By Tabora Bojang
The head of the Gambia Tourism Board (GTBoard) has told journalists at a media briefing that estate agencies encroaching on the Tourism Development Area (TDA) land could face prosecution.
The board issued a press release last month accusing estate agencies EJ Investments, Darboe Jula, and S&J Properties of “illegal selling of landed properties” within the TDA of Tanji, Batokunku, Sanyang and Tujereng.
It said the TDA is a leased government property under the custody of the board comprising the coastal stretch from Kotu to Kartong measuring 800 metres inland off the watermark.
GTBoard head Abdoulie Hydara said: “The TDA is established by law and if you fail to respect those boundaries, it means you have encroached. Court action could be our last resort because it is not difficult to establish the boundaries of the TDA, we can even establish it right here with a simple Google map. The relevant issues that require us to go to law have been passed to the relevant authorities to deal with it. The law is there for us to apply but it is also good for us to engage in round table discussions. We have already instituted legal action against some of the estate agents who have encroached on the TDA and are in defiance or adamant that they will stay in the TDA and are selling properties to individuals, private or public institutions.”
Hydara also rebuffed media reports allegedly attributed to him for having exonerated EJ Investments from encroaching on the Tourism Development Area.
“I have never confirmed that EJ Investments has not encroached in Sanyang. We have given the facts and limits of the TDA and anybody who has gone beyond the limits of the TDA is an encroachment,” Hydara explained.
The GTB boss also dismissed claims by some coastal communities that they are not aware of the existence of the TDA, explaining that the TDA has existed for decades without any unnecessary encroachment and laws governing it are still in place.
Standard reporter fact-checks GT Board DG
Meanwhile, Mr Omar Bah, The Standard reporter who authored the story on the exoneration of EJ Investment in Sanyang reacted: “I am compelled to fact-check the GTBoard director general with regard to his comments on my story concerning EJ Investments. His comments unfairly put my reputation as a journalist to test.
“He called a press conference to deny ever telling me that the EJ Investments land in Sanyang is not within the TDA. What he did is to attempt to bring me in disrepute as a journalist. This is exactly what Mr Hydara told me verbatim: ‘Even if there is any infringement in Sanyang it has to be S&J Properties and Darboe Jula’s and not EJ Investments. We are not talking about EJ Investments infringing lands in Sanyang. EJ Investment is entirely in Tujereng. And as a journalist you should ask EJ Investments why are they only talking about their land in Sanyang and not talking about Tujereng.’
“I have Mr Hydara on record and during the interview a colleague from The Voice newspaper, Saidou Baldeh, was present. He could corroborate my story. I listened to Mr Hydara’s lecture calling on journalists to be professionals and cross-check information before they put pen to paper. Well my facts are here and they speak for themselves. Public servants, whatever their position, should know that the era of bullying and using journalists as whipping boys is over.”