MP for Constituency 19 in Kenema District, Hon. Marcus B. Kallon, has denied a newspaper publication captioned ”Gola Forest Agreement may be terminated” published in the Concord Times publication dated 9th May 2011.
He made this statement during a press conference held at ”Surkuihun” Hotel along Duwai Street in Kenema City.
Hon Kallon said most people who are decendants of Gola Forest host communities but are not living within the chiefdoms are the ones that are carrying negative perception about the activities of Gola Forest Programme within the seven operational chiefdoms of the Gola Forest.
He called on journalists to visit any of the communities within the Gola Forest operational chiefdoms, especially the Forest Edge Communities (FEC) and ask them about the benefits they are deriving from the Gola Forest programme.
Hon. Marcus Kallon added that there is no Forest Edge Community within the Chiefdom of Malema in the Kailahun District, Bari and Makpele Chiefdoms in Pujehun District, Koya, Nomo, Gaura and Tunkia Chiefdoms in Kenema District that do not have trace of Gola Forest development impact.
He aid the author of the publication, Mohamed Massaquoi, who was part of the press conference did not have any formal interview with him concerning his publication but got a privileged chat with him when they met at Reconcile Entertainment Centre in Kenema City.
He described himself as a member of the Forest Management Committee (FMC) and his position is adviser one in the committee with the mandate to advice the community and the Gola Forest programme, and also inform both parties about development.
Hon. Kallon said those living within the Forest Edge Communities do not make complaints because they are getting direct benefits from the programme.
“ Those who are spreading wrong rumour are not signatories to any of the forest Management Agreement that is why they give wrong pictures of the Gola Forest activities in the east and south of the country,” he said.
He also described his chiefdom, Gaura, as the seat of Gola Forest Programme, saying it hosts the Gola Rainforest National Park
Talking about some of the Gola Forest benefits to the communities, he revealed that GFP dished out $10,000 to each of the seven chiefdoms as Chiefdom Development Fund, and explainied that the first and second payment of this money was physically given to the communities for development purposes, but there was not much impact or evidence in terms of development in some of the Chiefdoms.
In his Chiefdom, 9 miles feeder Road from Joru to Lalehun, was rehabilitated with their own first payment.
The Gola Forest Programme then changed its method in dishing out development fund, by not giving liquid cash but to ask the community to draw up their projects that they want to undertake in the communities.