By Tabora Bojang
The lead counsel at the TRRC has told the former prison chief that he ran a “tribal cabal” at the Gambia Prison Services with an inordinate number of executive staff being his fellow Jola tribesmen, Kanilai natives and family relatives.
Testifying at the commission yesterday, former prisons director general David Colley, 62,said he was not a tribal bigot.He denied responsibility for a litany of abuses allegedly committed in Gambian prisons including the use of torture, restrictions to medical care, poor diet, custodial deaths due to negligence and unhygienic conditions among others under his watch.
In a testimony marred by contradictions and denials, he said all the witnesses who testified against him of having knowledge of the torture, killings and disappearances at the prisons were “speaking lies”, adding that some of the reported heinous acts may have occurred but without his knowledge.
He confirmed that some inmates slept in restrooms because of the overcrowding but said he found that practice in place. “I know that my hands are tight but I have no help and in those days you dare not resign,” he said.
He refuted allegations that the food served to inmates was unfit for human consumption, contending: “The food was good because it looked very attractive and prisoners were eating it. It is left to them to criticise but all I know is that the menu was prepared by NaNA and we followed the guidelines.”
Colley said he never received complaints and was not informed of prisoners suffering from beriberi as a result of poor diet.
He said the “so-called beriberi illness” was caused by bug infestations in the cells.
According to him an investigation was launched by a group of doctors at the prisons to find out the cause of the beriberi but he was not privy to their findings.
He confirmed that the NIA and other security agents would keep detainees at Mile 2 prison.
“When it comes to convicts, it is my responsibility but when it comes to detainees, I have no say. Who am I to dare say no? Who is there to risk your life? I knew it was unlawful but what can I do?”
He remained adamant that inmates were not tortured behind his office despite the fact that at least five witnesses implicated him in torture.
Colley who hailed from Kanilai denied allegations of bribery, corruption and nepotism.
On his successor, Ansumana Manneh’s allegation that he was not only a tribalist but a despot, Colley retorted: “He is lying and that is completely wrong”.
He also denied allegations that he diverted the prison’s farm produce for his personal use, and feeding inmates the meat from a dead bull and taking bribes from the family of Baba Jobe and Ndey Conteh.
On why he refused to release Baba Jobe when his time elapsed in jail, he said it was an executive decision and he could not “defy the orders of his superiors”.