When Environmental Lawyer Alfred Brownell and other forest campaigners embarked on a mission in southeastern Liberia to investigate reports that Golden Veroleum was allegedly engaged in the clearing of community lands without prior and informed consent, he soon discovered that his life was on the line.

Brownell claimed that his life was threatened by security personnel of Golden Veroleum Liberia who made several attempts to yank and "slaughter" him from the vehicle he and others were riding.

He and other forest campaigners including representatives of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) had traveled to Tarjuowon to investigate allegation by citizens of the Tarjuowon community regarding the clearing of land without pre, prior and informed consent.

However, GVL Communication Department denied allegation of death threats made by Cllr. Brownell of Green Advocate.

In a release issued Sunday, GVL said allegations were not entirely accurate as presented. It clarified that GVL employees were not involved in the incident, which was discussed during the press conference organized by Green Advocate.

The company also clarified that the delay at the checkpoint was not organized by GVL, but by local citizens, adding it offered assistance to Green Advocate personnel.

But speaking at the conference last Friday, Brownell explained that when their delegation arrived at the security checkpoint in Tarjuowon, seeking permission for them to visit the land where GVL is alleged to have been engaged in unilaterally clearing, security personnel refused because, according to them, they had specific instructions from their bosses not to permit anyone to cross the gate.

Some members of the delegation recounted how GVL security personnel were heard saying that they wanted Brownell, and that they were going to kill him because he was anti-development.

During the conference, Cllr. Brownell said GVL security personnel came to the vehicle he was riding and attempted to yank him from the car.

He admitted that there were death threats made against him by GVL security officer, some of whom, he narrated are ex-fighters. However, he believes that if some senior managers of GVL (including Flomo Mulbah) weren't in the same vehicle with him, he would have been killed.

"If you kill this Alfred Brownell, I promise you a million more Alfred Brownell will rise up. I am not afraid, and we will continue to defend the rights of the community people," remarked Brownell, the country's only environmental lawyer who is respected for his consistency and persistency in advocating the rights of aggrieved community dwellers.

Other members of the delegation corroborated Brownell's assertion. They said a member of the delegation was attacked, wounded and his money (US$25) taken away from him allegedly by GVL security officers.

RSPO representatives who came to Liberia to investigate claims by residents of Tarjuowon were stunned to witness aggression against the investigating team.

A member of the investigation team, who begged anonymity, informed this paper that Cllr. Brownell was particularly singled out as a target.

Debunking Green Advocate's allegation, GVL said the forest campaigner chose to report the incident to visiting members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) instead of the proper authorities.

Other members of the delegation traveling in the convoy included GVL senior management staff, other non-governmental organizations, UNMIL and RSPO.

"Golden Veroleum has always chosen to take the high road and not be involved in or sanction any forms of coercion or demonstrations. Our view is that it would not make sense to ever engage in such activities, which would jeopardize our development investment in the country, and the employment of our work force."

The company said there is a difference between a robust demonstration by local citizens and linking such activities to Golden Veroleum, adding that the incident was reported last week in several local newspapers, including Heritage and In Profile.

"We would encourage all stakeholders to commit to the truth and provide accurate information to the public and the media," GVL release concluded.

We will stand up for the people's rights!



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