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‘Sabally fails to attend Jacob Zuma’s inauguration’

Apr 16, 2015, 9:53 AM | Article By: Halimatou Ceesay

The chief of protocol at the office of the Vice President, Musa Sinyan, yesterday told the court that the former Secretary General and Minister for Presidential Affairs, Momodou Sabally, failed to attend the inauguration of the President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma.

Sinyan was testifying as the fifth prosecution witness (PW5) in the economic crime case involving Sabally, before Justice Amadi of the Special Criminal Court in Banjul.

In his testimony, Musa Sinyan told the court he has been serving as the chief of protocol at the office of the Vice President, and knew the accused as the former Secretary General and Minister for Presidential Affairs.

He said on 22 May 2014, he was part of the delegation headed by the Vice President that travelled to South Africa to attend the inauguration ceremony of the President-elect Jacob Zuma, and the Thabo Mbeki Foundation.

Upon arrival, they were received at the airport by the protocol officer that went in advance from The Gambia, Ndey Haddy Jeng.

He said Ndey Haddy Jeng headed the advance team, and they were later briefed on the events and the programmes, adding that the first programme was the Thabo Mbeki Foundation, which was attended by the entire delegation.

He said the second programme took place the following day, and after the first programme, he went to Victoria with the photographer at the office of the Vice President for accreditation cards.

On arrival at the hotel, he met the accused at the lobby and reminded him of the programmes for the following day and then went to bed.

Mr Sinyan further adduced that they were supposed to leave the hotel at 8 a.m. for the inauguration ceremony, adding that they waited for the accused but he did not show up, and they left the hotel with the Vice President to attend the inauguration ceremony without the accused.

At the end of the ceremony, he (the witness) came back to the hotel and met with the protocol officer on the ground, Ndey Haddy Jeng, who told him they would leave for The Gambia at 8 p.m.

He said they informed every member of the delegation, including the accused about the departure time.

He left the hotel at 6 p.m. for the airport to settle the normal immigration formalities, as they agreed that the Vice President and delegations should leave the hotel an hour before departure, to enable him complete the immigration formalities.

When the Vice President and delegation arrived, they went straight to the aircraft and boarded it, and he (the witness) also arrived and boarded the plane.

The accused was not in the plane, and he (the accused) later came with Mr Lette and joined them; and instead of the plane leaving at 8 p.m., they left at 9 p.m., Sinyan further told the court.

The reason they left at 9 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. was because they were waiting for the accused, he said.

DPP then asked the witness to tell the court what happened when they left for the inauguration ceremony and the accused was not with them.

At that juncture, justice Amadi intervened and said: “I don’t want any witch-hunting; he (the accused) was the minister, how can the witness monitor his movements?” The DPP then withdrew the question.

The DPP then said that the accused person, in his statement, was attributing his predicament to the witness.

However, senior defence counsel Gaye objected to that, saying it was highly improper.

He also said the statement was tendered by the prosecution without any objection from the defence as part of their evidence; so they had no right to make the witness agree or disagree to its content.

The DPP said the argument was building a case against counsel, when counsel said the prosecution tendered the statement without objection.

He said the accused, in his statement, attributed his problems to this particular witness and mentioned his name.

Justice Amadi said he believed it was in the interest of justice for that part of the evidence not to be thrown away.

He said he thought it was proper for DPP to put it to the witness to hear his response.

He then overruled the defence objection, and allowed the question.

The DPP said the accused alleged that he woke up at 6: 45 am as agreed by him and the witness, but he did not see the witness.

That was not true, the witness said, adding that he left by 7 am which was the time they agreed on.

The witness said besides the two programmes, there was no other programme he was aware of.

Under cross-examination by senior counsel Gaye, the witness told the court that he did not say he and the VP agreed to wait for the accused to arrive.

He said the DPP asked him to tell the court who they were waiting for, and he responded that they were waiting for the accused.

He said everyone was seated and the VP asked him why the flight did not take off and he told her they were waiting for the accused. The VP kept quiet, and he also did not say a word.

He admitted he was staying in the same hotel with the accused, and also agreed that part of the duties of a protocol officer is to coordinate the movement of the delegates.

He said the VP was staying in a different hotel.

He said he left the hotel at 7 a.m. and denied agreeing with the accused to leave the hotel at 6:45 a.m. for the VP’s hotel.

He said they agreed to leave at 7 a.m. and also agreed to leave the hotel together to join the VP’s convoy for the inauguration ceremony.

The case continues on April 21.