Simeon Freeman said he has concluded every available avenue to institute legal action against the government for what he considers an “illegal demolition exercise” at the LPRC and Chicken Soup Factory communities.
He promised to join the embattled Monrovia Industrial Park (MIP) residents that the government has asked to vacate the areas to give way to a pending development project.
Mr. Freeman made the statement over the weekend when he visited the MIP community to identify with the residents. During the visit, he reiterated his promise to sue the government. He did not say in which of the courts he would institute the legal action against the government, but promised the residents his full support of their cause.
The government through the Ministry of Public Works (MOPW) recently told residents of the Park to vacate the land because, according to the government, they had encroached on the properties for several years.
Though government has not revealed the name of the company or investors that would develop the land, Mr. Freeman believes it was important for government to reconsider its decision by allowing the residents to remain on the land.
“Over 25,000 people are living here. So my suggestion to the government is to relocate the Industrial Park and not the residents. We have places like the ones on Kakata Highway, Mount Barclay, and many other areas around the country where government could relocate the park and not the people of Chicken Soup Factory and LPRC communities,” he said.
He said that the decision of the government to demolish houses on the land would leave the thousands of residents homeless.
Freeman noted that in the last 10 years of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s regime life in the rural parts of the country has digressed to the extent that government support for agriculture is the least, with only one percent of this year’s national budget allotted to it.
He noted that more people relocated from the rural areas to the city because agriculture could not help them where they lived, saying, “The people’s farm products often get spoiled upon harvest because of the ‘no buyer syndrome.’”
Freeman said the industrial park community comprises of Muslims and Christians who are living together peacefully, and as such, “government need not separate them to make them homeless as if they were at war.”
He meanwhile called on the government to leave the residents of the two embattled communities alone, saying, “There are many public lands around Monrovia that the government could choose to relocate the park on.”
“This Industrial Park is a public land too. And it is not the only public land people are squatting on. Let the government understand that the residents are suffering because of lack of job creation, which plays a major role in poverty. These people have invested so much in this place; they have gotten familiar with the environment; and therefore, they should remain here,” the MPC political leader declared.
Freeman argued that the people take advantage of vacant public land that has not been improved for years. “Those occupying this land are Liberians. People take advantage of vacant public land that has no development on it for years; and when they noticed that there was nothing ongoing on with that land, they moved in and settled. Government will sit and not say anything to the people until the people developed that land. After the beauty of the land is shown, then government wants to move in and take them out of the place,” he said.
Mr. Freeman also encouraged government to make use of the Coastguard Base, which was also built for the same purpose as the Industrial Park Community, saying, “Government should not make 25,000 of its citizens homeless for the purpose of an industrial park.”
The community spokesman, John Kangbah thanked the MPC leader for joining their struggle, saying, “The residents are not putting up any violent postures, but are rather pleading with government to pardon them and relocate the industrial park.”
An elder of the area, Yango Nyango, said that he has spent about 50 years on the land where he sired many of his children.
Ellen Tokpa, 50, expressed frustration over the government’s action to remove them from the land.
Madam Tokpa explained that since the announcement of the demolition the residents in that part of Liberia have not being able to sleep in peace out of fear. Some of the residents, she said, have been occupying the park for over 40 years.
Since government made the pronouncement, there have been a series of public debates with people calling on the government to back off from the process. Others, however, are saying “development comes with pains,” and therefore, the residents should vacate the land.