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14.04.2009 Sports News

Baba Yara Stadium disasterDon`t politicize committee`s report -Sports Minister fumes

By Issah Alhassan, Kumasi - Ghanaian Chronicle
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THE MINISTER for Youth and Sports, Hon. Alhaji Mohammed Muntaka Mubarak, has denied rumours that the Marshall Belieb Committee set up to investigate the February 8, 2009, stadium disaster was meant to witch hunt opponents of the government.

Describing such comments as highly unfortunate and a figment of one's own imagination, Hon. Muntaka noted that the institution of the committee was based solely on the need to unravel the mystery surrounding the stadium disaster incident and to proffer solutions which would go a long way to ensure that such an incident did not occur in the near future.

The five-member committee led by a Kumasi-based legal practitioner, Lawyer James Marshal Belieb, which was set up by the Ministry of Youth and Sports to investigate the circumstances that led to the death of four football fans and injuries to several others during the Premier League encounter between Kotoko and Hearts at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium, imposed five year suspension on the CEO of the Kumasi Asante Kotoko Sporting Club, Mr. Sylvester Asare Owusu and further recommended amongst other things, the immediate dismissal of the CEO of the National Sports Council, Mr. Prince Ernest Oduro-Mensah.

The report has however attracted mixed reactions from the public some of whom described it as a political tool by the government to witch hunt certain personalities perceived to be sympathizers of the NPP

Addressing a press conference in Kumasi to react to various comments that have come up since the report of the committee was made public, Hon. Muntaka stressed that it was not in the interest of his Ministry or the government to use sports, which is seen as a vehicle for promoting unity and national cohesion, to settle political scores.

According to him, the government was very much concerned with the perennial loss of dear human lives and the fact that a number of recommendations made by committees in the past had failed to adequately hold people whose actions or inactions led to the loss of lives responsible.

The Sports Minister, therefore, urged people who have described the report as politically motivated to stop for a moment and ponder over the precious live which have been lost as a result of the incident and questioned whether individuals affected by the committee's recommendations are important than those who have died.

He further emphasized that the investigation team was not a commission of inquiry established to prosecute or recommend for prosecution of any individual but indicated that it was an administrative committee whose mandate was to find the cause of the disaster and make recommendations to the Sports Ministry, adding that there was no issue of a white paper on the report, as being suggested by a section of the media.

Hon. Muntaka noted that due diligence and consultations were adequately made by the Sports Ministry, stating that all stakeholders including the Presidency, the Attorney General, the Ministry of Interior and the Asantehene were consulted before the report was made public.

He stated that he personally conferred with the President and sought the advice of the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, before issuing the directives for the report to be publicized.

“Let me make things clear here that the committee did not deal with Asante Kotoko as a team but an individual in the person of Sylvester Asare Owusu,” he stressed.

Hon. Muntaka has also declared the government's readiness to pursue every avenue to make sure the recommendations are fully complied with should the Ghana Football Association (GFA) drag its feet in implementing the sanctions.

“We are ready to follow this matter if it means going to FIFA to argue our case because we believe that the loss of our dear citizens is more serious than any individual interest,” he noted.

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