The leader of the Peoples Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism, Halifa Sallah has written to President Jammeh on the Kartong crisis and advised him to employ preventive mechanisms to address the grievances of the residents before it reaches a boiling point.

According to Mr. Sallah, a state administration should depend on principles and strategic objectives and not on individual whims and caprices, which is caused by failure to employ a community policing strategy in Kartong.

Halifa Sallah said: “The development in Kartong does not appear to be a by-product of any political or criminal conspiracy. One doubts whether any had the premeditation to commit crime.”

A tense confrontational situation was reported between the Police Intervention Unit and the village youths on Sunday 22nd November, which was subsequently followed by a mass arrest.

Mr. Sallah stated that, the conflagration in Kartong emanated from the lack of employment of community policing principles and strategies and further show how differences in principles and strategic objectives could give rise to diametrically opposed results.

He said: “Those of us who know what happened in Kartong before and after the clampdown would confirm that the security forces did not go to Kartong to provide security for the sand mining area but were called to protect a village leader who felt under threat. At no time during the clampdown was the mining area protected by armed security personnel.”

Prior to the Kartong incident, there were reports of the village`s residents expressing their dissatisfaction against environmental degradation caused by mining. And, different approaches were undertaken by the village residents for a solution but to no avail.

PDOIS` Secretary General further stated that: “Any government which is sensitive to public concerns would have read the writings in the Press and employ preventive mechanisms to address the grievances rather than allow them to reach boiling point. Government-in-action is also a factor in diagnosing the cause of the crisis.”

“Community policing principles requires the security forces to put the community first. Hence, whenever there is to be deployment within a community where there is a standoff  free from any violent confrontation  the most senior commander should have the role to get down first before any deployment to visit the head of a community and invite the community for a discussion. We are convinced that if this was done we would not have the situation we have today.”

Young and youthful Gambians are leaving in their thousands through the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, which is mainly caused by unemployment in their home country. Mining of natural mineral resources such as Sand, ilmenites, zircon and others has been taken place in the coastal village of Kartong without any benefit been given back to the community.

Sallah added that: “In our view, your government has a special responsibility in handling issues affecting young people. Many have left the country and your position is that they have no cause to leave. Would you be able to say the same if the Kartong youth are incarcerated for no other reason than having concern for their environment and being at the wrong place at the wrong time when tension was building up without anybody using appropriate measures to defuse it?.”

“What justice and common sense demand is for the Attorney General to file nolleprosequi discharge and release those arrested and hold meetings with the villagers to address their concern.”

On Saturday over 200 trucks were moving to and from Kartong to load sand. The villagers have real concerns of not getting benefits from the exercise.

According to PDOIS` agenda 2016 if the party is voted into office, “A National Environment Commission will be established and given an unhindered mandate to ensure that environmental impact assessment is conducted and given consideration before any project is implemented.”

“Integrate environmental impact assessment before any action is taken that could affect the environment at village, district, regional and national level.”

The policy document further stated that: “The Public Sector will mobilize Sovereign National Wealth from mining and other extracting industries; dividends from public enterprises and other public investments. Heavy minerals such as Ilmenite, Rutile and Zircon have been found in the coastal strip of BatoKunku, Sanyang and Kartong by Carnegie minerals before it ended its operations in The Gambia. There are also prospects for oil production and other minerals.”

Written By Sulayman Bah

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