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-Kpanyan Residents Claim, Back Global Witness Report
Local residents in Numopoh Town, Kpanyan Statutory District in Sinoe County have accused the Indonesian oil palm company, Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL) of increasing poverty in their communities, and also give backings to recent report released by the London-based investigative non-governmental organization, Global Witness against the company that is operating in the area.

According to the Global Witness report titled: “Temper and Guns” on the company, it is alleged that the company was forcibly grabbing the people’s land for their operations, damaging their traditional shrines and sacred sites and destroying their creeks among others.

Kpanyan Statutory District in Sinoe County is comprised of Numopoh town, Barnah, Worteh Township, Kilo town and Tartweh town among others. In a meeting with a team of journalists from Monrovia in Numopoh town Wednesday, November 9, 2016, local residents confirmed how the company was in the habit of forcibly grabbing their lands, destroying their crops and creeks and using armed police, particularly of the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) and the Police Support Unit (PSU) to coerce them in entering into a deal with the company against their will.

“Since GVL has been in the line of Numopoh, our land has been hijacked. It is true when Global Witness said force; for me that is the right word because since GVL entered this our land in 2011, we have not received a dime from them as land rental fees,” a member of the Numopoh Citizens Welfare Committee, Ourphy Jelleh Jelleh began his statement.

Jelleh Jelleh alleged that GVL and the people of Numopoh signed a Memorandum of Understanding, but since the signing of the MOU, the company has failed to live up to the terms and conditions within the document, something he said is causing serious problems for the people of the town.

In an observation, Jelleh mentioned the lack of safe drinking water, schools, healthcare facilities and sanitation among others that the company has failed to provide for the people.

He warned that until the company can revisit and began to uphold all of the terms and conditions within the MOU, the town and people are not willing to do business with GVL.
For him, Sorboh S. Wesseh, chairman of Tartweh estate said the coming of journalists into the town is a sign of relief for the people of the entire Kpanyan statutory district, and in similar vein confirmed and reechoed the Global Witness report against GVL.

Wesseh disclosed that since the operation of GVL within the Tartweh town in 2014, the company has failed to implement projects highlighted within the MOU, adding that the company has refused to provide vehicle for the transportation of workers, and is yet to build a single office within the area, but it is rather using someone’s living room as an office for its operations, an accusation that could not be verified by journalists due to lack of access to the town.

“It is true that GVL is hijacking our land and when we try to engage them on the matter they will rather run to central government and the government in return comes to us and prevail on us and this is how things are being done, so as an investor who has come to alleviate the people from poverty and he starts to act in such form and manner, then, it tells us that you don’t worth to be on our land,” Wesseh spoke very angrily during the meeting.

Also speaking in the meeting was Numopoh Concern Citizens chairman, Dixon D. Gbalar, who acknowledged the level of destruction the Liberian civil crisis has caused the country and as such they are happy to once again see the coming of investors into their areas for development purposes, noting that it is surprising to see the way GVL acting towards them.

“We all are aware that for the past 16 years we passed through difficulties in this country and we are happy to see investors going into the rural areas of our country, but we are surprised at the actions of Golden Veroleum. We happily and hungrily embraced GVL into our town because we know GVL operations are part of the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) plan through our central government; but for us, citizens of Numopoh, this company has increased our poverty,” Gbalar spoke disappointingly during the meeting.

He alleged that citizens of the town are denied access to employment opportunities while people from other areas are being employed and are given first preference over them, something he termed as unfair.

In response to the citizens’ claims, GVL Principal Technical Advisor and vice President for Sustainability, Andrew Kluth, said the company has no point in time hijacked any land from the locals, neither has the company ever damaged their water sources as alleged.

He indicated the company was not under obligations to build schools, hand pumps and healthcare facilities among others when the requisite land requests by the company is not provided by the town for company’s operations.

“The company is not under mandate to develop a town or a district where we are operating until the requisite amount of land can be provided by the community to the company,” Kluth told journalists.

Meanwhile, the people have vowed to resist the operations of the company within their area legally by the end of December if the company fails to meet up with the terms and conditions layout in previous MOU signed between the company and the people.

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