By Mamadou Dem
State counsel Babucarr Drammeh yesterday, 23 November, while cross examining Lamin Waa Juwara, the erstwhile Minister of Local Government and Lands, told the lower court in Banjul presided over by Principal Magistrate Omar Jabang that he ought to know what was going on at the ministry of local government,lands and traditional rulers when he was the minister.
Continuing with the cross examination of the third defence witness (DW3), state counsel Babucarr Drammeh asked “Do you know one Malamin Jatta?”
“Yes,” replied Juwara.
“What was his position?”
“He was the director of lands?”
“Do you know the accused persons?” “Yes I do,” responded Juwara, adding that Hamidou Jallow (2nd accused) was working for government as a senior officer at the department of lands and survey.
“Do you remember the meetings you presided over as minister of local government in respect of plot C8 and C9 respectively?,” quizzed Drammeh.
“Yes I do remember,” replied the witness. He said a senior staff meeting was held at the ministry of local government with the two alien parties in respect of plot number C8 and C9 respectively.
Responding to another question from counsel regarding meetings held at the said ministry, Mr. Juwara told the court that both meetings were held at the said ministry and the following people were present i.e. himself, Permanent Secretary Saikou K.Sanyang, Hamidou Jallow, Ensa Camara, Momodou Colly and Tamsir Onasis Konteh.
“The second accused who was present in those meetings told this court that plot C8 and C9 were withdrawn from the first accused and was notified as he was present in the meetings,” Drammeh submitted.
At that juncture, attorney for the second accused, Abdulai Sisohor interjected and argued that there is nowhere in the records where the second accused said such a thing. He added that as much as the state counsel is at liberty to cross examine the witness, he has to put to him what the witness had said.
“Is it correct that at one time, plot C8 and C9 were withdrawn from the first accused?” asked counsel.
“It was, but not at a meeting. It was directed to me as a minister on the advice of the director of lands and when the meeting was on, the consensus was to restore ownership to Tamsir Onasis Konteh,” Juwara responded.
He added “Despite being the minister, I agreed with the technical advice, that’s how things stand.”
“What are the conditions of land relocation after allocation?”
“The conditions of relocation after allocation depends on the minister who gives approval and revokes when there are errors. If there are any irregularities, it could be revoked,” said the former minister.
“Is it correct that there can be award for land compensation?” asked Drammeh. “If the ownership is established, there is a certain amount that should be compensated to the original owner but as a minister, I had to rely on the technicians who are au fait with all the regularities of compensation,” responded Juwara.
“What are the regularities of land compensation?” but before the witness gave an answer, his counsel,Lamin Mboge, interjected and said that the question asked by the state was based on legal matters and that his client is neither a lawyer nor a law maker. He therefore urged the court to refuse the question.
Replying to the objection, the state counsel argued that the witness was at one time heading a public office and as a minister he should know it.
“As a former minister, do you know any of the requirements for compensation of land?” he asked.
“I know the requirements but not their specifics,” responded Juwara.
“Mr. Juwara, you stated in this court that the first accused paid land premium and survey fees that entitled him to C8 and C9. Are these the only two requirements that one needs to fulfill under the guide of compensation?”
“They are not the only requirements. I may not remember all the requirements because I wasn’t a technician.”
“Can you tell the court those that you can remember?”
“Relocation should take place within a specific time. I think it should be within six months and the maximum is two years, failure of which warrants an automatic withdrawal.”
“Is it correct that you notify the person before you automatically withdraw?” Barrister Mboge interjected again and referred the court to section 20 of the Evidence Act. He argued that it was not proper in law.
Replying to the submission, State counsel Babucarr Drammeh submitted that all the laws and cases cited by the defence were irrelevant to the case, adding that Mr. Juwara, as minister, ought to know what was going on.
The matter was adjourned to December 3rd for ruling on the arguments and continuation of cross examination by the state.