Monrovia — Several residents of the ELWA rock-crusher community in Paynesville have complained of being denied their means of livelihood by the Chinese involvement into commercial rock-crushing. According to the residents, rock-crushing using their bare hands has been a way of life for survival and bread winning for their families, for the past decade, but with the involvement of the Chinese in the business their living condition has gone from bad to worst.
In an interview with FrontPageAfrica, the residents complained that people no longer buy their rocks despite the similarity in prices and quality compare to the ones being sold by the Chinese which is resulting in hard cost of living for them and their dependents. Madam Viola M.Y. Saturday in her early fifty's is a widow and mother of four children. According to Viola because of the situation her four children, three of whom are girls are currently out of school because she cannot afford to pay their fees.
She tells FPA that she wakes up every morning reshaping her pile of rocks with the hope that customers will pass by and ask for the price of her rocks to put money in her pocket and get her children back in school. Viola also tells FrontPageAfrica that her involvement into crushing rocks dates as far back as 1990 at which time, according to her she received a reward because customers were buying daily.
Viola said: "By then people bought our rocks, we used the money to send our children to school and sustain ourselves, but since the involvement of the Chinese in commercial rock-crushing, things have become even more difficult than we can imagine. I want the government to get involved; the Chinese came to build roads and not to sell rocks to us. This country is our country we cannot sit and surrender our livelihood to foreigners and we die by starvation this is not fair to us as Liberians."
Voila also says, because of the situation she has been restricted to sit home, which has now reduced her to a mere beggar. Unlike Viola Mr. Joe Zeon is also involved in the stone quarrying business, but for Zeon he buys crushed rocks from people who crush it with their bare hands, and sell on a daily basis to others.
According to Zeon since the 90s, he has been involved in crushing rocks which have immensely contributed to the improvement of his life. He claimed that rock-crushing and buying has helped him build a house and sent his children to school, but since the involvement of the Chinese things have gone badly for him.
Zeon said: "The Chinese have become a real hindrance to our business, we don't sell rocks any longer we understand that government needs investors but there should be a limitation. The investors' interest cannot surpass the interest of its citizens rendering them destitute in their own home".
He continued: "We have Liberian women and men from Lofa, Nimba, Grand-Gedeh and Grand Bassa Counties in this place crushing rocks with their bare hands for livelihood. The rock-crushed here is what enable former Transitional President Gyude Bryant to build his House, pave the New-Kru Town and Logan Town roads so we have done a whole lot of jobs we supported the Somalia drive, and some areas where National construction work were being carried out so you can't say we don't have what Is needed."
He welcomed the imposition of taxes by the Liberian government on commercial rocks dealers if only government can empower them by providing them with a mini-crusher. "We are not afraid of paying taxes, we want to pay taxes if the government can come in and we form ourselves into cooperative and they empower us that we can even get a mini-crusher to crush our rocks we will still pay their taxes, we could even pay for those materials that will be given to us," he added.
Asked if as Liberians involved in rock crushing they want the Liberian government to place a ban on Chinese companies involved in commercial rocks-crushing he said; "Well, I don't really see the need, but what we want is that government should set limitations, Chinese should supply contractors while we supply rocks for residential projects."
"My brother, we are like strangers in our own home why can't we practice from our neighboring countries they are successful today because of respect for their citizens we should be given first priority".
Like Zeon, Mr. Isaac Tian is another rock-dealer who complained of being out of business because of the Chinese involvement. Tian blamed government officials for the situation because according to him, they do not have an interest in the welfare of their citizens, but are only interested in what they can get for themselves and their families.
Tian said: "my brother we will not be surprised to know that our government has sold our country to foreigners. Why Chinese man should be given the right to mine our sand from our beaches and sell it to us expensive and in foreign currency this is bad. "
"What I want this government to do is that if a Chinese man comes to build our roads, let them focus on building our roads and not to crush rocks to sell to individuals. We are suffering we crush the rocks with our bare hands and don't get the dividend of our labor this is not fair."