By Mamadou Dem
The Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Lands, who is testifying as the sixth prosecution witness (PW6) in the trial involving Lamin Waa Juwara, erstwhile Minister of Local Government, Lands and Traditional Rulers, Tamsir Onasis Konteh and Hamidou Jallow, on Wednesday, 20th August 2014, told the Banjul Magistrates’ Court presided over by Principal Magistrate Lamin Mbaye that their ministry is not given the powers to keep state lands records.
Mr. Saihou Sanyang said this while continuing his testimony under cross-examination by Abdulai Sisohor, counsel for Hamidou Jallow, the second accused.
PW6 said it is correct as stated by counsel that he spoke about lease applications, preparation of leases and compensation, adding that he served as permanent secretary at the said ministry for two years and also eight and a half years as deputy permanent secretary.
Counsel asked, “Isn’t it true that in the process of lease, there must be an applicant?”
“Not necessarily,” replied the witness.
“In this case, it is true that people applied for compensation? Who was the applicant?” asked counsel.
“The applicant was Mr. Konteh,” responded the witness.
Counsel further asked, “How was that application done by Mr. Konteh?”
“He made a submission to the Ministry of Lands and Regional Government,” he replied.
Sissohor asked, “And to who was that application addressed to?”
The witness replied, “I can’t precisely remember.”
Counsel asked, “Do you remember the year the application was made?”
At this juncture, Lawyer Sisohor asked the witness to look at the application letter, Exhibits T, T1 and T2.
“In exhibit T folio number 8, did the 2nd accused (Hamidou Jallow) make a similar application on behalf of the first accused person (Tamsir Onasis Konteh) for compensation?” asked counsel.
The witness responded in the negative. He added that it is correct that Mr. Konteh attached supporting documents to his application for compensation of a piece of land situated in Tanji Layout.
Further responding on the exhibits before the court, PW6 said they include the letters from the alkalo of Tanji Village, Brikama Area Council and the departments of Lands and Survey.
“Sir, from exhibit B and exhibit T, is it not true that the minister minuted the file to the permanent secretary who in turn minuted it to the Department of Lands and Survey for advice?” asked counsel Sisohor.
DPS Sanyang responded in the positive.
Counsel asked, “Normally, upon receipt of such files, he (Minister) would assign it to one of his staff for advice?”
“Yes, with the permission of the Director, someone can act upon it,” said Sanyang.
Counsel asked, “Isn’t it true that apart from the two meetings you mentioned, every single quotation in this file was documented?”
“Yes,” replied the witness.
Sissohor asked, “You will agree with me that the 2nd accused acted upon these files based on his capacity?”
“I cannot answer it because am not at the Lands Office,” responded Sanyang.
Sissohor asked, “Exhibit T, T1 and T2 emanate from your office?”
“No, they don’t emanate from my office,” replied the witness.
Counsel asked, “Upon this application for compensation, you will agree with me that it was received in an envelope?”
“It was not addressed to me but to the Minister. So I cannot say whether it was in an envelope,” replied the witness.
Sissohor further asked, “Upon receipt of folio number 8, a file was created for compensation?”
The witness replied, “My ministry does not create files for compensation but rather act on individual or collective requests to the Lands department for action.”
PW6 told the Court that when the application for compensation was received and sent to the department of Lands and Survey, it was in a folder and in that folder action was taken and transmitted to the Lands department.
“We are not mandated to keep states lands record,” the witness said.
Sissohor asked, “Prior to exhibit T, T1 and T2, you are aware that the first accused has made application and got compensated?”
“I’m not aware of his compensation prior to this application,” said the witness.
Counsel asked, “Upon arrival of exhibit T, who was the first to act on the file?”
“I acted on it at the Ministry,” replied the witness.
“Who was the first officer to act upon exhibit T folio number 8 at the department of state for Lands?” quizzed counsel.
“Director of Lands and Survey,” responded the witness.
DPS Sanyang told the Court that he cannot precisely remember when Malamin Jatta was in office.
At this juncture, the matter was adjourned to Wednesday, 27th August, 2014.