Killer Solai dam owner blames deforestation for tragedy

Perry Mansukh the General Manager of Kensalt Limited and owner of the killer dam at a past court proceeding. [File, Standard]

The owner of the ill-fated Solai dam has attributed the collapse of the dam to natural phenomenon, citing that he is also a victim of the tragedy.

Perry Mansukh the General Manager of Kensalt Limited and owner of the dam also attributed the collapse of the water facility to massive deforestation caused by the neighbouring farms and those who farm on the hills that overlook the dam.

Mansukh, who is already facing manslaughter charges related to the collapse of the dam, told the Senate ad hoc committee chaired by Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr (Makueni) that he had obtained the necessary licensing for the construction of the dam.

"I have the license issued by the Ministry of Water in early 2000 which was then under the Directorate of Water Services. Am not so sure about the dates but I undertake that we shall provide the committee with the necessary documents," said Mansukh.

But Mutula questioned: "Do you want us to believe that you cannot remember the year or the date of when a dam was constructed but you can remember when you started planting tea in the farm?."

According to the Director, Water Resources Authority renewed the license of the construction of the dam in last year and the license is to expire in December this year.

However, Wednesday sitting of the committee was interrupted by lawyer Evans Monari, representing Mansukh, engaged the committee in a heated debate over the decision to summon the farm owner.

Monari told the Mutula led Committee that the most of the queries raised in the letter of invitation touched on both criminal and civil cases at various courts.

"We have several suits, both civil and criminal in court. What this committee is trying to do is to establish a liability. The forum for liability is the Judiciary. We should have been happy to answer all questions to the committee with the burden of the suits," Monari told the committee.

Monari instead accused the committee of using the House privileges to prejudice Mansukh's cases in court and objected the order of the committee compelling his client to give testimony on the matter of licence.

"We are prepared to cooperate with the committee to ensure justice for the victims. But we are worried about the investigations by the Senate which looks unfair. Our client is a victim of tragedy as well," said Monari.

Nominated Senator Sylvia Kassanga challenged him to explain whether he had visited victims of the tragedy and what he did to mitigate their suffering in the wake of the accident.

She also asked him to explain whether he made attempts to confirm the authenticity of the list submitted to him as a true reflection of the victims of the tragedy.

"Have you visited the victims of the tragedy and offered your sympathy to them personally? In what ways have you shown that you sympathize with them?. What sort of compensation have you offered?," asked Kassanga.

But Mansukh denied claims that he had already compensated the affected families, and revealed that being part of the Solai community he had offered a token of goodwill as a gesture to help the families restore their immediate requirement.

"I have not offered any compensation. What we offered was a token of goodwill and to help the families meet their immediate needs. It was not a compensation. But because this matter is in court I cannot divulge further," said Mansukh.

He said that they had been part of the Solai community for close to three generations and has helped build six secondary schools and three primary schools as well as provide clean drinking water to the residents.

Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja a member of the committee challenged him to provide proof that commercial activities he carries on his farm were duly approved through the necessary licensing agencies.

"How is the law dear to you?" We want you to provide proof that his dam was licensed," asked Sakaja.

On Tuesday, the Committee had pressed Environment CS Keriako Tobiko to re-draft the rejected the recommendations of an environmental restorative orders carried out by the environment agency.

The committee disallowed the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) that had issued to the owners of the Patel Coffee Farm, arguing that the report is defective.