10 January 2013

Liberia: SIIB Report On PUP Termed 'Inconsistent'

Photo: Charles Akena/IRIN
Unscrupulous loggers cutting down trees.

Contrary to popular opinion that Government's recent prohibition action against Private Users Permit (PUP) holders would have engendered widespread commendations from several quarters, the reality is shockingly opposite, as some Liberians continue to term the Government decision as being spuriously based on "inconsistent" recommendations from the December 19, 2012 Special Independent Investigation Body (SIIB) Report to President Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf.

The SIIB Report among other recommendations called for the revocation of all PUPs for failure to comply with National Forestry Reform Law (NFRL) Section 5.2 and other subsections dealing with regulations regarding individuals qualified for or exempted from applying for PUPs.

However, callers on a popular talk show Wednesday, January 9, 2013 resoundingly condemned the Government's action to halt PUP logging activities, and especially termed the SIIB report as "inconclusive", inconsistent" and favorably tilted for certain alleged violators while being heavy-handed towards others.

According to Mr. Christian Piah, one of the many callers who rubbished the SIIB Report, Government's action should not be cushioned by a report that is fraught with "invalid contradictions", rather than "empirical evidence".

Majority of the participants openly questioned most of the SIIB recommendations, especially ones that selectively called for harsh punishment and even prosecution for some alleged violators of the PUP, while only a "reprimand" was suggested for someone like the former Chairman of the FDA Board of Directors, Agriculture Minister Florence Chenoweth, whose final seal of approval, preceded all PUP activities in the country.

One of the callers said the action by those empanelled to investigate PUP violations was completely "biased and unfair".

Some callers even questioned the intent of Government to impose a halt order on PUP activities, especially at a time when the very government is claiming to have created more than 22,000 jobs and dropped unemployment level from 85 to 3.7 percent. "We hope that with the halt in PUP activities, Government will take due note of the attendant increase in the unemployment rate and adjust its ratings," maintained one caller.

Meanwhile, some Liberians continue to rubbish the recent Global Witness (GW) Report on Liberia titled: "Signing their Lives Away: Liberia's Private Use Permits and the Destruction of Community-Owned Rainforest". Some of the participants on the talk show claimed that the GW Report supports the interest of Western multinationals linked with conservation efforts in emerging economies to offset greenhouse emissions that threaten global existence.

"Some of these Western powers refuse to abide by international agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol because they never wish to spend the billions of dollars earned from damaging the environment with industrial pollution; but rather, they are compelling third world countries like Liberia to bear the cost of greenhouse emissions through organizations like Global Witness," asserted one angry caller.

"Global Witness is fronting for these big Western powers," the caller concluded. While environment watchdogs and pundits appear unanimous in their criticism of the depletion of vast areas of Liberia's forest, some are of the view that the absence or lack of alternative incentives also serves as a barrier in protecting the nation's rainforests.

"That these international partners have problems living up their financial commitments under schemes such as the carbon forest credit system is one of the reasons why third world countries like Liberia will always find loopholes to wriggle around haphazard forestry laws," averred a professor of Law at the Louis Arthur Grimes of Law, who asked to be anonymous because he was not authorized by University of Liberia authorities to speak on the matter.

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