Victims of demolition at Latriya
By Alhagie F.S. Sora
A group of people accompanied by personnel of the Police Intervention Unit (PIU) descended on Latriya Village in Kombo North district of the West Coast Region on Wednesday and demolished more than 15 buildings.
Eye witnesses said the demolition was done without prior notice to the owners, adding that on Thursday, March 12, ten youths including an elderly man were arrested and detained at the Old Yundum Police Station.
Among the arrested persons was a soldier who was said to be later handed over to the Yundum Army Barracks.
The arrested ten people were Babucarr Jallow, Sailu Bah, Mamadou Jobe, San B. Mendy, Paul Mendy, Bill Mendy, Saimon Mendy, John K Mendy, Demba Jallow and Paul B. Mendy. They were released on bail, after posting a bail bond of D50,000 on Saturday 14 March 2014.
They indicated that they are charged with one count of obstruction of the police while carrying out their lawful duties.
According to the victims of the demolition, the case of the said land is before the Courts; and that the court ordered both parties to keep away from the said land until when the court made its ruling on the case.
Expressing their disappointment, the victims told Gambia Watchdog that this is the third time such a demolition exercise was carried out by unknown people accompanied by the PIU.
“We were driven out of our compounds like animals and our buildings demolished. The disheartened thing is that we were not served with any notice”, lamented a rather distraught victim.
Paul Mendy, another victim told this reporter that he was baffled by the action of the police as the matter regarding the land they were occupying was still before a court of law. Mendy opined that no one should put the law into his own hands, adding that they were arrested for no wrongdoing.
Jainaba Jallow, also a victim said she has been residing in Latriya for more than 30 years and no one ever claimed ownership of her plot. “I am a regular taxpayer with valid documentation from the Alkalo (village head),” she said.
She revealed that they converged at State House in Banjul so as to meet the President and report the matter, but they were shooed away by security men at the main entrance. “We are very sure that if he is aware of this kind of act, he will ensure that justice is done,” the woman said in tone of despair.
She added that her family is among the first settlers of the village, since the first republic when the area was a forest.
Mrs Jallow recalled that a man called Folonko Bojang from Jamburr Village, claimed to own 800 by 800 meters of land inherited from his grandfather, threaten to forcibly vacate them with the help of the police. She said the claim his pronouncements were taken trivially but to their astonishment, he came with PIU personnel and carried out the demolition on their dwellings.
“Our efforts to convince them to notify the Alkalo or to produce documents from the court or from the right authorities proved futile.” Alieu Jallow a frustrated victim said as a result of the demolition he lost D60,000 entrusted to him for construction of a mosque which was still incomplete.
He lamented that this is the third time his building has been demolished since 2012. After having bought the land from the current Alkalo of the village, Lamin Darbo, he still had to be a victim of demolition because someone claims to be the owner of his land.
Physical planning confirms
Amadou Bachilly, the head of the physical planning demolition team confirmed the Latriya demolition, saying it is a continuation from where they stopped last year.
“The Latriya demolition is an ongoing issue. We had started it last year and we are continuing this year”.
On demolition without notice to compound owners, Bachilly said that is unfounded. He repudiated that his department had given them a notice before the start of the previous demolition. Being “the implementing agent for the government, they have carried out the demolition based on order. This ongoing demolition is a court order and it must be executed.”