LIBERIA: Margibi Leaders Intervene In Rubber Company Employees Strike Action

Margibi County administration and the County Legislative Caucus have intervened in the strike action by villagers, residing within and around the concession area of the Salala Rubber Corporation, in Gibi District, upper Margibi County.

The newly-elected Chairman of the Margibi Legislative Caucus, Emmanuel Nuquay, a representative of district, led the delegation to prevail on the striking villagers to call off the protest action.

The villagers are demanding compensation for their crops allegedly damaged by the Salala Rubber Corporation (SRC).

Earlier, during the meeting on the premises of the company, the striking citizens resisted the move by the county authorities to intervene, on grounds that they could not participate in any meeting without the involvement of their legal counsel Alfred Brownell, of the Green Advocate.

But Representative Nuquay prevailed on the villagers to withdraw their decision not to be a part of the discussion in the absence of their lawyer.

He informed the villagers that there can be no better lawyer than their representatives in the Legislature and the county leadership, adding "you gave us power to represent you and as such you should see reason to allow us look into this matter."

The villagers said they embarked on the strike action to create awareness about the situation prevailing between them and the SRC.

They accused the SRC management of damaging their crops, encroaching on their land and polluting their drinking water sources.

They said, as a result, they are unable to engage in farming and that they have no access to safe drinking water in the area.

When the Management of the SRC was asked to explain its side of the matter, they admitted damaging crops owned by villagers within their concession area.

They, however, said the damaged crops were duly paid for, with some villagers receiving lump sums of money as high US$36,000.

The SRC Management indicated that all of the areas currently used in the expansion of the plantation falls within its concession area, and that it was not encroaching on land belonging to the villagers.

SRC said it accepted in good faith to pay for the crops and also build hand pumps, schools and roads to the surrounding villages that were so hard to reach in many decades of its existence.

They said they were taken aback by the strike action by the villagers when they have made several payments for all of their crops through their representative designated at the time, James Caine.

"However, whatever it takes to resolve this matter once and for all, we are willing to fully cooperate with it," a representative of the Salala Management said.

For his part, Margibi County Superintendent John Buway said the issue of land is a very sensitive matter and assured the Salala Management that he would get in touch with the relevant agencies of government to authenticate the facts and circumstances of the matter.

He said the meeting was the beginning of a series of meetings that will lead to a resolution of the standoff between the villagers and SRC Management.

He then called on the villagers to exercise restraint and avoid any act of violence adding, "the best option to resolving any crisis is through peaceful means".

Meanwhile, Superintendent Buway has instructed the Police Commander of Margibi County to probe into the arson attack on the plantation of the Salala Rubber Company by the striking villagers.

He said based on a formal complaint filed to his office by the Salala Rubber Corporation, he was constituting a committee headed by the police commander, Chief Superintendent Frederick Nepay, to investigate the alleged arson attack on the company's plantation.

A significant portion of company's new plantation got burnt during the strike action.

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