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Over 40 days on: Lakes State teachers still behind bars

By Manyuon Mayen Manyuon, Sawa Sawa Network

Juba, (August 3, 2022) – Although it has been nearly two months (44 days) without trial, Lakes State authorities are still illegally holding six teachers, the alleged ringleaders of the pay strike, their relatives have confirmed.

The teachers under detention include Majak Nhial, Ater Ahou Machar, Ater Ariau, Marol Chol, Emmanuel Mapuor Mabor, and Abraham Makur Nyot Marol.

On June 18, the state teachers protested what they called “poor salary structure” which was enforced on them by the state education ministry, contrary to the new salary scale.

In September 2021, the National Ministry of Public Service and Human Resource Development in a circular No: 1/2021 directed all the states to implement the new salary structure for the civil servants.

The directive which was to come into effect by July 1, 2021 on all the government payrolls increased the civil servants’ salaries by 100 percent as approved by the president.

According to the structure, a grade 7 teacher is supposed to receive 22,763 South Sudanese Pounds (SSP) as opposed to 5,500 SSP, which was being enforced on the teachers in Lakes state.

But in Lakes State, the complaint resulted in the arrest of 13 instructors on June 20, before others were later set free after spending three days in the cells.

The families of the detained had hoped that justice would prevail in the past few days, in vain.

As a result, the teachers spent a month at Panda Military detention facility in Rumbek Centre before being taken to Rumbek Central Prison, commonly known as Alekic, last week.

Speaking to Sawa Sawa Network on Wednesday, a teacher who chose anonymity over “safety reasons”, said his colleagues were being unlawfully detained by the state security operatives.

“There’s no justification to continue to detain them. They were complaining of their rights. Why are they still being held without justice?” He questioned.

“This is not logical. The salary structure was passed by the national government and it was never respected by the state ministry of education. What would they expect from us?”

Reliable sources in Rumbek town said the six teachers were transferred from the military detention facility about a week ago to Rumbek Central prison.

Last week, it was alleged that the detainees would be arraigned on August 1, but it failed to work out because the Attorney General, Michael Wadan, caught malaria.

On the same note, Mayen Mading, the director of administration and finance at the state education docket, is believed to be the complainant of the case against the teachers.

Presently, it is now not known when the teachers will be produced before the court.

Cholhok Pagaraw Makuer, a wife to the detained Emmanuel Mapuor, said the kids were suffering in the absence of their father.

“The life has become extremely harsh with us since my husband was arrested. We are suffering and there is no way out,” she stated.

“Children get sick but they are not taken to the hospital because everything is money. I don’t have money to buy medicines.”

The mother said the entire family was even confused on why the case was escalating without justice.

“No one tells us the truth regarding the case. We keep going to the detention facility and we are constantly told that they will be taken to court, but they are not taken,” she said.

Makuer is calling for either immediate release of the husband or trial before the court.

Counsel David Ayuel, a Juba-based legal practitioner, argues that it is illegal to detain someone for more than 40 days without trial, according to the criminal court act.

It stipulates that 24 hours are deemed fit for someone to appear before the court.

Attempts to reach the state education minister were not immediately successful as he could not answer several phone calls.

But while speaking to this outlet in June, Nelson Makoi, Lakes State education minister, claimed a group of teachers were arrested for threatening cashiers, as opposed to the complaint on the new salary structure.

However, the speaker of the Lakes State Transitional Legislative Assembly later admitted they “had received the teachers petition” on salary dispute.

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