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Opinions of Saturday, 13 November 2010

Columnist: RFI

Petition to H. E the Vice President and Chairman of the Police Council

H.E The Vice President and Chairman
Ghana Police Council
The Castle

Dear Sir,


On the 17th day of September, 2010 at about 6:00am, the Police from the Tema Regional Police Command without provocation, firing tear gas into hundreds of people who had come to the Canoe Beach in Tema, in search of their daily bread.

In an attempt to resist the unwarranted life threatening attack on the harmless fisher-folks persons present responded with stones, forcing the few police officers to retreat. The persons present I learnt then moved and caused extensive damage to properties belonging to an Investor, the Tema Traditional Council and the Tema Metropolitan Assembly.

The Police reinforced, returned and killed two persons very unrelated to the violence one in his home and the other into the sea.
They went on rampage shooting both tear gas and live bullets way into the Tema New Town Township, injuring scores with of people with bullets, arresting people from their rooms and beating any man they saw.

In the end they arrested twenty seven (27) people and locked them up in the Tema Main Harbour Police cells, on the 17th September, 2010. On the 19th September, 2010 five (5) of us three canoe owners, one porter and myself were picked up between the hours of 3:00am and 4: 30am and dumped into the same, overcrowded Main Harbour cells.

On Monday we were arraigned before the Ashaiman Circuit Court charged with assault of public officers and rioting with deadly weapons including locally manufactured pistol and causing damage to properties. The prosecutor told the court a lie by saying we were all arrested on the 17th of September, 2010 at the scene of the riot, rioting with weapons.

At least, five of us Nii Adjei Kraku, Adjieteh Quaye, Adjeitey Tawiah, Armah Okoh and I, Richster Nii Amarh Amarfio, were arrested on the 19th day of September, 2010 in our homes far away from the scene. I never participated in the riot and can say same for many others who were arrested.

I was arrested for expressing my view on Citi Fm, when in an interview I granted Shamima Muslim, I stated that the police acted wrongly and must be blamed for the whole incident, that the Metropolitan Chief Executive for Tema, the Director General of Ghana Ports and Harbour Authority as well as the representative of the investor must be held responsible individually and collectively for the killing of innocent people and be made to explain why they allowed a police escort, ordered the firing of the tear gas into hundred of people, majority of whom were women over a project that :
? Has not been granted an Environment Protecting Agency License to start operations.
? Has been identified and proven to be potentially explosive.
? Has not yet conducted and consulted the public on their Environmental Impact Assessment, (EIA), Social Impact Assessment and their respective mitigation plans.
? EPA has stated in a security report presented by Commodore Addison of the Eastern Naval Command that the project cost less than the cost of the activities on the said 16.004 acres land.
? On the land that was still under dispute between the Military, Indigenes of Tema and the GPHA.
? Will destroy the investments of local fisher folks than runs in excess of GH¢30 million (US $ 20 million), 75% of which is owned by the women.
Wilmar Africa Ltd, a subsidiary of Wilmar International intends investing a US $ 40 million Edible Oil Refinery and Tank farm close to the Tema Harbour. GPHA offered them for 50years + 50years leasehold, a parcel of land 16.004acres that lay between the Chemu Lagoon drain and the canoe basin close to the ‘5’ beach at Tema New Town.

That parcel of land has served the economic, social and cultural interest of the Tema Fishing Industry and community, which is the biggest and safest canoe landing beach in Ghana and directly employs about 13,500 people, and links to the employment of over 75% of the 75,000 people living in Tema New Town as well as many other fishing communities in Ghana.

After initial resistance led by the Corporate Social Responsibility Movement (CSRM) and the Tema Canoe Owners Association, the selected committee on Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs, proposed a negotiation for co – existence between the company and fisher folks.

The people of Tema in a meeting at the Tema Traditional Council selected 17 people to study the project implication on the community and advice the community accordingly.

Being the secretary, I facilitated a number of meetings with Wilmar Africa Ltd representative Alex Asiedu, community members and varying interest groupings including fisher folks, the youth and Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority. The Wilmar representative proposed that the land was big enough to accommodate his company as well as the other activities on the land, namely drying of anchovies, repairs and carving of canoes, make shift market and a public toilet.

He promised to modernize the drying of anchovies, the market and the toilet, dredge the Chemu drain, and contribute US $ 2 million to H.E the Presidents directive to GPHA to dredge the canoe basin and repair the net mending wharf since as he put it and confirmed by GPHA Director General and Estate Officer, Government had not got money for the project.

As a committee we insisted on a written proposal to be followed by a signing of a proper social contract.
We wrote to Wilmar to conduct a survey on the land and present a land use plan (LUP), so we can discuss with the various stakeholders and take their input.
I was charge with coordinating the event and visited Wilmar several times to discuss the issues.

We arranged some meetings between Wilmar and the committee, the fisher folks on one occasion, the council of state member for Greater Accra Region and the Family leads of Tema. We however maintained that without a proper LUP and written proposals we won’t be able to advice the people.

Finally Wilmer presented an LUP that has no covering letter to me, which suggested that the land had been leased to Wilmer Africa Ltd by GPHA. That there can’t be any activity on the land as such the drying of the anchovies, fish smoking and the canoe repairs should be undertaking in the 300metre stretch of land along the sandy beach ‘5’ beach.
In a meeting of the ‘17’ member committee we agreed that the intentions of Wilmer was doubtful and since the LUP was not officially presented and since a tripartite committee, made up of GPHA, Wilmer and committee had never met, I should tell Wilmer, to do the proper thing.

When I informed Mr. Alex Asiedu about the decision, he through the Minister of Food and Agriculture who is also the chairman of the Ministerial Committee on the Wilmar projects sent a high powered team led by the Deputy Minster, Food and Agriculture responsible for Fisheries, Nii Amasah Namoale, chairman, Fisheries Commission, Mr. Mike Acheampong, Director of Fisheries, Mr. Samuel Quartey and Mr. Adjei Annan, Council of state member, Greater Accra Region. The meeting which we insisted must be held in public to allow the main actors speak their voices ended abruptly, with the Dep. Minister receiving insults when he insisted the project will happen even if the people did not agree.

That was the last meeting held over the project so far as I know, it is therefore not true for anybody to suggest that I or any member of the committee had given the impression that the people have agreed to the project.
The communities demand;

? The action of the Police, the Metropolitan Security Council and the officials of GPHA be investigated by an independent committee
? The Police shootings resulting in the killings and injuring of innocent people as well as invasion of people’s private homes and shooting into their homes be probed
? The police had through their involvement shown gross display of biasness in this case hence a need for an independent body of enquiry that will also investigate the involvement of the police.
? Immediate suspension of any further prosecution of the people by the Police until events leading to the September 17th rioting had been thoroughly investigated, as well as the cause of the death of the two (2) young men, the veracity of the killing of the pregnant women had all been investigated
? That the people are left to go about their fishing business in peace as an issue of right.
It is worthy of note that the investigator upon inviting me again Friday 29th October, 2010, threatened to slap me and put me cells if I do not answer his questions the way he wanted me to. He told me I would suffer but for the fact that my mother followed me to the station he would have beaten me. Why would I be put under such duress if the police have no interest in the case?

Upon invitation to his office the National Security Coordinator Mr. Gbevlo Lartey also said if I wanted to play the hero then he will make me a hero, and that he will make me hang. He said if any attempt is made at resisting the project then he will send “men” and more lives would be lost, and mine is no exception.

This is not partisan politics, this it’s about the livelihood of a fishing community, of people whose lands were compulsorily acquired for the good of Ghana, of people who are loosing their identity because of Ghana.
Thank you.

Yours faithfully

(Executive Secretary)
Police Headquarters

The Director General
Police Headquarters

The Media