BY KEBBA MAMBURAY
The Commission of Inquiry set by the President of the Republic Adama Barrow to inquire into the Faraba Banta incident, yesterday July 12th 2018, received as witness, the VDC Chairperson of Faraba Banta, to testify before the Commission about the incident.
Alhagie Sanyang the VDC Chairperson testified that prior to the incident, there was a day when the national assembly select committee on the environment summoned a meeting to discuss the impact of the sand mining industry, as well as concerns raised by the community; that it was put to the Committee that sand mining will suffocate the cultivation of rice and can cause erosion of their community; that this particular meeting was done in the absence of the Alkalo, the Chief and Governor of the Region.
According to Sanyang, before the conclusion of the meeting, the committee told them that they will call on Julakay and the Geology department, to have their side of story regarding sand mining in the area; that all other things will be inclusive. Sanyang refuted the allegations that Julakay had an agreement with them regarding the donation of D100, 000. 00; that the NA Select Committee on the environment, visited the village and the villagers including the VDC and some council of elders who gathered at the Bantaba to receive them; that this was done in the absence of both the Alkalo and Chief, even though the Chief was in the village at that material time. Sanyang said after the committee was received, the villagers escorted them to the vicinity of the mining site and the ponds of water caused by previous mining, where an eight year old boy lost his life; that three days after the meeting with the NA Select Committee, they (VDC) received a call from the president of the Select Committee Saikou Touray to inform them that they met Julakay and advised him on the sand mining operations but that Julakay responded it was only the Geology Department who can tell him to stop, because they are the one who issued him a license; that it was the following Monday June 10th 2018, that Julakay started mining activities.
Sanyang said he called Lawyer Borry S. Touray and informed him too that Julakay has started mining but the Borry asked him to take pictures of the vehicles and their registration numbers.
Sanyang said it was on the 18th June 2018 that he received a call at work from one of his brothers, that there was a riot between villagers and PIU officers and Bakary kujabi and Ismaila Bah were shot; that he could have been a victim if he was there on the scene; that he called the National Assembly Member for Bundung and informed him what he was told on telephone by his brother; that he went to Faraba with some National Assembly Members, to the scene of the incident and they were shown the spot where Bakary and Ismaila were shot; that he later saw the offices of Julakay vandalized and trucks burnt.
Sanyang said he went with the delegation of the National Assembly members to the Brikama police were they were told some of the rioters where arrested and taken to; that after a long day with the National Assembly members, he went home and was told that the PIU asked for him; that his veranda floor tiles were smashed and destroyed as they left. Sanyang said after the incident, he heard that Jung, Jamba and Bakary Saidykhan including the Alkalo’s household furniture, were set ablaze; that the next day, the visited the injured with VDC members and met the president who told them to see the Secretary at the office of the president Habib Drammeh; that it was Drammeh who broke the news to them that the president will set up a Commission to look into the matter.
Sanyang testified that after the incident on the 20th June 2018, the director of press and public relations at the office of the president Amie Bojang Sissoho came to the village and informed them that the president will visit Faraba; that the president’s visit fell on the 22nd of June 2018 and that during his meeting with villagers, the Alkalo, Chief and Governor of the Region, were not present; that prior to the incident, the Chief summoned a meeting and told them that he brought an MOU from Julakay for the Chairperson of the VDC to sign, who declined the action without the consent of the villagers.