July 14, 2017 By Joseph S. Margai
Dozens of youth at Tokeh village have complained that some Lebanese nationals who have occupied the pristine beachfront and constructed permanent dwelling houses have rendered them jobless.
Abdulai Koroma is the youth chairman of the village. He told our reporter that most of his peers derive their livelihood from the beach, but expressed frustration that prime lands along the beachfront have been sold to some Lebanese by officials at the Ministry of Lands, Country Planning and the Environment.
“Our predominant occupation here is fishing and fish mongering. Besides that, we eke out livelihood by taking tourists around the beach while they [tourists] in turn give us some token. That has been sustaining us over the years,” he told our reporter.
He added that, “There is no government-created job for us here but the natural resources such as the fish and beaches are our only means of livelihood.”
He claimed that the Lebanese have fenced areas of the beach they lay claim to, adding that the village remains underdeveloped because the latter do not contribute to the development of the area.
“The basic roles of beach boys are to take tourists around the beaches, show them some of the naturally endowed things, always keep the beaches clean and tidy, and also take tourists to Banana Island,” he explained. “Another very important role they play is to rescue tourists who are in danger of drowning.”
Koroma said some areas around the beach that are not occupied by Lebanese are dirty and unkempt because beach boys no longer undertake the usual cleaning exercise.
Akibo Smalle, one of the beach boys, said they have been seriously hit by hardship as they are not engaged in any meaningful activity that would earn them income.
He reiterated that most of the finest areas of the beach have been occupied by the Lebanese, leaving them with nothing to do to earn their living.
“We are like slaves to our masters, who are the Lebanese. Any attempt we make to go to the beaches we will be punished by them,” he said and called on the Ministry of Lands to intervene in order to bring back jobs for youth in the community.
Meanwhile, Technical Officer in the said ministry, Joseph K.J. Lavalie, confirmed that they had received complaints regarding the large portion of land occupied by the Lebanese along the beachfront, adding that they have retrieved some.
“All beach lands are government owned. The Ministry of Lands only gives document to Lebanese on a lease basis, but we don’t sell beaches. The beach should be accessible by the public and nobody should barricade them from doing so,” he said.