By Louise Jobe
Micheal David Gomez has appealed against the West Coast Region Group Tribunal’s decision on his land dispute with one Malang Baku Manneh of Gunjur.
Gomez wants the high court to set aside the group tribunal’s decision dated 1st August 2019 that he is not the owner of the land under dispute.
Gomez was the plaintiff before the group tribunal and his claims were among others un-lawful trespass by Mr. Manneh. Gomez said Manneh has encroached onto his land, uprooted his cashew trees with the use of a JBC Bulldozer and cleared his farmland without his consent and authority.
Mr. Manneh denied liability and the plaintiff and called two (2) witnesses to prove his case. After Mr. Gomez closed his case, Manneh also brought six (6) witnesses.
The members of the tribunal said they are convinced that the land under dispute is the property of the defendant – Malang Baku Manneh and not Mr. Gomez. The group tribunal held that in fact it was Gomez that has unlawfully encroached onto the defendant’s land and started planting cashew trees illegally without the approval and consent of the defendant. The members said they are with the belief that it is the defendant who gave land to this plaintiff’s family with the condition that no one should plant trees there.
“The defendant’s evidence to this court stated that when he gave land to the plaintiff’s father and others, he instructed that no one person is allowed to plant thereon on this land any type of tree and that they can farm on it as long as they don’t flout the instructions of the land giving. The West Coast Group Tribunal is also convinced that the defendant’s family are the original landowners of the area in dispute,” noting that defendant’s father was the very one who gave both farm land and residential land to the plaintiff’s family. “All the defendant’s witnesses testified that they don’t share any farming borders with this plaintiff,” the tribunal held.
The tribunal went ahead with its judgment: “The West Coast Group Tribunal also notes the fact that when this plaintiff took this matter to the State House, they were urged to share the land equally amongst the two parties which idea was accepted by the plaintiff but objected to by the defendant. The court noted if the plaintiff were the lawful owners of this land, he would not have accepted the share basis of the land and therefore hesitated to accept the State House Soldiers suggestions for sharing the land. The West Coast Group Tribunal is finally convinced that the plaintiff herein has failed to prove his case before the court and that convincingly, the defendant has proven his case before the court beyond all reasonable doubts.”
The court made orders restraining the defendant and all his representatives from entering or further trespassing on the land effective August 2019.
“The West Coast Group Tribunal is also convinced on this defendant’s claims and ownership since it is an undeniable fact that it was the defendant herein who allocated the community of Sandali their existing Christian cemetery for use. It is trite that if the defendant did not own the land, he would not have allocated land to the community for such use,” the court held.
When the case was called on the 20thNovember 2019 before Justice Aminata Saho-Ceesay of the Banjul High Court, Lawyer S. Gaye appeared for Mr. Gomez and Lawyer Manneh represented the defendant – Mr. Manneh.
Mr. Gomez is dissatisfied with the decision of the group tribunal and wants the high court to set it aside with the claim that the decision of the Group Tribunal is against the weight of the evidence. When the case was mentioned before Justice A. S Ceesay of the high court, the case couldn’t proceed because the high court did not have the certified copy of the record of proceedings from the district Tribunal Court. The case was adjourned till 31st January 2020.