#National News

STATEMENT BY THE ATTORNEY GENERAL’S CHAMBERS & MINISTRY OF  JUSTICE ON THE ARREST OF NENEH FREDA GOMEZ 

Nov 24, 2021, 12:52 PM

The  uproar  that  followed  the  arrest  of  Ms  Neneh  Freda  Gomez  on  suspicion  of  obstruction  and  idle  and  disorderly  conduct  has  necessitated  the  release  of  this  statement.

As stated in our previous statement, the lack of an elaborate response by  this office has been as a result of the pendency of this matter before the Courts. This  silence on our part has led to the propagation of blatant falsehoods in an attempt to  influence public opinion. The facts of this matter are as follows:  

  1. In 2007 a Korean-American Christian medical missionary organisation known  as  Global  Hearts  of  Medical  Mission  made  an  elaborate  presentation  to  former President Jammeh on the establishment of a state of the art medical  facility  to  deliver  free  medical  services  to  underprivileged  members  of  the  public. Following this presentation, without following due process and contrary  to law, former President Jammeh gave an executive directive for a lease to be  issued to the said organisation within the Tourism Development Area (TDA), an  area  reserved  for  tourism-related  facilities.  Furthermore,  former  President  Jammeh gave an executive directive for the organisation to be promptly issued  with an NGO certificate even though the law requires operation for two years  before the issuance of an NGO certificate.  
  2. In 2007 Global Hearts of Medical Mission set up its operations at the property  in question and provided medical services to the public until they were expelled  by former President Jammeh in 2010, on allegations of their failure to provide  free medical services as promised. Following this, the former President illegally  converted the property into a base for the “Green Boys”.  
  3. Upon  assumption  of  office  in  2017,  the  Government  dispatched a  high-level  delegation  which  included  2  Cabinet  Ministers  and  the  Director  of  Health  to  meet with the head of the Global Hearts of Medical Mission in the United States 

and  invite them  to  return to  The  Gambia to  continue  their work  of  providing  charitable  medical  services  as  per  their  initial  proposal.  The  Government  however informed the organisation that the land previously allocated to them  was  not  properly  allocated  as  it  was  within  the  area  reserved  for  tourism  development facilities. The Government, therefore, informed them that they will  be allocated another parcel of land in an area suitable for the establishment of  a  charitable  hospital  for  the  provision  of  free  medical  services  for  the  less  privileged.  

  1. 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. At the time,  the  Government  was  in  the  early  stages  of  planning  for  the  hosting  of  the  upcoming OIC summit and required land to build executive lodging facilities for  the Heads of State and Government who will be participating in the said summit. 

The  area  in  question  was  deemed  to  be  the  most  suitable  land  for  the  development  and  importantly  it  was  consistent  with  its  lawful  status  as  TDA  land.  

  1. According to law, all state land is vested with the Government for management  in the public interest. Accordingly, all leaseholders are tenants of the state who  may not be dispossessed of the land unless due process is followed.  The Land  Acquisition Act permits the state to compulsorily acquire any state land from a  leaseholder  as  far  as  such  land  is  acquired  for  a  public  purpose  and  the  leaseholder is compensated.   
  2. A plaint was filed on the 20th of March 2019 by “Home of Medical Mission” at  the Kanifing Magistrate’s Court for possession of the land in question. In light  of the Government’s intention to follow the process of compulsory acquisition,  the Government conceded to the claim with the clear intention of pursuing the  compulsory acquisition route.  
  3. Following the Magistrate Court judgement which for purposes of clarity was not  on the merits but rather as a result of a technical concession by the State, the  Department of Lands initiated the process of compulsory acquisition on the 20th of March 2020. In line with the law, the Government still maintained its desire  to  adequately  compensate  the  claimants  but  the  claimants  rebuffed  all  approaches from the Government.  
  4. Following this, Home of Medical Mission made another application before the High Court on the 26th of May 2020 challenging the compulsory acquisition of  the property, based on a gazetting step that was inadvertently skipped by the  state in the course of the acquisition process. In this matter, the court made it  very  clear  that  a  declaration  of  title  was  no  bar  to  the  state  initiating  and  completing the acquisition process in line with the Land Acquisition Act. The  State  again  made  a  technical  concession  with  the  intention  of  properly  complying with the process laid out in the Lands Acquisition Act, contained in  judgement of 29th June 2020.  
  5. It will be recalled that all the suits were initiated in the name of Home of Medical  Mission, the same name that was on the lease issued under executive directive  by  former  President  Jammeh.  In  an  attempt  to  settle  the  cost  order  in  that  matter, it became apparent that there was no organisation existing by the name  of Home of Medical Mission.  A thorough search at the Companies Registry  revealed that Home of Medical Mission has never been incorporated in The  Gambia or anywhere for that matter contrary to the representations made by  Ms Gomez in her affidavit. Because the judgement was in favour of “Home of  Medical Mission” which does not exist, it was and remains unenforceable.  
  6. This discovery revealed that the Claimants intentionally misled the Courts and  the Government by bringing a suit on behalf of an organisation that does not  exist,  and  cannot  sue  or  hold  title  to  land.  The  Government  requested  the  Claimants to provide evidence of their existence as a legal entity but until now  they have been unable to do so. It is important to state again that it was the  current Government that invited the claimants back to The Gambia after their  faith believing Home of  Medical Mission was a legal entity. The law is very  clear on this, a non-legal entity cannot own land. Similarly, a non-existing entity  cannot sue or be sued as no judgement can be enforced against or in its favour. 
  7. At the time, the claimants had an application before the High Court for an order  of mandamus to compel the IGP to vacate the land in question. In light of the  discovery,  the  State  made  an  application  to  dismiss  the  application  on  the  grounds that the Plaintiff does not exist. There is no existing law or scenario  that will permit a non-existing entity to initiate and maintain a lawsuit. On the  day the matter was set for hearing, fearing a ruling on their non-existence, the  Claimants surprisingly withdrew their claim.  
  8. Following  the  Claimants  surprise  withdrawal  of  their  application,  the  state  applied to set aside the High Court’s judgement dated 29th June 2020 on the  grounds that  the judgement  was fraudulently  obtained and the  Claimants do   not  exist. This application  is  scheduled  to  be heard on  the  2 nd  of December  2021 and we are confident that this will lay bare the deception that has been  perpetrated  by the claimants.  This  follows a trend  of  individuals  applying for  land allocations under the guise  of implementing public interest projects and  then turning around to utilise these lands for profit-making ventures. 
  9. As things stand there is no entity in existence by the name of Home of Medical   Mission. Ms Gomez  cannot, therefore, be  said to  represent  an organisation   that  does  not  exist.  Similarly,  the  land  in  question  has  never  been  held  by   Global Hearts of Medical Mission, which Ms Gomez purports to represent. 

As such all previous judgements are unenforceable as there is no beneficiary   in existence.  

  1. It  is  interesting  to  note  that  the  original  proposal  made  by  Global  Hearts  of  Medical Mission to former President Jammeh was for a charity hospital. The  constant persistence by Ms Gomez to try to bend the law and mislead the public   is non-surprising given credible reports that Ms Gomez is in discussions with  several investors to develop a private for-profit hospital and hotel on the land  which is valued at millions of dollars. This is immoral, deceptive, and constitutes   an  attempt  at  unjust  enrichment  by  Ms  Gomez  and  her  associates  at  the expense of the Gambian public. !
  2. The  Government  through  the  OIC  issued  a  public  call  for  proposals  and   following a transparent process has entered into a joint venture to build and    operate a 5-star resort that will host the Heads of State during the OIC summit. 

 This  development  which  will  be  rightfully  situated  in  the  TDA  will  create    thousands  of  jobs  in  the  tourism  sector  and  will  form  a  key  part  of  the   Government’s  plans  to  make  the  Gambia  a  high-value  year-round  tourist  destination.  

  1. Despite everything, the Government is and has always been willing to work with   Global  Hearts  of  Medical  Mission  to  lawfully  allocate  them  with  a  sufficient   expanse of land in an area suitable for the setting up of a charitable hospital as   far as they comply with their original proposal to build a charitable health facility.   
  2. Ms Gomez has for months now embarked on a campaign of public deception   and has intentionally provoked law enforcement to elicit a reaction which she    could  utilise  in  furthering  this  deception.  We  have  full  trust  in  our  law 

 enforcement  and  judicial  institutions  and  a  ruling  by  the  court  on  a  previous   arrest is in no way a bar to the police doing their job on a subsequent suspected   offence.  The  Police  have  been  deployed  to  provide  security  at  the  property  which  has  since  been  allocated  by  the  state  to  a  Public  Private  Partnership   company, for the purpose of constructing the OIC 5-star resort.  

  1. It  is  undisputed  that  Global  Hearts  of  Medical  Mission,  which  Ms  Gomez   purports to represent, does not and has never held title to the land in question. 

    We  challenge  Ms  Gomez  to  produce  any  evidence  to  the  contrary.  We  are   resolute in our position and are confident that after the hearing on the 2 nd of   December this matter will be resolved once and for all.  

  1. We wish to assure the general public of our commitment to Human Rights and   the Rule of Law. We have confidence in our judicial system and to date have   not  disregarded  any  of  the  Court’s  orders.  We  believe  the  Judiciary  is   adequately  placed  to  deal  with  all  issues  at  stake  in  this  matter  and  the   Complainants  ought  to  know  that  disputes  are  not  resolved  through  Social   Media.  
  2. All  statements  characterising  her  arrest  on  Friday  19th November  2021  as   arbitrary  are  premature,  bias  and  made  without  due  recourse  to  the  state’s  position on this matter. We urge members of the public, institutions and  civil  society to refrain from making conclusive statements on these events without   proper consultations or verification. 

   END 

 DATED THIS 22  ND

 DAY OF NOVEMBER 2021  ATTORNEY GENERAL’S CHAMBERS AND MINISTRY OF JUSTICE  MARINA PARADE BANJUL           

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