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"Was Carnegie Mineral Boss a Wanted Person?"

Sep 15, 2008, 5:30 AM | Article By: By Baboucarr Senghore

The government of The Gambia last week issued a press release declaring Mr. Charles Northfield, General Manager of Carnegie Mineral Company, an Australian mining company in The Gambia that recently had its operational license revoked by Gambian Authorities, 'wanted'. But was Mr. Northfield a wanted person prior to his escape and was he under police custody prior to his escape? This was the subject of a question raised by Mr. Halifa Sallah, Spokesperson of the opposition National Alliance for Democracy and Development (NADD) in an exclusive interview with The Point.

Charles Northfield, a British National who was standing trial at the High Court in Banjul for various crimes including economic crime, is reported to have jumped court bail and escaped to the United Kingdom. His reported escape was followed by the dismissal of a good number of security officers who were posted between Barra and Amdallai in the North Bank Region.

"If actually people are sacked by virtue of the escape of Northfield, then I would raise the issue of was he a wanted person prior to his escape and was he under police custody prior to his escape? You can only attribute transgression if you have the duty to oversee what happens. Unless the man was under police custody, then who can be held responsible for his appearance in court?" he queried.

According to the NADD bigwig, what is actually in place in any democratic legal system is the establishment of a bail system where a person who should appear before a court if he is under a court bail, then it is the bail conditions that should serve as a means of preventing escape.

"But where escape takes place, it is the bail condition that should provide remedy. I don't think in any bail condition, they would actually say that the police are responsible for ensuring that the person appears in court and in the absence of that person in court then the police should not be removed from their offices," he said.

Mr. Sallah pointed out that he could not see the connection between the two; that is people being removed from their offices and the escape of this particular gentleman.

For Halifa Sallah, if what is alleged is actually found to be true, then the action would be in contravention of what is reasonable and justifiable in any democratic and just society.

"The matter is still under investigation as far as I am concerned. We cannot still understand the connection between the two. We are still investigating," he noted.

Turning on to the recent dismissal of judges in the High Court, Mr. Sallah, said good governance presupposes separation of powers so that there can be checks and balances.

"A state comprises of three parties; the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. If you look at the constitution, it is stated in the preamble that the three arms of the state have been clearly defined, their independence amply secured with adequate checks and balances to ensure that they work harmoniously towards our common good," he asserted.

As explained by Mr. Sallah, it is clearly stated in the constitution that there should be security of tenure of judges. And what happens in these recent cases is that the public is not in the know regarding the conditions of the termination of the services of these judges. "Yes it is indicated that the president may have the appointment of a judge of the superior court terminated but it should be in consultation with the judicial service commission", he explained.

In his view, it is incontrovertible that the executive cannot unilaterally get up and terminate the service of a judge. "It has happened and do we just continue to cry foul. I think this is where the weakness of the bar association lies. As far as I am concern, where a civil society is weak, transgression of rights cannot be averted", he averred.