Green Advocates International (GAI), a group of environmental lawyers of Liberia, said it will institute lawsuit against the Salala Rubber Corporation (SRC) for “land-grabs” in Margibi and Bong Counties.
A dispatch from the GAI said on Saturday, September 5, the entity accepted to take SRC management to court. The reason, according to the dispatch, came from a petition issued by citizens of four clans in Margibi and Lower Bong counties pleading for the environmental rights group to sue on their behalf and stop the rubber company from further encroachment of the citizens’ lands.
The citizens’ petition was presented to GAI through the head of Alliance for Rural Democracy (ARD), a network of civil society groups across the country funded by the Green Advocates.
Citizens representing the four clans comprising over 70 towns and villages defied Saturday’s heavy down pour and gathered in Kuwah Town, Kpartolee Clan, Bong County where they presented a statement to representatives of ARD and the GAI respectively.
The statement read by Jerry S. Bainda, the citizens’ representative, alleged that the company has encroached on their farmlands and destroyed cash crops and other edible crops like eddoes, cassava, pepper and potatoes.
According to them, their crops were bulldozed by earth moving equipment that tilled the soil to plant rubber trees, while drinking water sources like rivers and creeks have been polluted by SRC.
However, when the Daily Observer contacted the SRC Administrative Manager, Jallah Mensah, he strongly denied the citizens’ claims, saying, “The reports are all false and misleading.” He did not elaborate.
The situation, according to Mr. Bainda, is causing untold suffering for residents, who rely on farming to survive and support their children in schools.
The citizens said they now depend on imported rice, noting, “We no longer cultivate rice here like we used to do to feel the family, because of the scarcity of farmlands.”
“We are begging you to please ensure that our lands are return to us. We are tired of being treated like slaves in our own home,” Mr. Bainda told GAI in a prepared statement.
The statement was given to ARD Chairman, Paul Larry George, who presented it to GAI Lead Campaigner, Cllr. Alfred L. Brownell. Cllr. Brownell then assured the citizens that the environmental rights group will file a lawsuit against the SRC management whether in the country or out of the country.
He said a team of lawyers from the GAI are now preparing the necessary legal papers that will compel the SRC management answer to the reported violations in Margibi and Bong counties.
He dismissed notion that community people are beggars, adding, “You are the landlords and owners of the land. There cannot be any rubber without your land.”
Cllr. Brownell assured the residents that the GAI team of local and international lawyers take SRC to court be they in Liberia or out of the country.
He cautioned the citizens against resorting to violence and said, “let us follow the legal process, because I don’t want armed police officers come here and charge people for various crimes.
He then called on the locals to support lawyers from GAI with their presence during court trial, noting, “We will get justice.”