By Rohey Jadama
The erstwhile Minister for Presidential Affairs and Secretary General and head of civil service Mr. Momodou Sabally while responding to questions during cross-examination from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Hadi Saleh Bakum, denied delaying the Vice president’s flight for 45 minutes.
Sabally is standing trial before Justice Emmanuel Amadi of the Banjul High Court. The accused was represented by Antouman Gaye, whilst the DPP appeared for the state.
“It is evident that after delaying the plane for about 45 minutes you did not specifically apologise to the VP for the delay you had caused?” asked the DPP.
“I did not delay the plane for 45 minutes and I did apologise to the VP for arriving later than her,” responded Sabally.
“Did you mention that in your statement at the NIA/the Police that you specifically apologised to the VP?” Sabally responded, “I’m not sure if I mentioned that explicitly since it is not in the charge sheet.”
“From the beginning of your trip to South Africa to the end shows that you had no respect for the VP or her office?” said the DPP.
Gaye responded, “Objection, my lord! This question is irrelevant to the charges regarding abuse of office and causing delay of the departure of the flight and that out of the 10 witnesses that testified before the court, none mentioned this. So where is it coming from? This question has neither probating nor evidential value. It is calculated to create the impression that the accused is a disrespectful and disobedient public servant particularly to the VP and I refer the court to section 3 of the Evidence Act to disallow this question,” interjected the defence counsel Gaye.
The presiding judge in his ruling disallowed the question, adding that the said question will add insult to injury and that this is a matter to be addressed.
“Do you believe that Mariama Sillah’s project was laudable?” asked the DPP.
Defence counsel Gaye objected to the question, arguing that the court is concern with facts not speculations and that the witness is not an expert to know that the project is laudable.
This objection prompted the DPP to withdraw his question.
Continuing his cross examination of the witness, the DPP asked “Why did you not allow Ms. Sillah to follow it up with Social Security Housing and Finance Corporation (SSHFC) without your intervention?”
“I did allow her to follow it up with SSHFC by limiting myself to introducing her to Mr. Graham, Managing Director SSHFC,” said Sabally.
DPP asked, “How many times did you communicate to the SSHFC on this issue?” The witness answered, “Twice by phone. The first one I called Mr. Graham and the second one Mr. Cham, the Director of Finance, called me to inform me about the process they were going through and also to inform me that they had decided to cut the budget presented by Mariama Sillah for the project,” responded Sabally.
DPP added, “And on that you gave your input?” Sabally answered, “I did not give input. I rather advised them that there was no need to contact me on this matter that they should act as they deemed fit.”
Mr. Sabally further told the court that he was nominated by the president to attend the inauguration ceremony of President Jacob Zuma of South Africa. He added that the state as usual paid for his expenses and that the delegation was headed by the vice president.
He said President Zuma’s inauguration was the main item amongst the other assignments he was instructed to attend in South Africa.
“The other items were only known to you?” asked the DPP.
“No the other item was known to me and the honorary consul Mr. Seedy Lette and I did also inform the Vice President’s team that I had other assignments without giving them the details,“ responded Mr. Sabally.
DPP asked, “Why would you not confide on the head of the delegation?” Sabally answered, ”If I have instructions from the president I do not disclose it to anyone unless when I have specific instructions to do so.”
“Musa Sinyan was here to testify as a witness why did you not put it to him that you told him about your other commitments?” asked the DPP.
Defence counsel Gaye objected to the question, arguing that the accused has a lawyer and if the prosecution feels that the question should have been asked by the defence that is a matter for address.
However, the objection was overruled.
In answering the said question, Sabally said “As I said earlier, my understanding of my role in this trial is to stand in the dock and be quiet and observe, knowing very well that my lawyer will take care of my business.”
“When you were not allowed into the inauguration you walked away and did not patiently wait for the VP to come out?” quizzed the DPP.
Before Sabally could answer, his lawyer raised an objection, arguing that his client is charged with delaying the flight of the VP and failure to attend the inauguration and not that he walked away.
Replying to the objection, the DPP refers the court to section 6 of the Evidence Act.
The objection was overruled by the court and the witness was ordered to answer.
“That’s not so. We stayed there and I did not walk away,” responded Sabally.
DPP asked, “Did you stay until the VP came out”? Sabally answered, “No I stayed until I was convinced that they will not allow me in, in spite of my efforts and I then proceeded with the other assignments I was given by the president to be carried out during the trip.”
“After that you did not communicate to the VP until you saw her at the plane?” asked the chief prosecutor.
Mr. Sabally responded in the positive.
At this juncture, a document was shown to Mr. Sabally by the prosecution and the accused confirmed that he was the author of the said document.
The prosecution applied to tender the said document as an exhibit.
However, the defence counsel objected to it, arguing that that was the first time he was seeing the said document and that he is also objecting to the admissibility of the document.
“My lord, the document is irrelevant to the charges before the court and that this document came into existence after the case was filed in the court,” said counsel Gaye.
The defence counsel told the court that the document has no nexus as it has more prejudicial than probating and evidential value and that when such happens it has to be rejected. “I have not been served with any notice that they intend to tender and they did not comply with the criminal procedure code (CPC),”, he added.
Counsel Gaye further argued that the law on evidence discourages trial by ambush and that they are not to be taken by surprise. He finally urged the court to reject the said document and mark it as such.
Responding to the objection of the defence counsel, the DPP said the submission has no place in the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) and the Evidence Act. He said the defence is speculative and has not supported his arguments with any provision of the law. He urged the court to overrule the objection.
At this juncture, the case was adjourned to Thursday, 9 July, for ruling on the admissibility of the document and continuation of cross-examination.