Executive Mansion, Monrovia
A news story carried in the “News Newspaper” Wednesday, January 20, 2010 edition, maliciously captioned: “Johnson Sirleaf in Land Dispute…Residents Say It’s Robbery,” is grossly inaccurate.
The President is in no land dispute with anybody, as your story suggests. The land in question is a four-acre parcel of land located in Morris’ farm, Paynesville. It has been in the possession of the President since she bought it in 1979, more than 25 years. The deeds of ownership are available at the Lands and Mines Ministry. For the past 30 years, the President has paid property taxes on that piece of land.
Recently, surveyors at the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy conducted a re-demarcation exercise of the property. Not a single individual has brought forth any document to dispute the President’s ownership of the land, despite an announcement by the Ministry requesting anyone with claims to the property to do so.
Suggesting that Mrs. Sirleaf does not have the right to re-demarcate her property simply because she is President is, in our view, a deliberate attempt by individuals to illegally occupy other people’s properties. Too many such cases exist in post-war Liberia, which must be addressed urgently by the Land Commission.
Several months ago, the President met with the squatters and assured them that no one would be evicted. She is keeping that promise. Nevertheless, the squatters must understand that the goodwill of the President does not give them license to claim ownership of her property.
The President has worked hard to acquire whatever she possesses, and is not in the business of using her power to rob others of the fruits of their labor. It is unfortunate that certain ill-intentioned people would use the climate of freedom and free speech to try to taint the character of others for their own selfish gains. In so doing, they seem to count on the complicity of certain media houses ready to print anything, as long as they can castigate the good character of honest people and care not to check their stories.
Years ago, no one would dare harbor such a thought – to illegally occupy the property of a fellow citizen, let alone a national leader. But, again, this is the new Liberia that President Johnson Sirleaf is trying to build, where a leader, with all the powers at her/his disposal, decides to follow the process like any other citizen, rather than resorting to arbitrariness.