A reporter of a local daily who just returned from the Sinoe County via GVL sponsored trip said dozens of citizens of Numopoh twon, Kpanyan statutory district have publicly confirmed recent report released by a London based investigative Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), Global Witness against Indonesian Oil Palm Company, Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL) currently operating in the area.
According to the Global Witness report title ‘Temper and Guns’ on the company, the report alleged that the company was forcibly grabbing the people’s land for their operations, damaging their traditional shrine and sacred sites and destroying their creeks among others.
In a meeting with a team of journalists from Monrovia in the town Wednesday, November 9 the citizens confirmed that indeed the company is in the habit of forcibly grabbing their lands, destroying their crops and creeks and using armed men of the Liberian National Police (LNP), particularly of the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) and the Police Support Unit (PSU) to coerce them in entering into a deal with the company against their will.
“Since GVL been in the line of Numopoh, our land has been hijacked. It is true when Global Witness said force, for me that is the right word because since GVL entered this our land in 2011, we have not received a dime from them as land rental fees,” a member of the Numopoh Citizens Welfare Committee, Ourphy Jelleh Jelleh began his statement.
Jelleh Jelleh alleged that GVL and the people of Numopoh signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) but since the signing of the MOU, the company has failed to live up the terms and conditions within the MOU, something he said is causing serious problems for the people of Numopoh town.
He mentioned the lack of save drinking water, schools, healthcare facilities and sanitation among others that the company has failed to provide for the people and this was verified through observation by our reporter who visited the town.
He warned that until the company can revisit and began to uphold all of the terms and conditions within the MOU, the town and people are not willing to do business with GVL.
For him, Sorboh S. Wesseh, chairman of Tartweh estate said the coming of journalists into the town is a sign of relieve for the people of the entire Kpanyan statutory district, thus, again confirming and reechoing the Global Witness report against GVL.
Wesseh disclosed that since the operation of GVL within the Tartweh town in 2014, the company has failed to implement projects highlighted within the MOU, adding that the company has refused to provide vehicle for the transportation of workers, and is yet to build a single office within the area but is rather using someone’s else’s living room as an office for its operation which is yet to be verified because journalists were not taken to said town.
“it is true that GVL is hijacking our land and when we try to engage them on the matter they will rather run to central government and the government in return comes to us and prevail on us and this is how things are been done, so as an investor who have come to alleviate the people from poverty and starts to act in such forms and manner than it tells us that you don’t worth to be on our land,” Wesseh spoke very angrily during the meeting.
Also speaking in the meeting was Numopoh Concern Citizens chairman, Dixon D. Gbalar who acknowledge the level of destruction the Liberian civil crisis have cost the country and as such they are happy to once again see the coming of investors into their areas for development purposes, noting that it is surprising to see the way GVL acting towards them.
“We all are aware that for the past 16 years we passed through difficulties in this country and we are happy to see investors going into the rural areas of our country but we are surprise with the action of Golden Veroleum. We happily and hungrily embraced GVL into our town because we know GVL operations are part of the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) plan through our central government but for us, the citizens of Numopoh, this company has increased our poverty,” Gbalar spoke disappointingly during the meeting.
Gbalar alleged that citizens of the town are denied access to employment opportunities while others are being employed and are given first preference over them, something he terms as unfair.
In response to the allegation made by the citizens, GVL Principal Technical Advisor and vice President for Sustainability, Andrew Kluth said that the company has no point in time hijacked any land from the neither has the company every damage their water has been alleged by the people.
Kluth indicated that the company is not under obligations to build schools, hand pumps and healthcare facilities among others when according to him the requisite land request by the company is not provided by the town for company’s operations.
“The company is not under mandate to develop a town or a district where we are operating until the requisite amount of land can be provided by the community to the company,” Kluth told journalists.
Meanwhile, the people has vowed to resist the operations of the company within their area legally by the end of December if the company fails to meet up with terms and conditions layout in previous MOU signed between the company and the people.
Source: Jackson Clay