“Peace is the way”
-Minister Sirleaf Rallies Southeasterners
Southern Liberia, September 1, 2019: Calm has returned to concession districts in two southeastern counties as the Minister of Internal Affairs, Honorable Varney A. Sirleaf over the weekend resolved two crisis situations in Pleebo-Sodoken District, Maryland County, and Garaway, Wedabo and Sorroken Districts in Grand Kru County.
In Maryland County, the Maryland Oil Palm Plantation (MOPP) is operating there, while theoil giant, Golden Veroleum, Liberia (GVL) operates in Grand Kru County.A press release from the Ministry of Internal Affairs said normal operations of the two companies will resume Monday, September 2nd following weeks of paralysis.
In recent weeks, the two concession companies have been hit separatelyby citizens’ protests and indefinite strike action by workers, thus paralyzing their operations and destroying palm fruits which are harvested on a daily basis.The two Managements say the obstructions have cost them thousands of dollars in loss.
In Grand Kru County, over one thousand two hundred workers of Golden Veroleum, Liberia will resume normal operations this Monday September 2nd following days of intensive negotiations between them and their top management.
The workers in mid-August laid down their tools for what they termed as the company’s failure to address some unsettled demands.
A joint mission from the Ministries of Internal Affairs and Labor, headed by the Internal Affairs Ministry Boss visited Sorroken where the dialogues were held. The GVL Management and workers among other things agreed to improve their relations and that the company assured government to meet the demands of workers which were categorized into segments namely: immediate, medium and long terms.
Grand Kru County Superintendent Madam Doris Ylatun who was instrumental in resolving the stand-off praised Minister Sirleaf and team for the intervention. Madam Ylatun believes that with the direct involvement of government, the workers’ concerns will now be adequately addressed.
GVL’s Chief Executive Office Mr. Ferdy Surya Handojo and Vice President Elvis Morris who headed the Management assured the company’s renewed commitment to the workers, communities of Grand Kru and Government.
The press release named the spokespersons of the aggrieved workers during the discussions to include Matthew S. Tweh, Jr, QuiahWolo, Theophilus Gippley, Tetee A. Diggs and Darius D. Doe, among others. They assured the company of cordial working relationships with management.
For his part, Assistant Labor Minister for Regional Labor Affairs, Honorable Wilson Dumoe said his Ministry remains committed to ensure labor related demands are met consistent with laws, however warning that the company is operating under law, therefore it will not be subjected to illegal strike actions.
Meanwhile, in Maryland County, on August 26, 2019, citizens of Gbeken, a community near the operation area of MOPP violently shut down the company’s operations on allegation that the company had encroached on their customary land. The citizens invoked their tradition and setup road blocks to prevent access to MOPP’s workers. According to spokespersons of Gbeken Community, their action to close the routes to the company’s operation areas was triggered by prolong complaints of encroachment which have not been fully addressed.
The Government of Liberia on March 4, 2011 awarded MOPP 5,570 acres of land to plant oil palm in the District.
To resolve conflict, Minister Sirleaf requested the Liberia Land Authority to conduct an investigative survey which was immediately conducted by a team headed by Mr. George Y. Miller, Director of Land Administration, an experienced Cartographer and Surveyor of the Land Authority.
A technical Assistant at the Internal Affairs Ministry Mr. D. Emmanuel Wheinyue said the investigative survey was observed by all parties to the conflict and local authorities including George A. Prowd. Mr. Wheinyue is quoted by the release that that Land Authority’s investigative survey established that MOPP did not cross over the boundary, contrary to claims of encroachment.
The outcome of the investigative survey was presented and explained at a well-attended town hall meeting in the town ofBarreken on Saturday, August 31, 2019. The result of the survey was welcomed by the citizens, promising to uphold it.
The General Manager of MOPP Mr. ZadiSokoi welcomed the Minister’s intervention and thanked the people of Gbeken for realizing the fact that the land belongs to the company; he however promised to work accordingly. The manager announced that his committed that his management accepts Minister Sirleaf’s request to offer an outgrower scheme in which the company will provide technical assistance to the communities for cultivation their own farms.
The citizens promised to allocate land for the outgrower scheme which will make individual citizens own their own palm farms.
Meanwhile, earlier during his visit to Maryland, Minister Sirleaf met with the Administration of Tubman University. He assured the Administration that Government takes the recent student protest seriously and that a solution has been found. Honorable Sirleaf said although President Weah was not in the country, he requested an urgent high level government meeting in which the issue of Tubman University was high on the agenda.
It can be recalled, students had staged a protest against what appeared to be reduction in salaries of their instructors at the school. The University’s President Dr. Elliott Wleh Wilson told Minister Sirleaf that instructors had returned to work and students were back in school based on the assurance from Government. Dr. Wilson praised Maryland County Superintendent Honorable George A.Prowd for his intervention that calmed the situation and his Continuous support to the University.
Speaking to local media following his successful mission, Minister Sirleaf said President Weah was concerned about the wellbeing of citizens, and as Minister of Internal Affairs, he takes resolving of every problem seriously.
“I want to thank the President for leadership and also appreciate the citizens and workers of Maryland and Grand Kru for listening to me and my team which makes it possible for Government to continue to prevail on the concessions to meet their portions of the agreements. That does not mean the companies have not been performing their duties, but more needs to be done”. Minister Sirleaf stressed.
He encouraged communities to resolve issues matters peacefully and desist from taking the law into their own hands by resulting to violent protests. The release concluded.