By Mohamed T. Massaquoi
Hundreds of pupils of the Holy Rosary Girls Secondary School in Pujehun town have demonstrated against an alleged encroachment on a piece of land believed to be owned by the Catholic mission.
The demonstration allegedly resulted in the vandalising of a wall-height building constructed few meters away from the school by some members of the Kamara family in Pujehun.
The head girl of Holy Rosary Girls Secondary School, Baindu Mansaray told Politico that they demonstrated against the alleged encroachment on the school's property because they were told by some of their teachers to do so. She said they had visited the Pujehun District Council and the police station to inform them that if immediate action was not taken to halt the illegal construction of their land, they would continue with their demonstrations.
One of the senior teachers of the school who heads the languages department, however, denied they incited the pupils to demonstrate. John Sahid Turay admitted though that damage to the uncompleted building could have been done by the pupils while expressing interest in defending their school land.
Turay said that upon knowing that the pupils were going on a demonstration for their school land, they attempted to restrain them since a decision had been taken by the Paramount Chief and some other elders of Kpanga Kabonde Chiefdom and land owners to stop the construction with immediate effect.
He pointed out that following the decision to halt the on-going construction, the aggrieved party vowed to continue with the building because according to them, they had been dispossessed of their property, adding that that could have made the pupils angry hence their decision to demonstrate.
A member of the Kamara family, Musa Kamara told Politico that "the action by the school pupils is a mere disadvantage and misuse of their rights," adding that their use of the land was in place. He said they had been told to discontinue with their construction work but that they decided to continue because of the approaching rainy season.
Kamara noted that they had spent millions of leones on the building project which the pupils had "destroyed within a twinkle of an eye." He called on local authorities including the police to investigate the matter immediately and come out with "an acceptable solution".
In a meeting held at the police station in the immediate aftermath of the demonstration, one of the land-holding family members in Pujehun, Pa Ansu Jah said the disputed land was given to the Catholic mission over 100 years ago by their great grandparents and that there had been no problem since then. The chief said the demonstration by the pupils came as a surprise to them.
"We have also been made to understand that the Catholic mission is going beyond their limit in utilising the land given to them," Pa Jah noted.
In his response, Rev. Fr. John Denis Wilson attached to the Holy Family Parish Church in Pujehun told the meeting that they needed peace with the community people, and that they were securing the land for further development projects.
Meanwhile, the support officer at the Pujehun police station, Inspector Frank P. Boima has warned the two parties to stop all activities on the disputed land until police investigation is completed. He also admonished the school authorities to warn their pupils to desist from further demonstration, which he said could lead to police intervention.
(C) Politico 13/05/14