability and durability of all boats.

Mr Ocansey said the first part of preliminary independent investigations started by its officials into the boat disaster, revealed ample evidence and "sufficient basis to embark upon legal action in court against the three, whose actions were without due regards to the rule of law".

Briefing the press on the findings of their investigations, Mr Ocansey said the team of investigators found that the victims were mercilessly and forcefully evicted; violently traumatized by Wildlife Officers, who attacked them at dawn and coerced them unto a restrictive capacity intake boat.

"In fact the action of the officials was unrestrained, excessive without moderation and finally went beyond the bounds of acceptable and reasonable human behaviour. They were very intemperate and reckless else the tragedy would have been prevented.

"Now they have plunged fellow citizens into abject desolation, mournful frenzy and hysteria, destruction and enormous loss of property, he said.

The Organisation has consequently recommended that Parliament should enact laws making it obligatory for anybody cruising either for pleasure or fishing on inland waters, sea and any part of the Volta Lake to be robed in life jacket.

It said the Ghana Navy and trained guards in boats must monitor all boats operating in the zones as well.

It further recommended that in the event of any act of acquisition of any land for development purposes, an acceptable and favourable consensus on the mode of acquisition, relocation or resettlement of the indigenous people must be trained at first and backed by law in relation to the statutes of the Constitution.

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