maryehdiah giahOp-ed 

Open Letter to Liberian leaders: This letter is regarding the Firestone Plantation in the city of Harbel.

By Maryehdiah Giah

Before I get to the point, I want to make in this letter, I would like to give a brief history regarding Liberia, West Africa.

Back in the 1800s, free Slaves from America were relocated to this country to relieve them from the pain of slavery. When the free Slaves arrived in Liberia, they met the natives of the country. The free Slaves established their Government as they have seen in America where they resided or were born prior to relocating to Liberia. At this time, the Natives of Liberia did not have any formal education but were intelligent enough to have a struggle with their guests regarding the occupation of their country.

It was during this era, in 1926, that the Firestone Rubber Plantation was established by the Government of the guests. The CEO/owner of Firestone Plantation was Harvey Firestone from America. During the negotiation as history indicates, Firestone and the then Government developed a contract for Firestone to do business with Liberia for 99 years as of 1926, paying 6 cents per acre. In 1976 a renewal of the contract was signed by the Liberian government and Firestone. In 2005 another renewal was signed between Firestone and Liberia for ongoing business in the country. In 2008, president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s administration and Firestone signed another contract for almost 50 years. (from 2008 to 2041).

Now here are a few of my many contentions about Firestone continuous existence in Liberia:

  • Firestone plantation has been making billions of dollars from the plantation since 1926, yet our natives working with Firestone continue to live and work in deplorable conditions, receiving lousy pay, being paid about 3.38 per day, while working 365 days a year, no breaks, no vacations.
  • The Tappers-those ensuring the company gets the rubber latex to continue to reside in huts (even though on paper, it is indicated that Firestone is, or has built modern houses for the Tappers), I saw with my own eyes in February 2013 while visiting Liberia that most of our people continue to reside in these huts with outdoor toilets (these toilets smell as they sit in front of their huts; cook and eat). At night, there is only one dimmed light bulb on one light pole serving an entire community of about 5-10 huts.
  • The Tappers continue to carry that long stick with a bucket on their shoulders full of rubber latex (that they have manually gathered) – that same stick and bucket I saw Tappers carry when I was a young child in Liberia. They continue to work giving outrageous quotas to meet daily in very hot weather. These Tappers work with no protective shoes, or clothing, furthermore, they are forced to involve the entire family, including their very young children because they have to “meet the quota” for the day just to make about $101.00 dollars per month if that.
  • On the same plantation, I continue to observe that there is gross stratification, Tappers are treated more like slaves, and other staff are treated like humans, as these staffers live in modern homes with modern toilets and kitchens. (Modern facilities).

President Weah and the Congress of Liberia, I am urging you to come back to the drawing board to do justice by your own people/country instead of continuing to allow Firestone Plantation to rob Liberia and her people for these many years.

Please no more rhetoric, let us put our people and country first as other patriotic citizens and Countries treat their people. I would like to inform my audience of Facebook or other caring citizens of the world that the Firestone I am speaking about is the one called Bridgestone Firestone here in the United States. Hence, anyone who cares, or is concerned about justice and proper treatment, please join me to boycott Bridgestone Firestone in the Americas as they continue to rob the Liberians and impose ill-treatment on their workers in Liberia, West Africa.

I now leave you with the quote from our Civil Rights leader Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. “ Injustice anywhere is a threat to injustice everywhere”.

Another quote from the late Paramount chief Barseegiah goes like this “When you are a member of the animal kingdom, you cannot sit idly and allow the lion, or any other king of the animal land to devour your love ones” I perceive us to be members of the animal kingdom (those of us that are now educated and know better). Let me hear your voices! Please help discontinue this treatment in Liberia even if my Government does not act quickly. With the cooperation from the world, justice will be done.

 

Main Photo: Maryehdiah Giah, the author

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