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General News of Monday, 9 October 2006

Source: GNA/JFM/GHP

Asante Chiefs Warn Media ....

... Authors of comments (E.g. SIL) also warned?
... Owners of Media to be held personally responsible

Kumasi, Oct. 9 - Owners of newspapers and radio stations would henceforth be held personally responsible for derogatory comments about the Manhyia Palace, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II and The Golden Stool, Abo-bontrafour Group of the Asantehene's Gyaase has warned.

Publishers and authors of comments that seek to impute criminal linkages between the Asante Kingdom, the Manhyia palace or the Asantehene, would also have a case to answer.

The Group said there were deliberate attempts by some mischievous persons to link Asantehene to the activities of the group that was investigated by the Justice Georgina Wood Committee.

Speaking at a press conference in Kumasi on Monday, Baffour Ossei Hyeaman Brantuo VI, Otumfuo Manwerehene, Spokesperson of the Group, said the Manhyia Palace of the Asantehene was blameless and had nothing to do with the issue the Committee investigated. He pointed out that, if the "cocaine committee" had found any evidence incriminating Manhyia and Otumfuo, it would have invited the Asantehene to the Committee's sittings.

The Abo-bontrafour Group is made up of chiefs that are in close contact with Otumfuo on a daily basis and serve him in the day-to-day running of the Manhyia Palace. They also protect the Asantehene.

He said the competence of the Chairman of the Committee, a Supreme Court Judge, Mrs Justice Wood and her members could not be doubted, adding that, the Asantehene was never invited to this Committee and had no evidence to give to the Committee voluntarily either.

He said the Manhyia Palace was a very receptive place open to all manner of people and that its doors were always opened to all and sundry and many were those who had found refuge in hard times.

"Presidents, kings and queens, paupers, the needy, widows and people from all walks of life have found succour in times of affliction and need there", he said.

"We are very disappointed by the seemingly lack of support by the beneficiaries of this attribute of Manhyia Palace, notably, those in leadership positions, who have failed to caution their followers and have allowed them to play down the highest office of the institution of chieftaincy", he said.

"We have been expecting that, the powers that be would have protected the dignity of the office of the Asantehene by declaring emphatically his lack of culpability."

The Georgina Wood Committee was set up on July 4, 2006 to determine the facts leading to the suspected loss of narcotic drugs brought into the country by MV Benjamin, a vessel that docked at the Tema Harbour, and an alleged 200,000 dollars bribe paid to some Senior Police Officers by a 23-year-old woman, Ms Grace Asibi, girlfriend of Venezuelan drug baron, Vasquez Gerrado Duarte David, now at large. The Committee could not trace the whereabouts of the missing 77 parcels of cocaine.

The Committee submitted its report to Government on Friday September 22 and the Government issued its statement on it on Friday October 6.

The Ministry of the Interior gave the Committee a two-month mandate to complete its work but granted a week extension of time following a request, by the Committee, to enable it to complete its work.

The Committee was charged to determine the actual number of narcotic drug parcels on board the vessel immediately before it was intercepted and whether some of the parcels on board the vessel were removed before it was intercepted.

The Committee was to establish when and how the removal happened and recommend the appropriate punishment for those involved. The Committee was also to investigate any other issues relating to the loss of narcotics drugs from the stores of the National Narcotic Board (NACOB) and make recommendations on how to avoid recurrence.

The Committee had the additional mandate of investigating the various allegations levelled against some Police Officers with respect to the seizure of a quantity of narcotic drugs at East Legon and to advise on appropriate actions against any person or persons found culpable.

About 30 people appeared before the Committee.

A suspect had alleged before the Committee that he tried to seek the intervention of the palace upon his arrest so he would be set free by the police.

The Committee however did not invite Manhyia to its sittings. Many have questioned why the Committee did not invite the Asantehene to answer questions relating to his relationship with the drug suspect.

Some commentators have even suggested a possible complicity of the palace in the drugs deal and insist on the need for the Committee to have given the Asantehene the opportunity to clear his name and the image of the palace.

Only last week, the Asantehene described the comments as deliberate attempts to drag his name and that of the stool he occupies into disrepute and urged his sub chiefs to stand up in defence of the golden stool.

The Committee started its public hearing on July 25, with Ms Asibi, the prime witness in the East Legon drug seizure case, and Superintendent Edward Tabiri, Former Head of the Rapid Response Unit of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID).

Some of the key persons, who appeared before the Committee in relation to the East Legon case included the Director-General of (CID), Mr David Asante Apeatu and his Deputy Mr Patrick Ampewuah. In their evidence, they denied any act of bribery by Ms Asibi. Mr Ampewuah also denied a claim by Ms Asibi that he threatened her life in a phone call.

Other witnesses in that case were Mrs Gina Blay, Managing Editor of the "Daily Guide" newspaper; Mrs Rosa Iris Dosoo, Secretary/Translator of Vasquez and Mr Robert Joseph Mettle Nunoo, who is also called Rojo. In the case of the MV Benjamin, the issue, which took centre stage, was a recording of a conversation relating to the disappearance of the cocaine from the ship at a meeting between some alleged drug dealers in the house of Director General of Police Operations of the Ghana Police Service, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Kofi Boakye.

The key witnesses in that tape recording, which came to be known as the "Kofi Boakye Tape", were arrested, when they came to testify before the Committee.

The witnesses included Alhaji Issah Abass; Kwabena Amaning also called Tagor and Kwabena Acheampong.
Colonel Isaac Kwesi Akuoko, Executive Secretary of the Narcotics Control Board (NACOB); Mr Ben Ndego, Director of Operations of NACOB; and Mr Kofi Bentum Quanson, a Former National Security Co-ordinator and the First Executive Secretary of NACOB also testified.

Mr Patrick Kwateng Acheampong, Inspector General of Police, Mr Francis Poku, Minister of National Security and Mr Emmanuel Kyeremanteng Agyarko, Executive Director of the Food and Drugs Board and some security personnel from the Ghana Navy and Ghana Air Force also appeared before the Committee.

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