By Yusupha Jobe
At least six people from the coastal community of Gunjur, Kombo South were on Sunday the 6th of May 2018 arrested and detained by the police at the Brusubi police station after attempting to hold a peaceful protest against the ongoing release of untreated fishmeal waste into the ocean by one Chinese fishmeal company, Golden Lead.
The arrest and detention of six youths from the community is the latest in an ongoing environmental crisis which the natives are not willing to succumb to. Just two weeks ago Golden Lead was given a new permit from the Environment Agency to install new pipes to discharge waste into the ocean. The Chinese company took the opportunity to hoist a Chinese flag while installing their new waste pipes in a show of defiance. In response, the people of Gunjur decided that enough was enough and planned to hold a protest to demonstrate their displeasure of the Environmental pollution affecting their community.
The arrested and detained youths are namely; Sulayman Bojang, Fanding Chanter Darboe, Buba Kombo Touray, Ebrima Camara, Lamin Jammeh, a US citizen and one unidentified youth were taken to Gunjur Police station for questioning and later transferred and detained at Brusubi Police station.
In an interview with Gainako News, concerned Environmentalist and Gunjur native, Lamin Jassey said that the arrest and detention of six peaceful demonstrators against the Chinese Golden Lead fishmeal company were made after the police attempted to dispatch the crowd who did not even show their protest banners to the public.
He added that the whereabouts of a US citizen Lamin Jammeh and Fanding Chanter Darboe is still not known to their family members. Apparently, Lamin Jammeh who is from the United States was at the beach having fun with friends and family members when the police para-military officers surrounded the Golden Lead premises in an attempt to protect it from the protesters who he said were not even protesting at the time.
‘’We are entirely shocked with the kind of arrest and detention of our fellow citizens but I can tell you that we are going to up the fight and make sure that we have all our rights preserved’’ he said. He added that the most shocking point of the day’s events was to learn of one Lie Conteh imposing on Police Officers to detain the arrested youths for three days.
He mentioned that The Gambia Government has demonstrated no concern towards the Environment leaving them isolated to take up the fight against the serious Environmental disaster they have to endure in their community since Golden Lead started polluting the environment. ‘’I can tell you we do not care what will be the end result of this struggle in order put an end to this unfriendly Environmental attitude from the Government’’ he said.
Lamin Sanyang also an Environmental activist told Gainako News that he is equally upset about the unlawful arrest of his fellow youths who he mentioned were only trying to demonstrate their frustration of Golden Lead’s unrestrained destruction of the Environment and overfishing. He pointed out that when they were peacefully assembled without any loudspeaker or a show of a protest banner that is the time when the police ask them to leave and threaten to make arrests if they insist on holding the protest which he said was not even held because of the threats they received from the police paramilitary.
‘’I cannot even say what I have already witnessed with my own eyes, how the police made the arrest of people who are peacefully assembling only to demand their citizenship rights. I can tell you that this is a clear indication that The Gambia has lost his sovereignty to the Chinese government simply because of the fear of the Chinese
Government not to react after they have cancelled all the debts that The Gambia government owed to them’’ he said.
It can be recalled that the toxic waste pipes owned by Golden Lead were dug out by Gunjur Youths after the National Environment Agency failed to enforce its ruling that Golden Lead removed its pipes discharging untreated waste into the ocean. This bold move was spearheaded by former Information Minister, Scattered Janneh, who was invited by the police for questioning in March 2018, a day after the pipes were removed.
Police PRO superintendent David Kujabi has confirmed to Gainako News that the six youths from Gunjur including a US citizen were arrested and detained for failing to present a protest permit. According to him, their actions violated the public order act. In conclusion, he stated that the arrested youths are charged with inciting violence and failing to comply with the Public Order Act.