Liberia, Africa’s first independent and sovereign Republic, has also been, since the early 1930s, the continent’s first rubber producing country, and yet in nearly 90 years has not yet been able to produce a single rubber band, glove or any other rubber product.That seems to have been the plot or scheme of Harvey S. Firestone who, in 1926, signed agreement with the administration of President Charles D.B. King for one million acres of land to grow natural rubber in Liberia.Mr. Firestone first attempted to grow rubber in the Philippines, but they turned him down for fear that if they allowed Firestone in, it would signal a death knell to Philippines’ quest for independence.Firestone’s next stop was Liberia, in his determination for the United States of America (USA) to grow her own rubber and break the British monopoly on rubber in the world.Mr. Firestone found Liberia’s rich soil, rainfall and climate to be, as he put it in his own words, the best place on the planet to grow rubber successfully. He immediately opened the Firestone plantation along the Farmington River in what is now Margibi County.Firestone did two things more to ensure that Liberian officialdom and Liberians were on his side: first, he encouraged most Liberian officials to grow rubber, which he bought, making many leading Liberians rich; second, he employed thousands of Liberians and became the country’s first major concession and largest employer besides the government.In the process, Harvey Firestone and his family became very rich—billionaires.Firestone was good for Liberia except for one thing: the company deemed Liberia fit only for a rubber plantation that produced ONLY raw material to feed American factories, and nothing else. That is why in Firestone’s nearly a century of operation in Liberia, it has manufactured absolutely nothing here, but rather, until this day, June 7, 2018, shipped every ounce of its rubber to the USA and other foreign parts. That is why we say that Firestone saw Liberia as simply fertile ground for producing raw materials— nothing else.Two questions arise: first, how was it possible for Firestone to treat Liberia, a country that has been so good to Firestone, so badly and so contemptuously? The second question is, how have Liberian officials and successive Liberian governments allowed Firestone to do this—treat Liberia so badly—for nearly a century—92 years to be exact?We can venture a third question: how was it possible for all these Liberian rubber planters, from James (Jimmy) Francis Cooper, the first Liberian rubber planter, to many other Coopers, Dennises, Shermans, Freemans, Jacksons, Tubmans, Tolberts and the biggest rubber planter of them all, Harry L. Morris of Kakata and Todee, yes, how did all of rubber planters to allow Firestone to get away with this—slaving after this company’s US dollars and remaining naked as purely producers of Firestone’s raw material—rubber, and nothing else?But as the saying goes, nothing lasts forever. Today, we have another Cooper, whose name was also James, from Sinoe County, son of Henry Cooper—Henry is a popular name among the Coopers, who hailed from Sinoe, built a several hundred acre rubber farm in Bomi County. Today, the son of this James E. Cooper, also called James the II, has decided to brave the century-old powerful current by dreaming a serious dream. Young James E. Cooper, Jr., son of a Sinoe Cooper and an American mother, is dreaming of adding value to Liberian rubber by manufacturing rubber gloves, boots, adhesives (glues, gums, pastes), solvents (thinners), gaskets, rubber roofing tiles, re-threaded automobile tires and later freshly manufactured automobile tires.This is nothing short of revolutionary and we appeal to the government of President George Manneh Weah to give its firm backing to this great and historic initiative.Mr. James E. Cooper, Jr., tells us that he is not alone. Several other rubber planters have already started constructing rubber processing facilities in various parts of the country, including Kakata, Margibi County, and Nimba County.Mr. James E. Cooper, II says not only will these rubber processing and manufacturing enterprises produce finished products; they will also cause thousands more people to be employed in the rubber sector. They will not just be tappers, but engineers and technicians working in manufacturing plants.Presently, Mr. Cooper’s processing plant is producing TSR 10 rubber for export to Malaysia and the USA where it is used to manufacture automobile tires. He also produces smoked sheets for export.Mr. Cooper is in negotiations with Sri Lankan manufacturers to come to Liberia and join him by bringing in their technology to start rethreading tires, and later the real thing—brand new automobile tires for export to the Mano River Union and ECOWAS markets.Mr. Cooper and his fellow rubber processors have an even bigger dream: the Free Trade Agreement, spearheaded by Rwandan President Paul Kagame, which was signed in Kigali last week by 48 of the 53 African nations.Cooper and his colleagues are on to creating Liberia’s industrial revolution. Let us all join in this great endeavor by giving Mr. Cooper and all his colleagues our fullest cooperation and support. The media must play their part, and so, we fervently pray, will the Liberian government.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
The Georgetown Mayor and City Council (M&CC) is expected to make a presentation to Cabinet next week in relation to the controversial amended parking meter By-laws.This was revealed by Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan on Wednesday, who said following that presentation, Government will make a final determination about the project going forward.Bulkan said he has always been on record as supporting the initiative of having parking meters, which is intended to help to restore order to the current chaos faced in the city when it comes to parking.“…the contract that is engaged in, has to be one that is not burdensome to the population. The benefits have to be equitably shared between the concessionaireA parking meter in downtown Georgetownand the Council,” he added.Bulkan noted that a lot of those features were not present in the initial contract, and acknowledged that is precisely why the By-laws had to be rescinded by Government.“It is our hope that the amended contract satisfies the concerns that were expressed by the Ministry of Finance and by the Attorney General’s Chambers… this review and assessment will be done by Cabinet at its next meeting following a presentation by the Georgetown municipality,” he added.Based on a unanimous decision taken on April 4, 2018, the M&CC approved the amended parking meter By-laws. However, only two Councillors opposed the By-laws at the time. Khame Prakash Sharma and Bishram Kuppen argued that the By-laws were in support of a contract that still remains unfair to citizens.The amended By-laws were then presented to the Minister in May 2018 for consideration.The amendments proposed that persons pay $150 per hour and $800 for eight hours of parking in Georgetown. Meanwhile, residents of the city would be issued with a restricted residential pass for free parking from 17:00-19:00h Monday to Friday, while parking will be free on Saturdays.Under the modified contract, both parties had agreed to have an oversight committee set up to monitor, review, and manage the project. The committee is expected to have three representatives from M&CC, three from Smart City Solutions (SCS), and one third party also involved in the process.During renegotiations between M&CC and SCS, the subject of shared profit and contractual obligations were discussed, and it was agreed to have it remain the same being the 20/80 for a period of 20 years. It was also disclosed that in the event of arbitration, the proceedings would be held in Miami, instead of here.Rejecting parking metersDespite these new proposals, the Georgetown Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc (GCCI) and the Movement Against Parking Meters (MAPM) have both rejected the project’s return. From the onset, MAPM and the business community have been opposed to the installation of parking metres in the city.The Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has also maintained its non-support for this initiative.Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo still believes that the metering system is not the best arrangement to assist with the reduction or organisation of traffic within the country’s capital city.Jagdeo said the PPP will continue to oppose the initiative for several reasons, chief of them, the fact that the initial contract was flawed. He had also raised concerns about the persistence and continuous interest to have this project re-implemented even when the company is faced with several known controversies.Jagdeo had pitched a proposal where the M&CC could gain more income and treated the parking of vehicles in a much different way as they did before.“The City Council… all they need is maybe 1000 gallons of paint and go around and mark every area in the city and once per month, sell a sticker for $1000 or $2000 and people pay you and they park anywhere in the city once they have the sticker on the vehicle itself,” he explained.That plan, he claimed, is more affordable and takes away the huge administrative cost that the M&CC would have to incur were they to go ahead with reintroducing the parking meters.