23 November 2021
Our attention has been drawn to a press release by the Attorney General which carries nothing but misleading and contradictory information.
Global Hearts of Medical Mission (Global HOMM) began coming to The Gambia in 2000 with medical missions, mobile clinics, health education, children’s programs and community development. More than 4,000 people received medical care each year from the volunteers of Global HOMM. Contrary to the statement of the Attorney General, it was on this basis of service and for the purpose of providing long-term medical care for The Gambia that it was deemed necessary to establish a permanent site.
The allocation did come from the Government of The Gambia. However, the allocated property had never been in the hands of the Gambia Tourism Authority but property previously owned by one Masseray Faal, who graciously gave up her land for a purpose greatly beneficial to the Gambian people.
A fact also missed by the Attorney General is that with the issuance of the NGO registration on 11 September 2008, Global HOMM had been in operation beyond seven years which is more than the Law requirement of two years.
An undisputed fact is that Dr. Byung Barnabas Lee, founder of Global Hearts of Medical Mission (Global HOMM), met with a high-level delegation which included 2 Cabinet Ministers and the Director of Health. It is a convenience for the State to characterize it as an invitation to return to The Gambia to continue the work of providing charitable medical services as per the initial proposal, of being informed that the land was not properly allocated, and that another parcel of land will be allocated.
The undisputed fact is that Dr Lee received the sincere gratitude of his generosity from the delegation; also the expression of sincere apology to the Church, himself and his colleagues, with further appreciation of his understanding that such occasions will never occur in the “New” Gambia. Global HOMM did return to The Gambia under the leadership of Dr Gabou Mendy, a Gambian physician based in the US (Medical Missions, March 2018, February 2020; and Vision Care Missions, April 2019, Feb 2020). Dr Byung In Barnabas Lee, MD passed away in August 2018 (Blessed memory), never to return to The Gambia he loved.
The masterplan developed in 2006 to serve the people of The Gambia is still maintained by Global HOMM and is being expanded to serve the rural population with a facility in each Region of The Gambia. Besides the service delivery of health, the education of the next generation of healthcare professionals, and there is expectant workforce development with trickled down economic benefits that goes beyond healthcare. “If health is wealth, then the lack of health must be poverty” (Professor Khama Rogo).
It is convenient per the Attorney General that “Global Hearts of Medical Mission denied all attempts by the Government to allocate them with an alternative piece of land and insisted on keeping the mostly vacant parcel of land measuring 9 hectares within the TDA.” The leadership of Global HOMM is yet to receive any written attempt of such kind nor the details of the allocated alternative piece of land. Global HOMM is not sure of what comprises an attempt by the Government. Official Government communication is written. We challenge the Attorney General to provide proof of communication to us making such offers as alleged in its press statement. It is our belief that the AG is bent on continuously misleading the general public.
It was similarly alleged in the Attorney General’s previous press release of 11th October 2021 and the recent press release that there are ongoing cases in litigation – “This matter is a subject of ongoing litigation in two suits before the two separate judges of the High Court. Out of respect for the court and Judicial process, this office is not at liberty to discuss matters which are subject to litigation. We will have the opportunity to shed light on the true facts of the matter once the Courts have delivered their ruling on this matter. We invite the Claimants in this matter to exercise similar restraint and abide by due process as opposed to seeking to litigate this matter in the media.” We ask the Attorney General, if both press releases are anything to go by, why is it so difficult for anyone to locate a suit number for each of the claimed cases alleged to be ongoing? Why did the OIC secretariat together with its purported investor, contractors, engineers make a site visit to the said property on 20th October 2021 that is still in ligation? When will the general public see The Attorney General assume responsibility to ask the OIC secretariat together with its purported investor, contractors, engineers who made a site visit to the said property on 20th October 2021 which he alleged is a subject of litigation to abide by the Judgements/Orders of the Court? Or is the restraint asked by the Attorney General only applicable to Global HOMM. Global HOMM and by extension the general public awaits answers, should there be any, to the above questions.
To state that the Claim for possession before the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court was not determined on its merits is a farce. The witnesses for Home of Medical Mission testified in the suit and upon closing its case the State reopened its case. A crucial part of the evidence that was adduced by the State in particular by the Deputy Director of Lands and Surveys was that the State could not defend the action because the records at the Lands Department indicate that the property belongs to Home of Medical Mission. It was in consequence of that piece of evidence that the State eventually conceded to the Claim. The case was therefore heard and determined on its merits leading to the admission of liability by the State.
The State never sought at the time to compulsorily acquire the said property. If for anything the State made an attempt by way of an application to strike out the suit on the representation that the property was one of those acquired by Yaya Jammeh and therefore a subject of the Janneh Commission, which was in fact false. The said application was dismissed by the Court. The State thereafter accepted payment of Land Rent from the Mission in the sum of D589,550 (Five Hundred and Eighty-Nine Thousand, Five Hundred and Fifty Dalasi Only) covering the period of 2007 to 2020. Why then did they accept and receive the said payment if as the Attorney General claims they intended to compulsorily acquire the property considering also to the fact that such a payment should have been waived since during the period 2010 to 2019 when the property was wrongfully in the possession of
the State until it was handed by the said court judgement in September, 2019.
In order to circumvent the judgement of the Magistrates’ Court, the State clandestinely acquired the property without the due process and after they had received D589,550 (Five Hundred and Eighty-Nine Thousand, Five Hundred and Fifty Dalasi Only) as land rent payment from the Mission. No notice was served on the Mission neither was the said notice to acquire gazetted as required by law. At a meeting held between Dr. Gabou Mendy, a member of Global Hearts of Medical Mission (Global HOMM) (a registered legal entity in The Gambia and for whom the Home of Medical Mission acted as Trustees for the acquisition of the said property in The Gambia) and the President, H.E. Adama Barrow, at the State House the President revealed to him that he had received $87,000,000.00 (Eighty-Seven Million Dollars) from a Foreign Investor to build a 5 Star Hotel for the purposes of the OIC three day Conference after which the property would revert to the said Investor. This discussion was later confirmed in a recorded conversation between Neneh Freda Gomez and the Government spokesperson Ebrima Sankareh. The Attorney General in his attempt to mislead the public in his Press Statement has been very economical in the non-disclosure of these facts.
The illegal acquisition of the property by the State led to the filing of an application in court seeking to set aside the said acquisition as being illegal and unconstitutional and for a declaration that the purpose for which the said property was acquired was not for public use bearing in mind that the State can acquire one’s property only where the purpose is for public use or where the lessee has failed to adhere to the terms of his lease and in both cases due processes must be followed before such an acquisition. In presenting the said application before the High Court, the Mission produced the judgement of the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court and the lease granted to Home of Medical Mission by the State. What eventually broke the camel’s back was the subsequent production of the transcript recorded conversation between Sankareh and Gomez. The State immediately conceded that the acquisition was not only illegal but was also not for public use and Orders of the Court to that effect were granted accordingly with Cost of D500,000.00 (Five Hundred Thousand Dalasi Only) awarded in favour of the Mission. At no time did the High Court in its Ruling state that a declaration of title was no bar to the State initiating and completing the acquisition process in line with the Land Acquisition Act as again misrepresented by the Attorney General.
As falsely stated in the Attorney General’s Press Statement nowhere in any of the Affidavits of Neneh Gomez did she depose to the fact that Home of Medical Mission was a registered entity in The Gambia. All the Affidavits of Neneh Gomez clearly established that the Global HOMM under whose umbrella Home of Medical Mission exist is a registered legal entity in The Gambia and the United States of America which the said registration the Attorney General himself has confirmed in his Press Statement.
It is unimaginable that as a lawyer, the Attorney General, would state that the Judgements/Orders of the Courts in favour of Home of Medical Mission are unenforceable. It is a basic principle of law that all judgements and Orders of Courts are valid and subsist until set aside. Even the layperson knows this basic principle. The Attorney General has produced no order of court setting aside any of these Judgements/Orders. I dare to say that contrary to the misunderstanding of the law by the Attorney General all the orders obtained by the Mission are enforceable and subsist to date.
Contrary to the representation by the Attorney General, the Mission produced in court a Resolution by Global HOMM appointing a Committee known as Home of Medical Mission as its Trustee in the acquisition of the said lease property in The Gambia as well as a Certified True copy of the Certificate of Incorporation of Global HOMM in The Gambia authenticated by the Registrar General. In fact the production of these documents led to the withdrawal by the State of its application to strike out the suit on the ground that Home of Medical Mission did not exist and the application was struck out by the High Court. It is again a misrepresentation by the Attorney General that the Mission failed to produce any documents establishing the legal existence of Home of Medical Mission.
It is ironical that the Attorney General would state that a non-legal entity cannot own land when it is the State itself that granted the lease to the Mission, permitted the Mission to develop the said land and even after the judgement of the Magistrates’ Court accepted payment of land rent from the same Mission in the sum of D589,550 (Five Hundred and Eighty-Nine Thousand, Five Hundred and Fifty Dalasi Only) which up to date has not been refunded by the State if indeed the State believed that Home of Medical Mission is a non-legal entity. This then begs the question, if indeed the Mission cannot own land why then does the State want to compensate the Mission with another land by reason of its illegal acquisition of the Mission’s property? The Attorney General has said that they have transferred the property to a Private Investor to build a hotel for the OIC Conference. The question is how can the State transfer the said property to a Private Investor when they have not yet acquired the property from the Mission. With my little knowledge of the law, I know that one cannot give what he/she does not have. Ownership of the property remains in the Mission and therefore the State could not have legitimately transferred it to anyone else.
The application by the Mission for a writ of mandamus was against the Inspector General of Police to compel him to remove the Anti-Crime Unit from the said property. On the day the matter came up for continuation of hearing the Anti-Crime Unit had already vacated the property and the Sheriff of The Gambia had given the Mission possession of the property in execution of the judgement of the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court. As such, the application had been overtaken by events. Effectively, there was no need to proceed with the application because what the application sought for had already been done. This was what led to the withdrawal of the application by the Mission, again conceded to by the State in Court.
The community of Bijilo and beyond who have utilized the services of the Clinic/Hospital on the property when it was in operation will confirm that at no time was any patient charged even a butut for treatment at the Clinic/Hospital. There was a standard fee for registration. In fact the indigenes of Bijilo will tell you that an announcement was done at the Mosque in Bijilo every week inviting people to come to the clinic for treatment free of charge. For those who were unable to come to the Clinic the doctors would treat them at the Alkalo’s house every Tuesday or Thursday of every week. Up to date Global HOMM continues to deliver free medical treatment in the rural areas. It is therefore shameful of the Attorney General to utter such false statements in an unsuccessful attempt to disparage the Representatives of the Mission and what it stands for. The derogatory statements made by the Attorney General without regard to the $87,000,000.00 (Eight-Seven Million Dollars only) received by the President coupled with the illegal actions by the State is more suited for the President and the Executive and not the Mission who have never asked the State or its people for a butut in its objective to provide mankind with adequate health care.
Why is this property a special case and special interest? It is undisputed fact since the establishment of the Bijilo Clinic, in 2007, there is an existing medical facility and another medical facility slated in the TDA. Is all the burst of activities currently in the TDA “consistent with its status as TDA land”? In fact, there is no justification for not having a hospital within the Tourism Development area. The said Clinic/Hospital apart from serving the Gambian Community can be utilized by the surrounding tourism developments to treat their staff and guests. We all know given the appalling situation with the State’s Hospitals/Clinics that such a facility is desperately needed. It is absurd that the State wishes to replace such a public use for private use. This Clinic/Hospital we believe is more of a public use than the building of a hotel meant for a THREE DAY OIC Conference to be utilized by a few and which is not likely to hold in March, 2022.
Just recently on the 17th day of November, 2021 the High Court in an application by Neneh Freda Gomez and others seeking for declaration that their earlier arrest and detention by the State was unlawful again held that she and the other applicants were in lawful occupation of the said property belonging to Home of Medical Mission and therefore declared such arrest and detention unlawful. The Court further ordered the unconditional release of Neneh Freda Gomez and others forthwith with compensation of D100,000.00 (One Hundred Thousand Dalasi Only) to each of them payable by the State. Barely a day after the said Orders the State has again gone on a rampage to unlawfully arrest Neneh Gomez and Lamin Sey for being in lawful occupation of the same property.
Miss Neneh Freda Gomez the Country Coordinator representing the Mission in country has always acted in accordance with the Law and will continue to act within the scope of the judgement and rulings of the Court. Miss Gomez in our view is resilient, has fortitude, endurance, faith and an awe-inspiring character. She is a true citizen of the soil with genuine intentions for the people of The Gambia. No harassment or failed attempt to intimate and slander Neneh Freda Gomez can stop the Mission except by Order of Court. The attempt by the Attorney General and the State to take the law into their own hands is an abuse of their powers. As it is often said “POWER CORRUPTS AND ABSOLUTE POWER CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY.” Despite all odds we will never relent on our objective at all material time to obey the Law and protect our right.
Gabou Ndapich E. Mendy
Medical Director, Board Member
Global Hearts of Medical Mission (Global HOMM)
Home of Medical Mission