By Yusupha Jobe and Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
Police at Kombo South’s Gunjur station questioned and charged four activists in relation to Golden Lead’s pipe removal earlier this year in March. Yesterday three activists were charged with three criminal offenses and a bail bond of D 500,000 dalasi with a Gambian surety each. The first set of three was accused of excavating and destroying toxic waste pipes belonging to Chinese fishmeal company, Golden Lead, which the National Environment Agency had ordered to be removed in June last year.
Today, Lamin Jassey who went to show solidarity with the trio was called in for questioning and also charged with the same set of charges. It’s reported that the cases are to be transferred to Brikama police. All four have been invited to meet Police Officials on Monday 8 am.
The first trio called in for questioning yesterday morning are; Omar Diamond Darboe, Alaghie Kaku Bojang, and Ousman Sanneh. They were released on bail and charged with;
- criminal trespass into somebody’s premises
- willful damage to somebody’s property and,
- conspiring to commit a crime
Omar Diamond Darboe one of the charged persons told Gainako News that they were called by the Gunjur police for questioning in relation to the waste pipes belonging to Golden Lead. After they denied the charges they were handed three counts of unlawful acts and a hefty D 500,000 dalasi bail bond each to pay. He mentioned that the charges that are levied against them lack concrete evidence.
‘’I am so surprised, this is too much how can you expect a person to settle such an amount of money when they are only standing for their environment. And besides we were only summoned for interrogations by the police but surprisingly each of us is asked to pay an amount of D 500,000 dalasi.’’ He said
He pointed out that when the charge sheet was being read to them at the police station, they all strongly denied committing any wrongdoing reiterating that every citizen has the right to a clean environment. ‘’There is no other comment I and my fellow accused persons have been advised not to comment on anything leading us to trouble’’ he said.
One environmental activist, Buba Touray, revealed to Gainako News that “What is more shocking is that, after these people were charged with three counts of unlawful offense the police said that such charges are communicated to them from their authorities which is very terrible to me.’’ He said
This is the latest in a series of incidents between Golden Lead and the Community of Gunjur. Earlier in May, 6 youths were arrested for a planned protest in Gunjur. The company has polarised opinions in the coastal zone, on one hand, some say the company should continue to operate because it provides jobs or direct benefits others feel the cost to the environment is too great.
Gambian environmental activists at home and abroad have been galvanized around the Gambia Environment Movement to address serious environmental concerns in Gunjur. Earlier this week the President’s Office announced that Monkey Park will remain a natural reserve area and will not be demolished for a Conference Centre reportedly being sponsored by the Chinese.
Local activists, in particular, have dedicated months of advocacy for the better protection of their environment. Back in March, Political activist, Amadou Scattered Janneh was summoned for questioning a day after Gunjur locals removed pipes allegedly discharging fishmeal waste into the ocean. In a complete reversal, less than a month later the National Environment Agency approved Golden Lead’s request to install new pipes into the ocean based on three conditions.
This has since been heightened tensions in an already highly contentious issue for residents of Gunjur and the coastal region who have no choice but to endure the daily discharge of fishmeal waste into the ocean. Business owners and eco-lodges across the region have complained about the dismal impact on their business. In late June last year, Golden Lead settled out of court with the Gambian Government to the tune of US$25,000 and were ordered to remove their pipe discharging fishmeal waste into the ocean.