Over 1000 workers of the Reclaiming Liberia Beaches and Waterways Project may have cause to laugh when part of their four-month arrears are settled through the intervention of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
A letter from President Sirleaf’s office, signed by Edward B. McClain, Jr., Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, dated April 23, 2014, appealed to the workers to “be a little bit more patient and give us a week…to make settlement of a portion of the arrears.”
In another letter dated April 14, 2014, addressed to the President, a copy of which is with the Daily Observer, the four communities of New Kru Town, West Point, Mamba Point and ELWA, informed her that they are yet to be paid their salaries from January-April, 2014.
“Madam President,” the letter, signed by representatives George Young (New Kru Town), Thomas Tweh (West Point), Edwin Kanneh (Mamba Point) and Matthew Greaves (ELWA), noted, “…we again write to inform you of our present situation concerning our pay for the months of January-April 2014.”
“The situation is now worrying the workforce of 1,900, who told us that they are losing patience and that our payments should be made regular.”
Last week Friday, (April 25), beach workers in New Kru Town presented themselves at the Juah Sarwee Memorial Institute, named after the President’s grandmother, in New Kru Town when they learned that the President was expected to honor the school’s first phase dedication.
The Deputy Minister of Education, Ramses T. Kumbugah, however, deputized for the President.
The Daily Observer observed dissatisfaction in the faces of the workers present. “We wanted to remind the President that we are still working and taking care of the beaches,” said a beach monitor, “And to remind her that we are waiting for our pay.”
“Though the news from the President’s office gave us some hope,” commented George A. Young, “we pray that after some of the money is settled, it will be regular in the future.”
The project to reclaim the beaches and waterways began in 2010 by the Liberia Maritime Authority, and promised 5,000 jobs to Liberians in slum communities.
The initial two-year program is now over five years old and now providing monthly income to nearly 1,900 Liberians. The program was officially launched by LMA Commissioner, Binyah C. Kesselly, who described it as claiming “one community at a time.”
Other collaborators were the Bureau of Fisheries at the Department of the Ministry of Agriculture; the Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA); the Tourism Department of the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism and the Monrovia City Corporation, (MCC).
At the opening in 2010, then acting Monrovia City Mayor, Mary Broh, led journalists on a tour of the heavily polluted waterways in New Kru Town, Slipway on the bank of the Du River.
“During the tour in New Kru Town beach,” reported Daily Observer’s George Kennedy, “Mayor Broh almost vomited from the sight and smell of human feces.”
At a recent tour of New Kru Town, Slipway and West Point Beaches, the Daily Observer saw improved beaches in the three communities, evidence that the project has gained a measure of success.