Sarpo ethnic group implore House Speaker to trash a bill sponsored by Sen. Teahjay, which “seeks to encroach on Sarpo Lands”
At least 100 people from the Sarpo ethnic group protested on Tuesday, April 30, 2019 in front of the main entrance of the offices of House Speaker Bhofal Chambers at the Capitol Building, and subsequently petitioned the House of Representatives to reject, nullify and trash the bill seeking to amend the Act creating the Seekon Statutory District in Sinoe County. Residents of the district are reportedly encroaching on the Sarpo lands, an act, residents claimed has the propensity to fuel ethnic conflict.
The angry protesters, known as the Sarpo Appoliebo Development Organization (SADO), said the bill before the House of Representatives has sinister and ulterior motives to inflame ethnic conflict, and destroy the fabric of the peaceful coexistence, most specifically between residents of Sarpo ethnic group, and those of the Tarjuwon ethnic group (Kru), thus undermining reconciliation, peace and development in the county.
The bill, sponsored by Sinoe County Senator J. Milton Teahjay, which seeks to amend the Act creating the Seekon Statutory District in Sinoe County, was approved by the Senate and is currently awaiting concurrence by the House.
Mrs. Monjou P. Solo Sumo, a member of the Petition Committee, read the petition on behalf of SADO, comprising six sections; including people from Putu, Carbadae, Wedjah, Seekon, Juarzon and Numopo.
“Whereas considering the historical background and the facts provided herein regarding the old-aged Sarpo Land encroachment by the Tarjouwon people, we the people of the six sections of the Sarpo ethnic group from the Southeastern part of Liberia and across the country, as well as those in the Diaspora, met in Grigsby Farm City during our Dialogue Conference of Development in March, 2019, and unanimously resolved [that] your honorable office [and] the good wisdom of the members of the House of Representatives, should unconditionally reject, nullify and trash the bill seeking to amend the Act creating the Seekon Statutory District submitted by Senator J. Milton Teahjay.”
Mrs. Sumo added, “The Bill, in reality, is a recipe for chaos, confusion and disunity in the Seekon-Tarjouwon region in Sinoe County. For further emphasis, the bill to a larger extent, has some hidden agenda solely intended to put the Kru and Sarpo people of the region at loggerheads, thus retarding government’s Pro-poor Agenda for development.
“The referenced areas included Plandialebo and Tugba towns, which Sen. Teahjay claimed are the 100 per cent Sarpo-owned towns and land. There is not one Tarjouwon person that is resident of any of the towns. We challenge to the fullest and it can be verified through spot check investigation in the area if deemed prudent for your consideration,” the citizens petition said.
Mrs. Sumo further said, “Whereas, it becomes paradoxical and politically imbalanced for a sitting Sen. Teahjay to submit a bill affecting Electoral District #3 in Sinoe County without the consultation with and the input of the sitting Representative of said Electoral District, Matthew G. Zarzar. The House of Representatives should beware of precedence as it may result into the ‘Town Trap’ scenario.
The Sarpo petitioners’ spokeswoman said the encroachment on their lands began in June 2000 by the then Tarjouwon Chiefdom, through the influence of Teahjay, who was at the time serving as Deputy Minister of Information.
“Whereas, the referenced petition was in the Committee Room at the Legislature, the Sarpo people under the banner of the SADO filed a protest against said petition for its encroachment on Sarpo Lands, which included Plandialebo City of the Seekon Chiefdom and Tugba and Neplubo Towns of the then Juarzon Chiefdom,” she said.
She said in spite of their protest in 2000, members of the 51st Legislature passed the Act that created the Tarjouwon Statutory District, but they filed a Writ of Prohibition with the Supreme Court under the authority of his Honor M. Wilkins Wright, Associate Justice, who was then Justice in Chambers, and wrote several communications, including to President Charles Ghankay Taylor and others, to seek peaceful redress to their protest. However, those efforts proved futile to the subsequent creation of the Seekon Statutory District in 2005.
Mrs. Sumo said that the creation of another statutory district, which aimed to encroach on the lands of the Sarpo ethnic groups is unwelcome and the House of Representatives should not concur with the Senate.
In response to the petitioners, Speaker Chambers thanked the petitioners for the exercise and their civility.
Meanwhile, when contacted the sponsor of the bill, Sen. Teahjay blamed Rep. Zarzar for orchestrating the petition, and said Zarzar is an agent of confusion and chaos in Sinoe County. Sen. Teahjay, who did not address the petitioners’ concerns about ethnic conflict, instead accused Rep. Zarzar of attempting to use tribal influence to remain in power.
It may be recalled that in 2014 and 2016, respectively, there were ‘tribal tensions’ between the Sarpo ethnic group and the Kru over representation in the county, in which the Kru sections demanded all of the five representations in the Legislature (two Senators and three Representatives) should be from the Kru tribe.