By: Abraham Kollie (Correspondent Margibi County)
Margibi County District #1 Lawmaker, Representative Tibelrosa Summoh Tarponweh, has restored calm into a land dispute between the Firestone-Liberia Company and the residents of Kpanyan Town.
Earlier Monday morning, the residents of Kpanyan Town staged a protest preventing Firestone from effectuating clearing on a disputed land in their area.
According to the residents, Firestone has begun clearing the land amid the writ of injunction issued on the said land by the RIA Magisterial Court so as to await the report from the survey conducted by the Liberia Land Authority.
Heavily armed police officers were deployed at the protest ground to prevent the residents.
Mr. Levi S. Gaye, Secretary of Kpanyan Town, expressed discontent about the Company’s continuous use of intimidation and force to illegally possess their land, something he vowed they will resist.
The Kpanyan Town residents and the rubber producing company have had a long standing land conflict. The residents have consistently accused the company of allegedly encroaching on their land.
The land in question is approximately one thousand (1,000) acres along the Du-River and borders with Divisions #44 and 45 in Firestone, Lower Margibi County.
Following the more six hour protest by the residents, Rep. Tarponweh called on the Management of Firestone to halt their clearing and await the full settlement of the land conflict.
The Margibi County Lawmaker cautioned the residents to remain calm while authorities including the House of Representatives can investigate how the Liberia Land Authority carried out its investigation; which has resulted to one party carrying out clearing amidst the writ of injection on the land in question.
Suspicion Over Delay In Releasing The LAA Survey Report:
The Liberia Land Authority’s failure to expeditiously release its survey report about the disputed land to the both parties has been causing growing frustration and raising suspicions in some quarters about whether the LLA is been partial in its investigation.
Commenting on the suspicions, Rep. Tarponweh said since the survey was conducted in May this year, the residents of Kpanyan Town are yet to receive copy of the report of the survey from the Liberia Land Authority, but the Firestone Management had received the draft survey report for review.
The Margibi County District#1 Lawmaker termed the LLA’s action as being “partial and unethical in their investigation” and vowed to work with his Colleagues to proper “scrutinize” the survey report when published.
“The Liberia Land Authority conducted a survey about the land dispute since May. Instead of presenting copy of the draft report to both parties before it could be released, the LLA presented the copy of the draft report to one party, Firestone.
This issue is disheartening as the LLA doesn’t work to protect only Firestone interest but also to ensure that the right of those helpless residents that occupied that land long ago before Firestone existence.
As an investigator, you must be transparent, independent and accountable to the both parties regardless of who is involved. Who stands for our people against the proverbial elephant? The elementary issue here is about fairness.
Confidence is not inspire when the work done by LLA is not consistent with elementary investigative practice. Their report is subject to scrutiny as any other reports”, Rep. Tarponweh lamented.
The Lawmaker also finds it ironic when Firestone Liberia Company who in recent times has been complaining and threatening to lay-off its most important employees who are rubber tappers for sustainable losses and unprofitability will now result to grabbing adjacent community land to replant rubbers in a rush.
Firestone’s Previous Obligation To Kpanyan Town
Through the efforts of Rep. Tarponweh, an MOU was signed on September 5,2018 between the Firestone Liberia Company and the residents of Kpanyan Town. This obligates the Company to the town for the provision of basic social services, including the construction of school, medical services, among others.
It was as a result of toxic wastes being released by the Company from the Harbel Rubber Processing Plant into the water body that contaminates the Town’s Water.