Liberia: Representative Ceebee Barshell Raises Red Flag Over “Inhumane And Unfair” Relocation Of Marketers In Red Light
MONROVIA – Montserrado County Representative Ceebee Barshell has taken the Government of Liberia (GOL) to task over the “inhumane and ill-treatment” meted out against struggling Liberian marketers in the commercial area of Red Light in Paynesville, following the latest demolition of their structures and forceful and abrupt relocation in the midst of a shattered economy and the Coronavirus pandemic.
Representative Barshell is a National Executive Committee (NEC) member of the former ruling Unity Party (UP), one of the political parties that make up the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP).
Thousands of marketers at the famous Gobachov market in Red Light, outside Monrovia, recently woke up to the news that their structures, including buildings, tables, benches, and others were demolished by officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) and City Police.
The demolition was intended to enforce a vigorous relocation exercise which was being implemented by the Ministry of Public Works, in collaboration with the Liberia National Police (LNP), Paynesville City Corporation (PCC).
The decision was part of a plan to have the marketers relocated to the Omega Market to ensure the smooth operations and expansion of the main project.
But speaking when he appeared as a guest on the OK Morning Rush on OK FM99.5 on Wednesday, July 21, Representative Barshell termed as “untimely and unfair” the forceful removal of the struggling marketers.
He observed that most of these marketers are breadwinners for them and their respective family members and as such, the decision taken by the government will impose more hardship on the marketers.
Representative Barshell disclosed that the new site for the marketers is not conducive and spacious to host thousands of marketers, especially during this rainy season.
He maintained that relevant authorities of the Liberian government are being engaged in a bid to help address the constraints marketers and others are going through since they were relocated.
“When you look at the Omega there is one main road and not just one main road, the people are all upon the road having their markets placed on the ground and others are walking. It is a swamp. The market building cannot even host everybody. It was built for only 500 persons. Even that is an overstated number. We have already started to engage the stakeholders involved to know what are their plans for the people”.
He expressed disappointment over the decision taken by the government to relocate the marketers without involving or engaging the direct lawmakers or stakeholders from Paynesville, outside Monrovia.
He claimed that no prior notice was given to the marketers to adequately prepare them for relocation at the Omega site.
Representative Barshell alleged that the government also encroached into the private property within the area to demolish the market buildings and tables of these struggling Liberian marketers.
He noted that for government to abruptly destroy a general market that has been in existence for more than 30 years without any timeframe given to marketers to vacate the area is an issue of concern that must be addressed with urgency.
Against pro-poor agenda
According to him, the move made by the government would affect mothers and others from getting “daily bread” for themselves and their respective family members.
Representative Barshell observed that most of these marketers are breadwinners for themselves and their respective family members.
“That action is against the pro-poor agenda because, the pro-poor agenda seeks to uplift people from poverty or whatever they are going through, and especially their daily hustles. If the pro-poor agenda will just satisfy itself in that kind, then, of course, the pro-poor agenda has been defeated by itself”.
“We didn’t just feel left out (of the process to relocate the marketers); we believe that it was inhumane to do so and we are engaging them”.
Representative Barshell maintained that government should have adequately put in place a relocation plan before taking such an action, instead of taking thousands of marketers to a “wide swamp,” with only one entry and exit point, to trade their produce, goods or services.
He said the government must see the reason to alleviate the suffering the marketers are going through at the Omega Market by coming up with clear plans and strategies that will not be detrimental to the survival of the marketers and their beneficiaries.
Members of both the House of Representatives and Senate of the 54th National Legislature recently received the amount of US$30, 000 each for “legislative engagement” in their respective districts by the Government of Liberia (GOL), through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning.
But there has been widespread condemnation from civil society actors, citizens, and others for the decision taken by the lawmakers to allocate themselves huge portion of money in the national budget, despite receiving fabulous salaries and benefits in the midst of the numerous economic, health and social challenges confronting their citizens as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The lawmakers have been requested by the vast majority of their respective constituents to return the money, but the calls have fallen on deaf ears.
Representative Barshall used the occasion to clarify that a resolution was passed by his constituents for various projects to be implemented in the district from his share of the money.
According to him, those projects, including bridges, market structures, among others were pre-financed from his own pocket for the implementation of the resolution prior to the disbursement of the US$30,000 by the government.
He pointed out that though the money was not intended for the initiation of projects within his district, he decided to do so to address some of the challenges confronting his people.
“This government reduced salaries of lawmakers without a budget shifting. You had a budget of over 500 million and it stills remains the same, there is nothing being shifted towards critical works they are discussing. I used my own volition to give my share for projects in my district even though the money was not for projects.”