By Rohey Jadama
Antouman Gaye defence counsel, for the erstwhile Secretary General and Minister of presidential affairs Momodou Sabally, yesterday 21st April, cross-examined Musa Sinyan, a protocol officer at the office of the vice president. Mr Sinyan was testifying as the fifth prosecution witness (PW5) in the trial of Mr Sabally, before Justice Emmanuel Amadi of the Banjul High Court.
The state was represented by Hadi Saleh Barkum, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
Mr. Sabally is facing eight charges ranging from two counts of ‘Economic Crimes’, three counts of ‘Abuse of Office’, two counts of ‘Neglect of Official Duty’ and a single count of ‘Giving False Information to a Public Officer. He however denied any wrong doing.
Mr. Sinyan told the court he stayed in the same hotel with the accused person. He was asked by the defence counsel that apart from the accused and himself who else was with him. PW5 responded that the then Minister of foreign Affairs Mr. Mamour Jagne, the minister of Higher Education Research, Science and Technology, Mr. Abubacarr Seneghore, the former Vice Chancellor of the University of the Gambia Professor Muhammadu Kah and Mr. Ousman Keita the photographer at the vice president’s office.
The defence counsel puts it to PW5 that he earlier told the court that part of his duties was to coordinate the movement of people. The witness replied in the positive. He was asked whether when he got out of the hotel he saw the accused person.
He responded in the negative. He was asked whether he called the accused’s room. He again replied in the negative. He was asked by the defence counsel whether he asked the reception about the accused. The witness responded in the negative.
The witness was asked by the defence why he did not call the accused person’s room. “My responsibility was to inform delegates of the time to leave the hotel,” said the witness.
“Out of concern for your delegates why did you not ask the receptionist about the accused?” enquired the defence counsel.
The witness responded that as a responsible civil servant, the judge interjected and told the witness that the secretary general is not a civil servant; he said instead it is a political appointment. The accused (Sabally) was seen laughing in the dock. However the DPP insisted that the accused is a civil servant and the judge referred him to the constitution.
Answering the said question the witness responded, “All I can answer is that I did not ask the receptionist.” He was asked whether he went to the vice president’s hotel alone or he went with others. The witness said he went with Ousman Keita the photographer at the Vice president’s office. “You were supposed to travel with the accused in the same car?” asked the defence counsel. Mr. Sinyan responded that all the ministers were allocated a vehicle. The witness was asked whether he tried to find out why the accused was not with them. The witness replied in the negative.
“When you are moving and you realised that one of your delegates was not with you, did it not concern you to find out what happened to him?” enquired the defence lawyer. The witness said he still maintains his previous answer that the accused was informed of the time he was to live the hotel for vice president’s office. PW5 further told the court that at the vice president’s hotel, efforts were made to get in touch with the accused but they could not reach him. “I put it to you that at no time did you try to call the accused person when you were at the vice president’s hotel?” insisted the defence counsel.
The witness said since they all agreed that they should leave the hotel at 7am for the vice president’s hotel, on arrival the accused was not there. He added that he therefore made all efforts to contact the accused before they left but they could not get him. “I am very sorry to tell you this that piece of your evidence is a lie?,” said counsel Gaye. “My lord I am under an oath and that is not a lie.” insisted the witness.
The witness was asked by the defence counsel whether in the statement he made at the NIA, he has indicated that all efforts were made to contact the accused before they left but they could not get him. The witness responded in the negative. “I therefore put it to you that what you told this court that you contacted the accused person is an after thought and a lie?” quizzed the defence counsel.
The witness was asked by virtue of the accused person’s office whether he is answerable to the president and his direct boss. The witness responded in the positive. “If he was given other assignments at South Africa by his boss you would not know?” said Counsel Gaye. “Of course I won’t know,” said the witness.
Mr. Sinyan responding to questions from the defence told the court that Johannesburg and Pretoria are big cities, busy places and with lots of traffic. He added that only the Vice president with her team (the protocol) and the minister of presidential Affairs were supposed to attend the inauguration ceremony of President Jacob Zuma.
“I put it to you that the accused, the then vice chancellor and the honorary consul went to the programme but could not get in?” said Barrister Gaye. “ I am just hearing that now”, replied the witness. The defence counsel told the witness that the accused could not get in because at the time he arrived heads of states were getting in that’s why he was not allowed in. “That is protocol,” responded the witness.
The defence counsel further puts it to the witness that the accused, the then vice chancellor and the honorary Consul Mr. Lette boarded the same vehicle and came together to the aircraft. “I am not aware of professor Kah’s arrival,” said the witness. “Are you denying that professor Kah, the honorary Consul Mr. Lette and the accused travelled together in the same car?,” asked the defence counsel. The trial judge overruled this question adding that the witness was on board the aircraft and cannot know who came together in a vehicle.
The case resumes today 22nd April at 1pm.