By Bridgett Milton
Former timber workers of Liberia protest here in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where President George Manneh Weah’s official office is, demanding benefits from the Government of Liberia.
The spokesperson for the group of retired workers Joseph Davies claims the government owes them money. Davies says since the administration of slain President Samuel K. Doe to present, the Government of Liberia has not paid them.
He recalls that immediately after assuming office in 2006, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf canceled the forestry law, and those companies they were working for left the country, so the government is responsible to pay them because it caused logging companies to leave.
Davies claims ex-President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf promised to have paid them but her government did meet the pledge.
However, what Davies didn’t explain is whether those companies that left were legally registered with the government.
He said after the election in 2017 they had a peaceful protest to meet with President George M. Weah and he called their leaders to meet with them to leave the street that President George M. weah was going to pay their money.
Davies explains that President George Weah allocated US$1 million through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning to pay former timber workers every budget year but the first one million is still at the Ministry of Finance with Deputy Minister for Economic Affairs Augustus Flomo.
According to him, Minister Flomo asked them to present letters of employment as legitimate former employees in order to receive payment.
“It’s so crazy; how will you tell someone to provide an employment letter from 1989 to 2003, and now the company is not here so where are we going to get an employment letter from?’’ Davies wonders.
He details there were a total of 27 logging companies in Liberia but due to the cancelation in 2006, they left Liberia.
He claims the total amount of money owed them is US$ 7.3 million and President Weah allegedly promised to pay the money thru three installments.
Davies notes that they met with President Weah and the Minister of States for Presidential Affairs Nathaniel McGill and presented all relevant documents with the President instructing the Ministry of Finance to pay them but Minister Flomo refused to sign the check.
He insists that they will not leave the street until they have their money and they are going to remain peaceful in their fight.
Also speaking, a protesting female who said her father worked for USC in Lofa County, but he is dead so she joined the protest to receive his benefits, expresses disgust that Minister Flomo could tell them he doesn’t have money to pay because it is former President Sirleaf government that promised to pay them and not the Weah government, adding they need the money to pay their children’s school fees. Editing by Jonathan Browne