Liberia: Aggrieved Workers Demand Government 21-Month Arrears for Cleaning Beaches & Waterways
Capitol Hill, Monrovia – Hundreds of aggrieved workers of the ‘Reclaiming Liberia Beaches and Waterways’ Program’ are demanding the Weah-led Government to pay their 21-month salary arrears.
Report by Gerald C. Koinyeneh, [email protected]
The program, which is being spearheaded by the Ministry of Youth and Sports, was established during the administration of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to clean waterways and beaches in Liberia and to help provide employment opportunities for scores of slum dwellers.
The program was halted by the Minister of Youth and Sports, D. Zeogar Wilson over lack of funds to pay workers.
On Monday, June 15, the workers staged a peaceful protest at Capitol Hill, outside of President Weah’s Foreign Ministry’s Office in a bid to grasp the President’s attention.
The protesters including, young and elderly people trooped in their numbers and marched up Capitol Hill, down to Monrovia City Hall and back up the Hill where they climaxed with a petition statement calling on the Government to pay their arrears in full between June 15 and 30, 2020.
According to them, the project had been going on smoothly during the Sirleaf’s administration until the appointment of the current Youth and Sports Minister, Zeogar Wilson by President George Weah when everything came to a standstill.
“Since Minister D. Zeogar Wilson assumed office at the Youth and Sports Ministry in February 2018, the Beaches and Waterways program has suffered immense salary delay and denial of our arrears owed by the government. The Minister has demonstrated his inability administratively which led to the project into this huge amount in arrears,” the aggrieved workers stated in their petition read by Precious T. Koffa and presented to the government through Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson Koijee.
The workers, in their petition also called for the project to be transferred from the Ministry of Youth and Sports to another government’s institution related to project activities.
They also want all payment of their arrears to be made through commercial banks or by the ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), and not by the Ministry of Youth and Sports.
The angry workers, predominantly residents of major slum communities in Monrovia and its environs including New Kru Town, West Point, Banjor, PHP and ELWA blamed Minister Wilson for unilaterally shutting down the program and failing to pay their just benefits.
His action, according to them, undermines the Government’s Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD).
Major Koijee, receiving the workers’ request promised to deliver it to the President for timely redress.
He thanked them for conducting themselves peacefully to channel their grievances to the Government.
Earlier, Minster Wilson, in an interview with FrontPageAfrica admitted that government remains indebted to the aggrieved workers.
He confirmed that from 2018 to February 2020, government has not been able to settle its arrears owed slum dwellers who were working with the program.
He attributed his decision taken to suspend the program to lack of funding and allegations of financial and administrative improprieties levied against the coordinators of the program, George Young and Edwin G. V. Kanneh by “some concerned community leaders,” who he did not name.
At the Protest Grounds
Meanwhile, Monday’s protest marked the single largest gathering since President Weah declared a state of emergency in the wake of the COVID-19 and the institution of several safety measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.
The protestors, defying all of the protocols including social distances and wearing of face masks were seeing dancing, chanting and singing anti-government slogans and songs.
“I can never observe social distancing in the presence of hunger. I will come out to seek my money. If my money is in my hand, I can observe social distancing and I can stay home because I get money to feed myself and my family,” Mcphearson Darweh, Head Monitor of West Point Belt vowed.
Another protester, Mary Wesseh of New Kru Town, District #16 added: We are not leaving this place until they pay our money. Our officials are only telling us that that only they can eat and hold money, but we, the poor people have no use for money. That’s not fair. They should give our money.”