BY KEBBA MAMBURAY
Proceedings continue at the Faraba Banta Commission of Inquiry. In yesterday’s sitting of the 23rd July 2018, the Chairperson of the National Assembly Select Committee on the Environment and NGO Affairs, appeared to testify before the Commission.
Sainey Touray, the Chairperson of the National Assembly Select Committee, testified that the responsibility of the committee is to look into environmental issues; that they went to Faraba Banta, because the VDC of the village wrote a letter requesting their presence.
According to him, after receiving the letter, they summoned a meeting to do justice to the content of the letter; that they saw the necessity of inviting all stakeholders to a meeting; that at the meeting, everyone was given a chance to explain his side of the story but that Marena, the proprietor of ‘Julakay’ Company, insisted that he has a license and from a legal point of view, is entitled to carry out mining activities. Chairperson Touray said the VDC doubted how ‘Julakay’ Company obtained license to mine and were not comfortable with the idea because it will affect their rice fields; that, the VDC complained that ‘Julakay’ was dealing with a certain segment of people in the village which includes Alkalo and the Chief.
Chairperson Touray testified that after the meeting, they paid a visit to the site and to their disappointment they found out that a massive environmental degradation was caused by the mining which affected the flow of the water to the rice fields; that as a committee responsible for environmental affairs, they thought it wise to advice both parties as to the way forward; that he told the parties to meet the NEA who should issue a comprehensive advice to the parties, as a major stakeholder in this matter.
Chairperson Touray testified that there was a day when he was called by NAM Tamba who informed him that two people were pronounced dead and several people injured at Faraba Banta, during protests; that upon hearing this information, they rushed to the mortuary as members of the National Assembly, to express solidarity and later went to Faraba as a delegation, to witness the incident; that they saw a lot of destruction of properties like vehicles, the house of the security officers and a hole bigger than the first time they saw it, at the mining site.
In addition, Chairperson Touray said they saw certain compounds were set ablaze by the village youth but did not see any PIU officers on the ground; that after their visit, the former VP and the former IGP and some other stakeholders, came to the National Assembly to discuss the Faraba Banta and other environmental issues; that on the eve of koriteh, the National Assembly Select Committee on the Environment, met with the Geology Department and to halt ‘Julakay’s mining operations until they are done with their investigations; that during their first visit to the site, they found out that the site was already mined and the degradation was caused by the VDC’s mining at the site.
Meanwhile NAM Bakary Njie, who is also a member of the National Assembly Select Committee on the Environment, testifie before Commissioner Joof that in one of their meetings with the VDC, they complained about Julakay’s mining in the village, pointing out that if the mining continues, it will destroy their rice fields. According to Njie, the VDC told them that ‘Julakay’ only had agreement with the Alkalo of Faraba Banta; that further question was put to the VDC on why they were denying ‘Julakay’ Company from mining when they as villagers, were already engaged in the activity in the same area; that they responded by saying that they mine by using spades and not by heavy machinery.
That the next day the NA Select Committee had a meeting with ‘Julakay’ Company and were told by Marena, that he has a license to mine; that he was further told by the NA Select Committee to hold on until the situation was calm.
NAM Njie said after two days from their meeting with ‘Julakay’ Company, he had a call from one of the villagers that the Company had resumed mining; that they called ‘Julakay’ and demanded for him to suspend activities until they are done with investigations but they did not agree, claiming that if they want him to stop mining, they should consult the Geology Department, where he obtained his license from.