19.08.2006 Politics

Political Parties in Upheaval Over Cocaine Problem

By voanews
Political Parties in Upheaval Over Cocaine Problem
LISTEN AUG 19, 2006

The opposition party the National Democratic Congress (NDC) says the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) must bear responsibility for the cocaine problem currently facing the country. This statement came Thursday after President John Kufuor accused the NDC of complicity in allowing drug barons to enter the country. But the NDC says the ruling party is using diversionary tactics to reduce the cocaine problem to a trivial political debate. According to the NDC, the comments are harmful to the work of the Justice Georgina Wood Committee, which is investigating several narcotic-related cases. The president told a group of party supporters that the NDC cannot distance itself from the cocaine scandal because one of its leading members admitted to the committee that he had a business relationship with a Venezuelan drug suspect. NDC General Secretary Johnson Asiedu-Nketia spoke to reporters Thursday, making a formal statement about the president's comments. The press conference, which was attended by leading national, regional and constituency executives of the NDC, as well as members of Parliament, addressed many drug-related issues. Asiedu-Nketia spoke with VOA English to Africa Service reporter Peter Clottey about the party's concerns.

“What we [sought] to do, was to question the president's logic that people are guilty only by association with people who are deemed to be criminals. We tried to expose the implications of applying that type of warped logic in this case. We know Eric Amoateng is charged on dealing in narcotics in the United States of America. This Eric Amoateng is a very close associates to the president, indeed the president recommended him to the people of Nkoranza to be elected as a true representative of their party in that constituency. Amoateng contributed to the campaign chest of President Kufuor. Is the president saying that he is also a drug baron because he is associated with Eric Amoateng?”

Asiedu-Nketia said, “We are saying that the issue of dealing in drugs is a criminal matter. And in our laws, it is only the attorney general who decides that criminal matters must be prosecuted or not be prosecuted. They should not use any diversionary tactics by the president by way of insults and insinuations and so on to divert the attention of the Ghanaian public from the main issue…. We should not allow them to divert attention to irrelevant issues.”

Meanwhile, the NPP has responded to the accusations. Frank Agyekum is the government's spokesman on exercising authority. He told VOA English to Africa reporter Peter Clottey the NDC is spreading falsehoods.

“I must say that the NDC truly does not have a case. What the presidents said was to re-echo what their own official has said. And Rojo Nunoo has told the committee investigating this cocaine issue that he had worked with the drug barons that have been caught, the Venezuelans. He has worked in the capacity as a consultant to them. So the president was saying that, given all these dealings that he's got with them, couldn't it be that Rojo knew a bit more than he's given out? Because these Venezuelans have come and were fronting as dealers in lingerie.”

He said the president can't be blamed for politicizing the cocaine scandal.

“I don't know about stooping low. But the president was speaking in a very political party charged atmosphere. He was speaking at the inauguration of the new office of the NPP in greater Accra. That was a political party platform, and he was speaking as the leader of the NPP. And actually what he said was nothing new. We could accuse the president of politicizing the issue if he had introduced new dimensions to what was happening.”

Agyekum denied comments made by the NDC that the government was only investigating the matter because there was international pressure on Kufuor's administration to do so.

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