24 January 2013

Liberia: Contrary to Global Witness Allegations -Grand Kru, Sinoe Citizens Say PUP Activities Legal

Photo: Greenpeace International
Logging destruction.

One of the striking arguments raised by Global Witness in its September 2012 report captioned: "Signing their Lives away: Liberia's Private Use Permits and the Destruction of Community-Owned Rainforest", was that logging companies operating under the Private Use Permits (PUPs) were fraudulently exploiting community lands for logging purposes, without the knowledge and consent of the communities. But surprisingly, however, and quite to the contrary, the very citizens in whose interest the Global Witness fight was being waged, have resoundingly decried the halt action, and are appealing to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to rethink Government's decision against the PUP operators.

Our special investigation into the whole PUP saga has unearthed another side to the story – the human factor – which seemed to have been overlooked or entirely discarded by architects of the Global Witness Report and Government's own Special Independent Investigation Body (SIIB) Report, both of which served as precursor to the latest halt action.

Citizens from across Southeastern Liberia and parts adjacent, where PUP activities are concentrated, tell a completely different story on the whole PUP saga. Many of them are certain that the halt action was misplaced, and should not have been instituted in the first place.

According to the Associate Magistrate George Karoteh of Tubmanville City, Kpanyan District, Sinoe County, the PUPs were obtained legitimately through social and contractual agreements between land owners, communities and operators. He said, "We have no problem with the PUP operation here because we the citizens agreed to their operations in the first place."

Magistrate Karoteh echoed the dissenting views of many Liberians whose livelihood depends on PUP operations, when he called for reconsideration of Government's halt order. "These companies that are operating under the PUPs are assisting our people. Moreover, they have signed social agreements with us, to build our roads, construct clinics and do many other development projects," Magistrate Karoteh said.

Singling out Atlantic Resources (AR) as being one of the primary sources of development in Southeast Liberia, Magistrate Karoteh hailed the work of AR, terming the company as being pro-development, as they continue to build more roads for the people of the Southeast.

Interestingly, majority of the citizenry also decry the halt action, because, as they termed it, their husbands, brothers and sisters are being put out of job.

"We have already sent a delegation to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, expressing our opinion on the situation. We hope our mother will listen and consider the plight of our people," said Karoteh.

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