A month ago, the management of Liberia’s third largest natural rubber plantation, Salala Rubber Corporation in an article published in Frontage Africa and other local dailies alleged that Green Advocates International and its Lead Campaigner, Attorney Alfred Brownell were spreading disinformation about the company’s operation to incite violent.
Not only was the article misleading, it attempted to blame Green Advocates International, an organization of environmental lawyers for the mess it (SRC) has created, especially in Gibi District, Margibi County, which if not corrected would result into serious conflict akin to the riots that erupted at Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL) in Butaw District, Sinoe County and the situation in Yekepa, Nimba County.
The SRC’s media crusade against Green Advocates International and Attorney Brownell was a failed effort to paint a negative picture of Attorney Brownell, who has worked tirelessly to maintain stability at concessions across the country.
Green Advocates International has supported a network of civil society groups across the country under the Alliance for Rural Democracy (ARD) to keep harmony at several plantations in Liberia. Green Advocates International has repeatedly asked and at some instances pleaded with disenchanted communities to pursue nonviolent means in seeking redress to the wanton destruction of their crops and the seizure of their farmlands by SRC.
Before I continue this piece, it is necessary that I make a disclaimer that this is not a Green Advocates International response to the trash written about it and its Lead Campaigner. I have elected, as a journalist, who has spent more time working around concessions including SRC, GVL, Equatorial Palm Oil and Sime Darby to provide some insight about what is obtaining at SRC.
Citizens affected by SRC’s operation have on numerous occasions requested the corporation to make public its concession agreement entered with government in 1959 to substantiate claims that their deeded lands fall within SRC purported 8, 500 hectares or 21, 000 acres of land provide by government to grow rubber trees, but the company has failed to provide copy of that agreement.
In the absence of the 1959 concession agreement, the company has rendered hundreds of citizens homeless and has robbed farmers of their lands.
Many villagers have been ejected from their ancestral lands by the concessionaire, which has also bulldozed their crops to grow rubbers without considering that their survivability is tie to the lands.
Disappointingly, the company has also polluted drinking water sources, diverted some creeks and blocked waterway with rubber trees in violation of the Environmental Laws of Liberia. The situation is contributing to the flooding in Margibi County.
The inhuman action of SRC, which must claim the attention of the Liberian Government, both local and international rights groups, has not only created untold suffering for residents of Gibi and other affected communities, but is creating tension in the area. Residents affected by SRC’s action have threatened to storm the company’s headquarters in Weala, Margibi County if nothing is done by government to avert the situation.
Core agencies of government need to move in swiftly to intervene in order to foil an imminent danger at SRC. Government needs to waste no time in addressing the plight of communities hosting SRC to thwart the re-occurrence of the Butaw and Yekepa incidents, which witnessed the loss of million dollars’ worth of properties.