Judgement on the transport union case delayed
Judgement for the seven accused members of the Gambia Transport, Agriculture, Food and Industrial Workers Union (GTAFIWU) has been postponed until the first week of November.
Confirming this development, the union president Mr Ousman Drammeh said he was informed by the union Lawyer Pap Cheyassin Secka that the Magistrate presiding over has informed him (the Lawyer) that the Magistrate will not be able to make it to Farafenni Thursday for the judgement slated on 6 October 2011 and has therefore decided to postpone the case. The Magistrate is said to be attending other functions.
The eight Union members who participated in the negotiation for the re-opening of the Gambia- Senegal border were arrested on 6 May 2011 upon entering the Gambian soil, from Kerr Ayub in Senegal, where the final negotiation meeting leading to the reopening of the border was held. They were taken to Farafenni Police Station, detained overnight, transferred to the Police headquarters in Banjul, but officials referred the case back to Farafenni Magistrates' court.
Both the plaintiff and the defendant have testified and the cased was set for judgement Wednesday, 5 October 2011.
The National Transport Control Association (NTCA) which has been in politically motivated loggerhead with the union that led to its establishment accused its supposed parent body of falsely assuming authority to engaging the negotiations for the reopening about 40 days border closure. The association claims that they were given authority by the state, which the union also claims to have consulted after being asked by the President of the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and industry, the body responsible for the implementation of the signed ECOWAS accord on interstate trading link in the sub-region.
Prosecution Officer Assistant Superintendent (ASP) Sanyang represented the Inspector General of Police (IGP) in the first adjournment day of the case, barely 24 hours detention of eight union delegates to the Kerr Ayub inter-state transport workers negotiation meeting for the reopening of the border, which according to the Chambers' leave-let newsletter, has caused the country great economic lost during 40 days of border stand down.
Defense counsel Lawyer Pap Cheyassin Secka secured the bail of the accused through bail application at the North Bank region Magistrates' court. The union members have since denied the charges, and both parties awaits for justice to be done in this case.
After a full day detention, the accused unionists were on 7 May 2011, at about 4am, told to find sureties to bail them, as the case file was to be send to the office of the police Crime Management Coordinator in Banjul where the union members were to report the on Monday, 9 May. In Banjul, the case was referred to the Banjul CID office where the files were sent.
At the CID office in Banjul, the Station Officer asked the union members to call people to bail them and informed them that they were charged for incitement of violence and false representation of authority. A tape recorder with a cassette that was seized from one of the accused persons was also handed over them. The accused, Mr Sulayman Saidy, a union member, serving as a Chef de garage for Gunjur at the main Brikama car park and at the same time working for FM B radio station in Brikama on the radio's traffic talk said he was used the recorder belonging to the radio station in order to keep the Gambians informed as to what was said at the border opening meeting. Union members, who converged in large numbers at the Banjul police station to show solidarity, bailed their colleagues.
The CID Officer asked the union members to report to their office on Wednesday 11 May 2011, which they did and were informed by the CID that the matter is referred back to Farafenni police station to proceed with the case. The CID escorted union members back to Farafenni police station. Upon arrival, the Officer Commanding of Farafenni Police Station gave a file to one Sgt Ali Ceesay, asking him to take the accused persons to the Farafenni courthouse, to register the case and to prosecute the matter. At the court, the case was mention, but the accused persons were denied bail and asked to stay under police custody till the 16 May 2011, during which they can contact a lawyer to defend them.
On 16 May 2011, the case was called and the union lawyer applied for a bail which was granted upon the application made by one A.S.P, Sanyang of the Banjul prosecution unit, who told the presiding magistrate that he was assigned to take over the case from Sgt Ali Ceesay and that he will need time to study the case and advised himself.
The case was then adjourned to 6 May 2011 for continuation
According to the records, the unionists' involvement in the border negotiation process followed about a month long unsuccessful negotiation process by the transport control association members. The Unionist said they were consulted by the Gambia Chamber of Commerce, as the employers’ organization, to intervene in resolving the border stand down. They held meetings with various stakeholders concern, including the GCCI, government representatives and concern parties, namely the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, the Interior, Trade and Works, G.P.A and NAWEC, and the Gambia National Trade Union Congress, to complete the tripartite meeting, as affected stakeholders in the border closure.
This tripartite meeting concluded to form a delegation to go for dialogue through consultation with their Senegalese counterparts. The Union leadership met with Senegalese regional transports representatives, including Fatick, Kaolack region, as well as the Senegalese main transport union leaders.
Union President Mr Drammeh said he attended the Kerr Ayub meeting following a phone call he received on the 5 May 2011 from the Senegalese transport union secretary general, requesting him (Drammeh) to travel to Kaolack, where they will converge to form one delegation to the Senegalese border of Kerr Ayib, to have a final agreement to open the border.
The transport union president left The Gambia, with two other union members from the West Coast region transport union branch and traveled to Kaolack to meet there counterparts, who were to travel from Dakar. On the early hours of the morning of the 6 May 2011, the delegation left Kaolack for Kerr Ayib.
At Kerr Ayib, the other union executive members who traveled to Kerr Ayib via Farafenni were met; the leaders of the GNTCA, the NBD Police Commissioner and the Officer Commanding the CID at Farafenni were also met gathering together.
The GNTCA members were not pleased with the presence of the union members at the meeting and consequently, the arrest, detention and charges against the unionists.
Disputes between the union members has resulted in many court cases pending at the Magistrates' court and the high court, as a result of difference between the two parties.