By Kebba Secka
Chief Inspector Edrissa Sanneh has told the commission probing into the Faraba incident that more than one hundred and thirty five PIU officers were deployed to the village on the fateful day of the incident. He revealed that some of the officers were armed with AK47 with live ammunitions, tear gases and grenades.
According to him, he had knowledge of the site under dispute prior to the day of the incident, noting that he usually visits the village with his commander, O/C Babucarr Cham of Brikama Police Station.
Asked to narrate what had happened on the day of the incident, Edrissa said: “On 18 June, 2018, my boss O/C Cham informed me that the natives of Faraba Banta were protesting against Julakay and they were causing obstruction on the highway; that I have to prepare the officers under my command for the area,” According to him, the PIU deployment at Faraba Banta protest was a joint-operation between officers from Brikama and Kanifing Police Stations making it more than one hundred and thirty five officers altogether. According to him, most of the officers were armed to the teeth when they were going to the scene. He further explained that ASP Musa Fatty commanded the troops that came from Kanifing while O/C Cham and himself (Sanneh) led the troops from Brikama.
Reacting to what happened when they arrived at the scene, Sanneh said his two superiors ASP Fatty and O/C Cham were busy persuading the angry villagers to a negotiation; that during the course of this, lots of stones were thrown at them. “Were you the only Chief Inspector at the time of the incident,” asked deputy chairperson of the Commission. Witness responded: “No, Paul Gomez, Malick Touray, and myself were all Chief Inspectors,” he told the Commission. The witness went on to say that when the villagers overpowered them, he made a telephone call to O/C Cham who was at the scene busy managing the protesters and informed him that most of the officers were hurt seriously and Cham asked him to withdraw his troops immediately. “At that moment, we started withdrawing our personnel while the villagers were following us and throwing stones at us,” he told the Commission. Sanneh also told the Commission that ASP Musa Fatty’s AK47 was short by twenty-three live rounds when he (Inspector Sanneh) conducted assessment on the content of his gun (NSP). According to him, the NSP was done after he rescued him from the stones thrown by the villagers.
Another witness that appeared before the commission was Chief Inspector, Momodou Saidy who is attached to the PIU base in Brufut. He too confirmed having knowledge of the disputed site at Faraba Banta prior to the day of the incident through some visits he made with his senior, O/C Cham. “Why did the O/C take you to the mining site,” asked Deputy Commissioner. “Because he was the commander and also there is usually be a joint patrol in the region,” he told the commissioners. He added that after frequent visits to the area with his senior, they installed a PIU based for the protection of Julakay’s properties at the mining site.
National Assembly member for Kombo East Constituency Hon. Lamin FM Conta was the next to appear before the Commission to give his testimony. In his evidence Hon. Conta said in spite of being the parliamentarian for the constituency, he was never suspicious or been informed of a dispute at the mining site in Faraba until the day of the incident. He explained how the National Assembly Select Committee on the Environment intervened in finding a solution to the problem. He said when the Select Committee made a telephone call to Julakay and advised him to stop the mining until they establish the facts, Julakay disagreed with them arguing that he had legal mandate from the geology department to mine in the area. Hon. Conta said Julakay refused to adhere to Committee’s advice and said: “What is a National Assembly over my legal authority to conduct mining.”