By Mafugi Ceesay
Some 14 people were arrested in Sukuta last evening after clashing with a demolition squad sent to implement a Physical Planning order on a land situated in Salagi.
Among those arrested were activist Fatou Jaw Manneh and singer Mbi Kuru, both natives of Sukuta.
A few weeks ago when the tension emerged, a number of people staged a protest after receiving letters from the Department of Physical Planning asking them to halt all constructions on the land as it is a state land reserved for schools, hospitals, markets and cemetery.
However, the villagers alleged they have not seen any such development but instead private people, mostly senior government officials, have put up houses on the land.
The villagers, mainly from the Jamba Kunda clan, claimed the government of former president Jammeh took the said land from them in Salagi but after a long battle, they reclaimed some of the tracts which they divided among original land-owning clans who allocated plots to family members, some of which have been developed.
They said they were relieved that the matter was resolved only to receive a visitation recently from officials of the Department of Physical Planning, who distributed letters demanding they stop all developments and vacate the land as it belongs to the state.
The villagers apparently did not move and yesterday, a demolition squad accompanied by police arrived at the scene and managed to push down a number of structures. Their presence sparked a confrontation with the villagers resulting in the arrests.
As we went to press last night, the Deputy Governor of West Coast Region Musa Suso, himself a native of Sukuta, said all those arrested have been granted bail. Another source confirmed that they have been charged with obstructing police officers but the villagers reportedly rejected the charges and refused to give any statement at the Brusbi police station.
Our reporter Mafugi Ceesay, who was briefly detained along with the protesters, was released soon after.