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General News of Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Source: Ghanaian Observer

Rawlings Dodged Us - Norwegians

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One of the two Norwegian journalists who broke the story about the alleged bribe Scancem paid to former President Rawlings has alleged that he (Rawlings) rebuffed all attempts they made to reach him for his side of the story before publication. Harald Vanvik, one of the two journalists of Dagens Nareringsliv has told Gabby Asare Otchere Darko, one of a team of two Ghanaian journalists presently in Oslo that he and another colleague were in Accra last April to speak to Rawlings and his wife in connection with the allegations of bribery but could not get to speak to them.

He told Otchere Darko that together with his colleague Geir Imset they tried very hard over several days to get in touch with the Rawlingses but were not successful.

Vanvik maintains that they even spoke to persons very close to Mr. Rawlings all in a bid to get an appointment and went as far as to make an official request to meet Mr. Rawlings through the NDC’s Kokomlemle headquarters. The reaction from the two Norwegian journalists is a riposte to a claim the Rawlingses made in a letter they instructed their solicitor, Tony Lithur of Lithur Brew and Company to write on their behalf to The Crusading Guide and which was published in that paper in its July 27, 2007 edition.

In that letter Tony Lithur on behalf of his law firm stated in part `…What is clear from the Norwegian publication is that the journalists who wrote the article claimed they conducted their own independent investigations on the subject and travelled all the way to Ghana for interviews. Presumably, it was at that time that they interviewed Mr. P. V. Obeng. Surprisingly, however, they failed to interview our clients, for some reason that is quite baffling…`

The Norwegian journalists, GO found out, were able to track P. V. Obeng down at the Ridge Church, Accra but got no joy with his former boss and the wife. P. V. Obeng, while admitting to receiving monies from Scancem, has further explained that he only received monies for consultancy services given to Ghacem after he left office in December 1996.

Meanwhile, Gabby Otchere Darko has been explaining to GO why it is imperative that he and Kweku Baako Jnr. and for that matter any interested Ghanaian journalist, to travel to Oslo to find out what was said in court for the benefit of all of Ghana.

Otchere Darko and Baako`s trip which is at the instance of some Norwegian journalists will lead to the creation of a nerve centre between Ghanaian journalists and their Norwegian counterparts which will be activated anytime there is the need for collaboration between journalists and media houses from the two countries.

Otchere Darko rebutted speculations in some media houses that their trip has sponsored by the government to find stuff to nail Jerry John Rawlings and his wife with.

`I think it was responsible for some of us to take the initiative to acquaint ourselves with first hand information on this matter. Until then, we were all relying on an uncertified English translation of a report in a Norwegian newspaper, which also drew a lot of its facts from a court trial. Relying on third hand information on a story that hits at the reputation of a former head of state should not be the way of doing things.’

He wondered why people will call Kweku Baako, a one time Journalist of the Year, `Mr. Documents` and still have a problem with him when he endeavours to get to the bottom of such a delicate but national interest issue. It was the same drive for journalistic perfection that got Kweku to travel to the British Isles investigating the funding of the education of the children of the ex-President, for example. At least grant him that, `Otchere Darko said.

He stressed, `I have said this before and will repeat it here: considering the personalities involved we were not being fair to P. V. and Mr. and Mrs. Rawlings with the speculative analysis that we were doing.`

He recounted Alfred Ogbamey travelling to the United States to do a similar investigative work on the IFC loan scandal against the NPP. He said he also remembers Anas Aremeyaw Anas of The Crusading Guide disguising himself to travel to a Thai jail to bring `the raw facts to Ghanaians. `

He further recalled Raymond Archer of The Enquirer`s celebrated trip to Vienna, Austria to investigate a visa fraud allegation involving Alhaji Mocta Bamba when he was the Deputy Minister for Presidential Affairs.

`My decision to go to Oslo was motivated by the same journalistic curiosity and public interest sensibilities that sent me to London two years ago to investigate stories from a man holding himself as lawyer for Eric Amoateng who threw the nation into a serious panic with his claim that the names of some Cabinet Ministers have been mentioned by Amoateng as being involved in his heroine trafficking matter,` Otchere Darko stated.

As of press time yesterday, Kweku Baako had arrived in Oslo and had plunged straight into a high level meeting with some persons connected with the trial of the Scancem official to obtain more info.

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