Liberia: Public Works Demolition Backfires in Paynesville

-victims seek human rights organizations' intervention

A demolition exercise by the Ministry of Public Works (MPW) in the Negayeleh Town Community in Paynesville City has reportedly backfired, as affected residents seek human rights and civil society organizations' speedy intervention.

On Saturday, 18 January, scores of residents were awakened by the sound of yellow machines in their community which broke down structures, leaving affected persons and their children to sleep in the open.

Speaking to reporters, Madam Fatumata Kamara, owner of a provision shop in the area said that the demolition of their businesses and houses came as a complete shock to them because the MPW did not allegedly inform residents of any imminent demolition exercise in the community.

She claimed that they were compel to sleep in the open with their children because they had nowhere to sleep due to the surprised demolition of their respective structures.

According to the victim, while the demolition was ongoing, they got information that the Ministry of Public Works was destroying the affected structures in order to construct a road into the community.

Thought he victim says she welcomes the road project, she however argues that MPW should have adequately provided residents with information as well as hold series of discussions with victims surrounding relocation package.

She claims that this was never done, except for a surprise demolition by the ministry.

Also speaking, the owner of a local restaurant Henrietta Gibson terms the action of the Ministry of Public as a complete violation of their human rights by compelling them to sleep in the open with their underage children without first consulting them.

She calls on the government to intervene in the matter by addressing their concerns and to provide shelter for the residents and their children.Henrietta threatens that she will not allow her business establishment to be destroyed without any compensation to resettle her.

She maintains that even if the MPW has plan to construct a road, it does not give the ministry the right not to consult persons that are to be affected.Henrietta claims that her business place was situated on a private land.

She also prays for timely intervention into the matter by civil society and human rights organizations here because those affected by the demolition are vulnerable due to the lack of shelters.

On the scene of the demolition were personal belongings of victims including beds, electrical appliances, mattresses, and cooking utensils, among others.

When this paper contacted the Ministry of Public Works on the information on Monday, 20 January, this reporter was informed that the relevant authorities to speak to the matter were not aware of the demolition as is being alleged by the affected residents.

The Ministry's personnel however assures that MPW will investigate to ascertain the facts into the matter.

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