22 January 2013

Liberia: Gov't Official, Several Liberians Want Ban On PUPs Lifted

The Superintendent of Dugbe River, Kpanyan and Nuanbom Administrative Districts in Sinoe County has commended President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf for her decision to halt the operations of the Private User Permits (PUPs) holders.

It can be recalled that recently, President Johnson-Sirleaf placed a hold on the operations of PUPs holders, following a Global Witness report and recommendations from the Special Independent Investigation Body (SIIB) established by her. Among other things, the SIIB Report 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.

During a tour of the District recently by some journalists, including this writer, Superintendent Alphonso Weah said, while the action is in the best interest of the Liberian people, the Government should see reason to lift the ban because it also greatly affects ordinary Liberians, whom he said, are trying to make ends meet through the operations of some of these logging companies.

However, since the placement of the stay order, some Liberians from various quarters of the society have termed the Government's decision as being spuriously based on "inconsistent" recommendations from the December 19, 2012(SIIB) Report to President Johnson- Sirleaf.

According to Mr. Weah, who lauded the operations of Atlantic Resources (AR), the company has contributed immensely to the socio-economic development of the people of Sinoe County and other parts of the south-east region. AR, a logging company based in Greenville, Sinoe County, has embarked on connecting Sinoe and other parts of the south-east by constructing new roads.

"We are not condemning the President's decision to halt the operations of PUP holders, but what we are looking at is the suffering that such ban will bring on our local people. All I can say is that the President is more than 200% right, but she needs to reconsider her decision, because it has the propensity to exacerbate the suffering of our people," said Mr. Weah.

"If there is anything to be revisited in those contracts signed, I suggest that it be done speedily, so that our people return to work once more," he continued. Speaking further, he said the construction of roads by AR in Sinoe and Grand Kru Counties is making business activities to flourish in the two counties, especially in Sinoe County.

Supt. Weah noted that because of those roads constructed by AR, Vice President Joseph Nyuma Boakai was able to visit Droh-Kargueokpo, the administrative town of Dugbe River District, recently.

"As I talk to you, because of the road, the Vice President was able reach the people of Dugbe River District, especially in Droh-Kargueokpo. Prior to the construction of this road, he wouldn't have been able to reach here; we would have been forced to tote him in hammock. So, before government takes action on certain things, it must first look on the other side of the coin," the Sinoe County official noted.

He also pointed out that the company (AR) has buttressed government's youth employment initiative by providing employment for over 1,000 young men and women of Sinoe and other counties of the south-east. Like Supt.Weah, many other citizens of Sinoe and Grand Kru, have expressed opposition to the halt placed on the PUPs activities.

Timothy W. Swen, Vice President of Tartweh/Dropoh Youth, in a chat with journalists in Tubmanville Town, Sinoe County said the stay action affects the community, and not just the company alone. As a result of the roads constructed by AR, the Tartweh/Dropoh youth leader said it now takes less than an hour to cover distances because cars and motorbikes are able to use the route.

Before then, he said it took more than eight hours walking in the past. He believes that with the continued operations of the logging companies, especially AR, things would get better by the day. For his part, Mr. Daniel Y. Doplah, a resident of Dorbor Statutory District of Grand Kru County, has praised AR for its numerous contributions towards the improvement of citizens in the district.

"Since birth, we have never seen road in this place, even our grandfathers, who are above hundred years old can attest to that. This is the first of its kind for car road to pass through this town. To me, I think it is a major development for our district and other parts of the county," he said. "Should we allow this company to operate, I believe they will do more for us," he, amongst other things added.

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