Sierra Leone Lands Minister Terrorizes Charlotte Community
Charlotte community has warned whom they described as the aggressive Minister of Lands Housing and the Environment, Dr. Dennis Sandy to hands off their private lands because, they said, are not state properties. (Photo: Deputy and Head of Demolition, Jah Gbandi flanked by armed military and OSD officers)
This came about after the Minister led a team of armed military and OSD personnel at Charlotte last Thursday, 28th February, 2019.
Reacting to the Minister, Secretary General for the Charlotte Indigenous and Development Association, Dennis Valcalcel said, Charlotte community comprised five (5) villages and had existed for over 300 years adding that although the Minister have used excessive power to destroy their settlement which they inherited from their ancestors with valid documents without informing none of the stakeholders including their Member of Parliament, Councilor, Headman among others.
He described Charlotte as a peaceful society and disclosed that all development such as roads, cemetery, hospital and school is done by themselves adding that, they converted their waterfall to a mini-hydro.
Rev. Mathew Hughes, 84, said his late father, Cashor J. Hughes was Headman of the village which he said, has been ignored or neglected by both current and past Governments. He discussed that Mayenkineh, Mongegba and Mortem were reporting the Headman and maintained that Mortem was used by their ancestors to rear pigs and crop farming. ‘’it was a surprise for me to see the Minister arrived and caused destruction in our private properties without meeting with us prior to the demolition exercise which he said had left many people homeless.
Re. Mathew Hughes continued that on the 10th August, 1945, many people lost their lives to landslide at Charlotte and challenged the Minister that the area where the demolition took place is the heart of Charlotte and it is far from the Green Belt Area. He argued that the road which the Minister and his armed men used to oppress the whole community is a self-help constructed road.
Rev. Hughes complained that the Minister and his wicked men did not only terrorize them but they also taken away their tools which they use in the site including hammers, pick axe, shovel and other farm equipment with bundles of Zinc. According to Rev. Hughes, the lands were sold to develop the villages and educate their children. ‘’I was amazed to be called upon that the Minister and his armed gunmen were busy destroying building and broken pillars without seeking our consent’’, he told Journalists and disclosed that, that was why they turned their attention to the press to seek justice because they are not hooligans but peaceful citizens.
The old man said, he shed tears because the Minister whom he described as the people’s servant has taken the law in his hands.
Former Headman for Charlotte, Mr. Simeon Showers, 79, said he was shocked to learn that the Minister ordered his disgruntled men to steal demolish and steal tools, zinc and broken concrete blocks which has nothing to disturb what he described as an illegal operation.
He said former President Koroma was not allow any demolition exercise to be taken place because he knows that the lands in dispute are owned by private people adding that the demolished place is not a green belt area and stressed that all lands belong to Charlotte people. ‘’We will not agree with Dr. Sandy because he has misbehaved against us’’, he said.
Another former Headwoman, Madam Catherine said Dr. Sandy has advantaged them adding that they are not stupid or illiterates but well educated and promised to report the matter to President Julius Maada Bio to know what his Minister has done to them as peaceful citizens.
She said Dr. Sandy is the first Minister to nullify their valid documents issued to them by the previous Government adding that the Annie Walsh Memorial School started at Charlotte before taken to the heart of Freetown. ‘’Sandy is not intelligent as he behaved like any arrogant person without regard for humanity’’, she said and threatened that they would not let Sandy goes free but they are going to deal with him.
Chief Adviser for the Charlotte Indigenous and Development Association, Mr. Taylor said during the colonial era, colonial masters located their acncestors at Charlotte and buttressed that they inherited Charlotte from their great ancestors. He described the sole decision taken by the Minister as violation of their human rights and misused of political power and disclosed that they are totally against the action of the Minister for taken armed men to their original settlement without their knowledge. He maintained that the Minister treated them not as citizens but like criminals and warned that power doesn’t belong to man but comes from God. Briefing the media, the Minister of Lands Housing and the Environment, Dr. Sandy who was accompanied by his Deputy and lot of armed military and OSD personnel emphasized on the important of the demolition exercise which left many makeshift structures and pillars destroyed within the Green Belt Area and stressed that as a responsible ministry, they are not happy with what is happening at Charlotte Village.
The Minister discussed that deforestation has contributed to climate change and shortage of water and mentioned that they would not allow people to construct dwelling homes beyond the Green Belt Area to protect the forest.
He described the exercise as a continuous process and ordered any structure found under high tension cable to be area to be destroyed.
By Abdulai Mento Kamara
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