SRC Denies Land Grab Accusation

The management of Salala Rubber Corporation(SRC) has termed as untrue recent media reports attributed to Green Advocates International, (GAI) alleging, that the Company engaged in land grab, and other malpractices in Margibi County.

Recently it was reported in the September 7th edition of The News Newspaper, and subsequently carried in the respective September 8th, 2015 and September 9th, 2015 editions of the In Profile Daily and The Women Voices Newspapers that the company is engaged in land grab.

The SRC in an official reaction issued upon the authority of its General Manage said it entered into a Concession Agreement with the Government of Liberia in August, 1959, and it was granted a total of 8,500 hectares or the equivalent of 21,000 acres of land to plant rubber.

The Company maintains that it has conducted its concessional operations within the surface area granted since that time, and that it has at no point in time encroached on land belonging to local residents.

The SRC said it has never initiated any action to remove or evict local residents who have settled and established villages within undeveloped portions of its concession land by using bulldozers, or by any other means, as portrayed by Green Advocates International, through its lead counsel, Counsellor Alfred Brownell and circulated in local newspapers.

Since SRC Management said it started its plantation extension operations in early 2000, aimed at fully developing the total land surface area granted by the Government of Liberia, under its 1959 Concession Agreement, local residents have claimed encroachment, and in most recent time their claim has been amplified by Counsellor Brownell to include other claims.

“Allegations like the ones recently circulated in local newspapers are not strange to SRC. The Company is not surprised at the content of the recent publications and that they emanate from Green Advocates International, through its lead counsel, Counsellor Alfred Brownell who, in recent times, continues to engage in similar smear campaign against agricultural concessionaires operating in Liberia, with the sole aim of bringing their private sector corporate image into public disrepute, for reasons best known to himself,” the SRC statement signed by its Human Resources Manager Jallah G. Mensah, II said.

The SRC Management further point out that it is noteworthy to state, that the company from time to time notifies all persons residing within its concession of planned extension activities if any is to be carried out in a specific area.

“The residents are never bulldozed away as maliciously portrayed by the Company’s detractors. Moreover, as part of its policy, SRC appropriates 200 meters x 200 meters (40,000 m2) or the equivalent of (10) acres of land to villages that have sprouted within the concession area for farming and gardening purposes,” the statement said.

The Company said it has never elected to evict or relocate the villagers who had settled in those areas prior to their being earmarked for extension activities.

“Being the lawyer that Counsellor Brownell professes to be, it is believed that the presentation he makes on behalf of people he claims to represent must be based on facts and not sentiments and hearsay, as this is what he continues to demonstrate in SRC’s recollection of his campaign against its Management and those of other agricultural companies operating in Liberia,” the SRC said.

“As we approach another round of elections in Liberia, SRC will not be surprised by the formation of unholy alliances between some politicians seeking reelection, and organizations like Green Advocates International with assistance from their associates in the local media, to print and spread misinformation to the reading public, aimed at fomenting conflict where they never existed, and to reawaken those that were already resolved,” company said.

In the light of all of the allegations attributed to Green Advocate International, Salala Rubber Corporation has made several payments to locals residents over the years, for crops damaged during extension operations geared toward the full development of the 8,500 hectares of land granted by the Government of Liberia, under its 1959 concession agreement, and the records are there.

However, those very individuals along with new claimants come back, time after time to repeat their claims for damages against SRC management, and deny that they have ever received payment from the Company.

The SRC said accusations of land grab, forceful displacement of citizens without due regard to them as a human being, encroachment on their farmlands, destruction of their cash crops, pollution of drinking water sources among others as presented in a prepared statement read by Jerry S. Bainda, and reported in the three newspapers named in the first paragraph of this press release, are false, misleading, and a figment of his barren imagination.

The company said there is no account of any mass displacement of local residents registered with authorities in Margibi County, which was said to have been caused by SRC plantation extension activity, neither is there any record of any water borne disease outbreak said to be linked to its plantation operations.

In conclusion, the Management of Salala Rubber Corporation inform the general public that the content of the letter from the organization calling itself Alliance for Rural Democracy, (ARD) that was presented to Counsellor Alfred Brownell of Green Advocate International, petitioning him to take up legal action against SRC Management as reported in the local media, are unfounded, and intended to mislead the reading public. Notwithstanding, SRC remains a very dependable partner in the agriculture sector of Liberia.