BY KEBBA MAMBURAY
The Faraba Banta Commission that was set up by the President to probe into the unfortunate incident on that fateful day of June 18th 2018 when unarmed villagers demonstrated against sand mining in their community, leaving three people dead, continues to hear the testimonies of witnesses.
During the sittings of Monday July 16th 2018, Ansumana Marena or ‘Julakay’, reappeared to continue his testimony.
Marena continued that during his meeting with the Chief of the district, he was told to consider employing the youth of Faraba but said he told the chief he will employ them in areas they are good to work and will not employ them in all the positions.
Marena testified that he was visited by Alagie Sanyang the VDC Chairperson who wanted them to partner and work together; that Sanyang did not mind leaving his job to work for him; that Sanyang said he (Julakay) should have given him the money intended for the community by seeing him (Alagie Sanyang) first, so that he can have 50% and give the other 50% to the village; that Sanyang told him that whatever he wants, will stand in the village and if he fails to accept what he told him, he will not operate in the village.
Marena testified that few days later, he received a call from one of his staff that the youth of Faraba insisted that Sanyang should work with him or they will burn his vehicles that transport sand; that he wrote to the Governor of West Coast Region who summoned a meeting in November 2017 in the presence of the Alkalo, members of the council of elders, VDC members and some villagers; that the Governor asked the villagers, the reason they were obstructing Julakay from operating and that the Alkalo replied it was the VDC.
Testifying further, he said the VDC Chairperson told the Governor that mining in the area will results to a lot of destruction particularly the women’s garden; that the former Governor told him to redraft the MOU and include the D100, 000.00 to be signed by himself, the Alkalo of the village and the VDC Chairperson.
Marena testified that after a long discussion, the Governor advised them to settle the matter amicably; that afterwards, when he return to start mining, some villagers told him that he will not work because the road construction will destroy their cashew and palm trees; that if it happens, there will be bloodshed; that he went with his admin manager and surveyor, to meet the Jarju kunda family head, who owned the palm trees with cola nuts and D25, 000.00; that the family told him to see how many palm trees he can cut down and compensated them D25, 000.00 for twenty one palm trees; that an agreement was drafted and signed by the Jarju Kunda family, Joseph Suma and himself.
Marena told Commissioners that the next day he went to cut down the trees, he received a threatening call from Sanyang; that despite this, he went ahead and constructed the access road when he met a group of youth who told him that Sanyang said he should not construct the road; that he met the cashew owners too whose trees were planted on the path of the access road; that the cashew tree owners demanded D15,000.00; that he was told that Sanyang suggested the amount for them.
Marena said later he was called to report to Brikama, Yundum and Mandinaba Police Stations on the issue; that the Police told him that they were to conduct a fact finding mission; that as he arrived Faraba with the Police, the youth started stoning but the police could not take control at the time; that a few days later, the IGP summoned a meeting that included all stakeholders to advise them to allow him to operate.
Sittings continue today.