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Green Scenery forces SOCFIN to make public their documents

…as Parliamentary Committee members of Lands & Agriculture receive bulky file

By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya

Although it appeared not in the plans of the oversight visit of the committees on lands and agriculture, fate declared that SOCFIN will present its land transaction documents kept perhaps away from the public domain to Parliament, making the documents public and open to Parliamentary scrutiny.

Two Committees in Parliament; the Committees on Lands and Agriculture were engaged by the National NGO, Green Scenery; that intervene on environment and human security to visit the troubled spot of Sahn Malen to effect their oversight mandate.

 

 Crowd in barray meeting


Crowd in barray meeting

Information gathered from Green Scenery indicate that since June, 2013 Green Scenery had engaged Parliamentary Oversight Committees on Lands and Agriculture to do one of its many legislative functions by effecting oversight visit in Sahn Malen Chiefdom to at least use different lenses to look at the conflict issues in that troubled chiefdom.

Our source further states that Green Scenery’s role was to merely facilitate the movement of the Oversight Committees, provide technical support such as methodological approaches and guiding questions that would elicit information from all target stakeholders at district and chiefdom levels including the SOCFIN Agricultural Company.

“We had many fruitful discussions with the two Chairmen of the Oversight Committees on Land and Agriculture as well as their Clerks and confidence was high on all sides to make the visit,” Frank Williams said.

But what started as a good partnership journey from Freetown on Friday the 14th March began to go sour in Bo when the Chip Whip of Parliament demanded from Green Scenery the lease agreement and MOU of SOCFIN. Sources close to the Parliamentary entourage informed that Parliament expressed reluctance to move from Bo to Pujehun without the documents in demand.

As far as our discussions with Parliament were concern nothing was said about the interrogation of the SOCFIN lease agreement as evident in all of our communications with Parliament,” says Joseph Rahall, Executive Director of the environmental organization, Green Scenery. Rahall further said, “Green Scenery’s desire was for Parliament to use its constitutional powers to amass information which could be difficult for other institutions to access that can help them better understand the issues, dynamics and challenges in the chiefdom leading to solutions beneficial to all.”

“Based on guarantees from sister organization, Rural Agency or Community Action Programme (RACAP) that copies of the lease agreement would be available on arrival, we were able to persuasion Parliament to move to Pujehun, said Frank Williams, Coordinator ALLAT. “However, we were disappointed that the document was unavailable upon arrival,” continued Frank Williams.

After Parliament’s visit of the Company facilities, they conveyed the barray meeting, a scene in which Green Scenery was visibly seen to be humbled, yet frustrated when the organization was asked to tender the SOCFIN leased agreement. “The lease agreement was never part of our plan in the engagement of Parliament, for it to become a sticking point preventing Parliament to further its oversight investigation is seen by us as a huge loss of opportunity to deal with the Malen problem and by extension to learn from it and be prepared for similar emerging issues,” Rahall said.

After none presentation of the requested document by Green Scenery, SOCFIN’s plantation manager Philip Tongs was asked to submit the SOCFIN documents. With downcast posture observed, he submitted the SOCFIN file supposedly containing all of the documents pertaining to their operation.

Standard Times tried to contact the Chief Whip of Parliament, Hon. Claude Kamanda and Agriculture Parliamentary Committee Chairman, Hon. Jusufu B. Mansaray and Clerk of Committee Mr. Marrah for their comments on their various mobile phones but all proved futile.

Report states that in the midst of the murmuring of the crowd, the Chiefdom Speaker Robert Moigua was overheard expressing joy to Joseph Rahall that they have won, as Green Scenery could not produce the requested documents.

The Spokesman of Malen Affected Land Owners Association (MALOA), Hon. Musa Sama expressed disappointment in Parliament saying, “Parliament invited us to a meeting at which we were never allowed to express our grievances. They visited the company facilities without visiting affected communities; we see this as a complete discrimination against the citizens of which Parliament is their representative.”

It can be recalled that since 2011 up to four sets of arrests, detention and court trails of Malen citizens have taken place as they resist the takeover of their land. As recent as the 28th of March 2014, the executive of MALOA appeared in court for the alleged destruction of 48 palm trees worth Leones 200 million, belonging to SOCFIN. On the 28th of March, 2014 MALOA members and other land owners and users were observed protesting in Bo demanding justice, freedom and peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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