Jailed activist says Socfin still grabbing more lands
March 11, 2016 By Ibrahim Tarawallie
A former Member of Parliament for the Peoples Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) in Pujehun District yesterday accused Socfin agricultural company of continuous land grabbing in the Sahr Malen chiefdom.
Hon. Shiaka Musa Sama was one of six land right activists convicted and sentenced in early February this year by a High Court Judge in the southern city of Bo for destroying crops grown by SOCFIN, estimated to be worth two hundred million Leones (Le200, 000,000).
They were also ordered to pay over US$30,000 as fines or serve time in jail, but the former PMDC lawmaker was recently released after a coalition of civil society organisations launched a fund raising campaign that raised Le60 million on his behalf. The others are still languishing in jail as they are yet to pay their fines.
During a presser in the conference room of 50/50 Group, Hon. Sama insisted that the Malen Landowners Association (MALOA) are not against investment in the chiefdom, but instead crave for an environmentally friendly investment that could trigger sustainable development to help people out of poverty.
Though the French multinational company says they have spent millions of dollars and insist they had acquired the land legitimately, the former PMDC lawmaker noted that transparency was seriously lacking in the process, and that the authorities sometimes use force on land owning families to give up their parcels of land to Socfin.
“We cherish the best for our people. Investments and development should not hurt the citizens and people of Malen. Since 2010, our people have been under suppression from Socfin and local authorities,” he said and alleged that he was offered huge sum of money and a vehicle as bride to abandon his campaign against the multinational agricultural company, which he refused.
According to him, the decision of the company and local authorities to pursue criminal charges against them was a tactic to get them into prison so that they could not raise their voice on “unacceptable land deals in Malen chiefdom”.
Commenting on the sentence, Hon. Sama opined that it was not commensurate to the fines and that while he viewed the sentence as moderate, the fines were extremely too high for men who are out of work, as they have lost their livelihoods.
Also, he stated that they have a genuine sense of fear that if they appeal against their conviction, knowing full well the difficulties faced by the judiciary, they might not get the desired justice.