By Kemeseng (Kexx) Sanneh
As the debate continue at the National Assembly, Members engaged the Minister of the Interior regarding the incident between the youth of Faraba Banta and the PIU officers in 2018, which resulted to the deaths of some the protesters.
The engagement started when Sainey Jawara, the member for Lower Saloum asked the Minister to explain to the Assembly, the fate of the PIU officers allegedly involved in the Faraba Banta incident.
In his explanation, the Minister told members that the PIU officers involved in the incident were indicted but the investigation into the matter is currently stalled; that his ministry will make the necessary follow-up and update them accordingly.
In a supplementary question from the same member on whether his ministry was not updated on the issue, the minister responded that he is new in the position but will find out and get back to them with the right answers.
A disappointed member (Jawara) could be heard murmuring “I am disappointed because we have to protect our citizens and serve justice at all costs, irrespective of who is involved.”
Next to address the minister was Lamin J. Sanneh of Brikama South who told the minister that he received the oral questions from members weeks before coming to Parliament and the expectation was to investigate their concerns in order to give them the right answers. However, the Minister maintained his position that he will investigate and update them on the developments.
The member for Busumbala also asked the minister to inform them about whether the officers involve in the Faraba Banta incident were indicted, sacked or suspended.
In his response, the minister said by legal procedures, they were interdicted.
The member for Janjanbureh could not hide his frustration and asked the minister whether they are hiding behind an investigation to free the PIU officers involved in this incident without justice being served and seen to be served, and the minister responded in a low voice and replied in the negative.
In his turn, the member for Lower Niumi told the Minister that justice delayed is justice denied and asked the minister to tell them when justice will be served in this case.
“It is a court process and due process has to be followed,” the minister responded.
On a separate issue, members express their surprise to the minister when he informed them that armed robbery has decreased as compared to before.
This came when the member of the Sami Constituency asked the minister to inform them of his ministry’s long-term plans to put an end to armed robbery in the Sami district, particularly during the rainy season.
In response to the question, the minister said the issue of armed robbery in Sami District is not as frequent as per their daily situation reports, but was quick to say that there was a recent robbery reported in Karantaba sometime in June of 2022, adding that after that incident, no report of armed robbery was received for Sami District.
He continued to say that the police command has intensified ongoing patrols in the area by PIU officers posted in Kaur and Kerr Mot Hali respectively, and said the ongoing community engagements in the area through community and intelligence-led policing, have minimised robbery and built confidence among the community.
The minister further told the member that his ministry has plans to create a PIU base at Karantaba as a medium-term intervention and in the longer term, create a hybrid station.
In a related supplementary question, the member indicated his surprise to the minister’s assertion that robbery is not frequent in the area while attacks have been taking place until recently. He further asked whether the minister will be willing to provide a vehicle to the police station in the area for patrol. The minister responded by saying they will look into the issue.
The member for Lower Saloum also indicated that armed robbery is increasing in the area and asked for the interior ministry’s plans in tackling the issue.
The minister in his answer said they are doing everything possible to tackle the issue which he said requires the participation of the public by sharing information with officers.
At this point, Suwaibou Touray told the minister that the police stations are not armed and usually, the robbers are always armed with weapons.
The minister applauded the Member for his concern for the safety of his officers but was quick to say that his ministry is under resourced.
Then the Member for Sandu asked what the minister meant by “being under resourced” and he replied said in both personnel and funds.