By Lincoln Barcon
The leadership of the Tartweh Community in Monrovia has expressed disappointment with reports emanating from Sinoe County that Golden Veroleum Liberia has commenced operations in Tartweh, Kpanyan Statutory District despite many irregularities in the October 11,2014 MOU signed by citizens of that district and the company.
According to the General Chairman of the Tartweh community in Monrovia, Sampson Borteh said following series of meetings between GVL and citizens of Tartweh in January and early March, 2015, the company admitted irregularities and called for remedy to the problems identified.
He stated further that citizens of that district agreed to settle the problem as a way forward for the smooth operations of GVL in the Tartweh, Kpanyan Statutory District in Sinoe County.
Chairman Borteh said some of the issues identified were; as required in Step 5 of the Free Prior Information Consent (FPIC) process, GVL didn’t consider the creation of a broad-based and representative negotiating team that is accountable to the people of Tartweh to facilitate the internal community negotiations and engagement with GVL, instead of using the County Inspector of Sinoe County, Mr. Augustine Swen-Geob as a focus person as evidence of his signing in the MOU was wrong.
“The participating mapping process which is the heart of the FPIC process was not adequately carried out as it relates to the designing state of assessment as well as during their execution, revision and finalization,” Tartweh community in Monrovia Chair Borteh noted.
Recounting some of the irregularities that were accepted by GVL, Chairman Borteh explained that the processed maps out land overlaps, rights holder’s representation, potential impacts, potential benefits, finances and the legal implication of the MOU during its lifespan of operations, to date, the deeded land of the Tartweh/Drapoh people was incorrectly placed in the MOU for which GVL also agreed to ratify.
Chairman Borteh said that instead of GVL to commence its operations from Upper Tartweh which was indicated in the October 11, 2014 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), it was agreed that GVL will commence operations from Planson Greek which is the boundary between the deeded land and community land.
“The citizens of Tartweh agreed that a new GIS Drafting and Base maps, focusing only on Lower Tartweh Chiefdom be prepared by GVL and the people of Tartweh and endorsed in line with the FPIC process,” Chairman Borteh intimated.
Speaking on the issue of legal representation, Chairman Borteh said GVL also regretted the absence of legal representative during the preparation and subsequent signing of the MOU but expressed its willingness for a lawyer to participate in any new arrangement between the people of Tartweh and Golden Veroleum Liberia.
The group’s chairman, Sampson Borteh, further stated that though there are many irregularities observed in the MOU signed on October 11, 2014 and the bad impression given to citizens of Tartweh by some individuals as well as politicians for their selfish gains at the expense of the masses drew the attention of the Tartweh Community in Monrovia to oppose the operation of GVL in Sinoe county.
Mr. Borteh emphasized that the group has resolved to sign an amendment to the MOU in the presence of the citizens of Tartweh in Sinoe County allowing GVL to commence operation while appropriate ratification of those irregularities are being made.
“Unfortunately, despite of the gains made by Tartweh Community in Monrovia, GVL has again decided to use its connection in Government to forcibly impose itself on the people of Tartweh,” Chairman Borteh noted.
Meanwhile, Chairman Borteh is calling on GVL to immediately seize its operation in Tartweh until such time when issues agreed upon by the citizens of Tartweh and GVL are ratified. “We want to make it clear that our Legal Team has been instructed to institute appropriate legal action that will compel GVL to do the right thing to avoid the repetition of the Butaw situation,” Chairman Sampson Borteh expressed.
When contacted, Golden Veroleum Monrovia office, the head of corporate communication, Virgil Magee neither denied nor confirmed that there were irregularities in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the citizens of Tartweh and the company in October of last year but said he had series of meetings with the leadership of the Tartweh community in Monrovia.
Mr. Magee said he encouraged the leadership of Tartweh community in Monrovia to identify all of what they consider irregularities for the next review period which is expected to be convened at the end of this year so that their concerns can be properly addressed; but confirmed that GVL has commenced operation in that area.
“Perhaps, it may be true that there were irregularities within the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) but I am not aware because I was not part of the arrangement between the residents of Tartweh and Golden Veroleum Liberia during the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in October last year,” Mr. Magee asserted.
Mr. Magee said GVL remains committed to the citizens of Tartweh and people of Liberia by providing the necessary needed incentives to improve their livelihood. He added that the leadership of Tartweh in Monrovia should be able to go back home and have consultations with the local people so that there can be adequate explanation on how the MOU is being signed and implemented.