Foreign artisanal fishermen in Robertsport, Grand Cape Mount County, have condemned what they claim is the heavy-handed behavior of a team of inspectors from government agencies. Members of the local fishing community, in an interview with the Daily Observer over the weekend accused local officials of the Ministry of Labor, the Liberia National Police and the Liberia Immigration Service of extortion, illegal seizure of their outboard motors and brutality under the guise of inspection of work, residence and other permits.
Two weeks ago, a team of inspectors from the Ministry of Labor (MOL), the Liberia Immigration Services (LIS), Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) and the Liberia National Police (LNP) carried out an inspection exercise in Robertsport to verify the work permit status of foreign fishermen that are plying their trade within Liberia’s fishing communities.
Some members from the Ghanaian fishing community within Robertsport, where team of inspectors visited, disclosed that outboard motors that they attach to their canoes were seized by the inspection team, while other members from their community slept behind bars, for questioning inspectors about the seizure of their properties. They made the disclosure, when this paper recently visited Robertsport. But, the respective government agencies have denied all claims.
The head of the public Affairs Office at the Ministry of Labor, Mr. Nyandibo Korto, denied the allegation; saying at no time the Ministry received report of the team brutalizing anyone as was claimed by Chairman Simpson. According to him, following the recent inspection exercise in Grand Cape Mount, the team of inspectors is currently compiling its reports to be submitted to the relevant authority.
He explained that last month the Ministry of Labor embarked on a mass inspection exercise across the country, which according to its nomenclature said those that made up the team were charged with the responsibility to check on (labor work permits) whether they are in compliance.
“For us at the Ministry of Labor, we only check for labor work permits, it was a team comprised of the MOL, LIS and the LNP.” Meanwhile, the official spokesman of the Liberia Immigration Service Mr. Abraham Dorley has also denied the allegations of brutality and inhumane treatment.
Dorley disclosed that the inspection was headed by MOL in collaboration the LIS with support from the Liberia Revenue Authority LRA. “It is far from the truth; how LIS will brutalize peaceful citizens?”
He told the Daily Observer in an exclusive interview via telephone that the inspection was for the Liberian Government not the LIS. According to him there are some individuals illegally plying the ocean day and night in the country without a permit, which he thinks is not in compliance with the law, and as such it was important to conduct such inspection in order to know the actual status of those aliens or fishermen who are residing in Liberia illegally.
However, the chairman of the Co-management Association, Charles Simpson disclosed to this paper in an interview, that the team of inspectors did not deliver a notice prior to their operations. He however, described the behavior of the inspectors as disrespect to his local office.
“You need to get into the community and gather citizen’s views first. Not because you met documents onboard as a new government, it means that you have every right to come and start brutalizing peaceful citizens in the name of inspection,” said Simpson.
Additionally, Simpson said that a constructive and peaceful engagement with communities must be the priority of the government, if President George Weah’s “Pro-Poor Agenda” is to be successful.
He however, called on President Weah to see reason to validate previous plans by his predecessors intended to avoid confusion between state security and community dwellers.