By Duncan Mlanjira
Faizal Aboo, owner of Pacific Group of Companies, has challenged MP for Blantyre South East Constituency, Sameer Suleiman to provide evidence of the assertion he made last Thursday, October 8 that that 80% of Limbe is currently owned by two individuals of Asian origin.
Suleiman made serious allegations on land ownership that is being grabbed by Malawians of Asian origin but fail short of revealing their names.
However, in a public statement and taking cognizance that Suleiman never mentioned names, Pacific Group says it is left in no doubt that
the MP was referring to Aboo, given that Pacific is the only entity that operates a fish farm in Limbe, known as Chambo Fisheries.
“We wonder if Hon. Suleiman made a reasonable, if any inquiry, into this assertion and would welcome the facts or statistics he may have relied on, if any,” says the statement.
“In fact, we would encourage Hon. Suleiman to disclose this information, if he has such, into the public domain so that the public whom he was addressing is fully informed.”
Pacific Group also takes cognizance that of the two individuals alluded to, one of them owns over 50 hectares of land where he is fish farming and that Suleiman has a petition from the people of Chiwembe Housing where the said individual has displayed such arrogance so as to build a fence right on the main road.
Suleiman further said in the august House that the said individual is untouchable because he repairs some of the country’s boreholes and that he is on the verge of “being given” 48 hectares of land by Blantyre City Council and Ministry of Lands in what is government’s Chigumula Forest.
“Although we do not as a matter of course respond to false allegations made against our company, we are left with no option in this instance given the nature, severity and consequences of Hon. Suleiman’s accusations.
“We are somewhat surprised and perplexed by the statement that 80% of the land in Limbe is owned by two individuals.”
On the 50 hectares of land for fish farm carried out by Chambo Fisheries, Pacific Group says the land was lawfully acquired in 2006 where the Group, amongst other developments, has invested in a state-of-the-art aquaculture development.
“We believe this is in accordance with the Government of Malawi’s endeavours to promote homegrown development, increase employment and drive our nations export base,” said the statement.
The Group says it entirely unaware of the complaint, if any, by residents of Chiwembe Housing categorically deny building the said fence.
“The fence, if any, does not belong to Pacific Group or its associated businesses, and this assertion is totally without merit.”
Pacific Group further says it has endeavoured to repair boreholes in rural areas throughout Malawi as part of its corporate social responsibility programme.
“This programme commenced in early 2015 and to date we have repaired or rehabilitated 2,778 boreholes throughout Malawi.
“We believe that in doing so, we are complimenting Government’s efforts to provide a clean source of water for our fellow Malawian brothers and sisters.
“To quantify this impact, over a trillion man hours have been saved in this rehabilitation initiative by reducing the distance to source clean water.
“However, what we categorically refute is the claim that this programme grants us ‘untouchable status’. We are of the firm view that each and every individual is equal before the law, and that no single individual is beyond reproach.”
Pacific Group further refute allegations of trying to buy Chigumula Forest, saying this is untrue and totally without merit.
It says their is a law-abiding entity that has complied with all of its tax and other legal obligations without fail; their business has and continues to be run in a lawful and ethical manner and they are proud that they provide employment directly to over a thousand Malawians.
“Through our various infrastructure developments we have created indirect employment for multiple thousands.
“We also continuously create indirect employment by working hand in hand with small and medium enterprises thus furthering their growth; promote the Government of Malawi’s development policies whilst supporting the Malawi community through many charitable projects.
“The statements by Hon. Suleiman regarding us are false and without any merit. His focus on our acquisition of property is both unfortunate and misplaced.
“We would like to place it on record that all property acquired by the Pacific Group is and will continue to be in accordance with the Land Act, Registered Land Act and all applicable laws of Malawi.
“We would also like to remind Hon. Suleiman of our following constitutional rights:
* to acquire and own land in Malawi under section 28 of the Constitution;
* to freely engage in economic activity, to work and pursue a livelihood anywhere in Malawi under section 29 of the Constitution.
“We are thus disappointed that he has chosen to target us in this manner. We recognise that Parliamentarians are afforded privilege regarding utterances that form part of proceedings in the National Assembly.
“We also recognise the importance of this provision and that
Parliamentarians be given liberty to discuss issues of National importance. However, we implore Hon. Suleiman to recognise the platform afforded to him in the august House where proceedings are now broadcast live on television.
“Further, with the advent of social media, now more than ever, these statements are broadcast to a large audience and at a rapid pace.
“It must be recognised that statements made by Honourable Parliamentarians during the course of their deliberations may be taken as gospel truth by lay members of the public.”
Pacific Group assert that the MP’s statements have caused substantial harm and are faced with threats of demonstrations and vandalism to our properties and that their directors are subjected to threats to their person, “all as a result of false and baseless statements by Hon. Suleiman”.
“His statements border on defamation and character assassination and have the potential to incite racial tensions against the Asian community in Malawi.
“Malawi is a peace-loving nation and such instances have no place in our beautiful nation.
“If Hon. Suleiman has any personal grievances against our company or directors, we implore him to reach out to us directly where any such differences can be best resolved.”
Pacific Group concludes by saying unless he is able to substantiate his allegations, Suleiman should withdraw them on the same platform — in Parliament.