The move by James Finlay to sell off its tea business to Sri Lankan-based Browns Investment PLC continues to draw reactions in Bomet and Kericho counties.
Members of the Bomet County Assembly are the latest to react to the move after directing the county government to fast-track the resurveying of the vast tea farms to establish the actual size as directed recently by the National Land Commission (NLC).
Through a motion, the MCAs unanimously agreed there was a need to move with speed and ensure the exercise is done before Finlay seals the deal with Browns Investment.
Reacting to the motion moved by Chepchabas MCA Wesley Kiprotich, the MCAs said Finlay should complete its business after the resurveying of the land.
Kiprotich said the move by Finlay to sell off its business was suspect. The ward representative said there was the need to crack the whip saying Finlays has for a long time benefited from the lands and should be held accountable before handing over the business to the new investor.
“Mr Speaker, for a long time, James Finlay has reaped benefits running into billions from this business and there is a reason to believe that the amount of land they declared is far less, and therefore this resurveying should be fast-tracked before they exit so that they can be held responsible for any extra lands that they have accepted for all that time,” he said.
Kiprotich said the need for urgent resurveying is to stop James Finlays from selling off what is not genuinely under them.
The Chepchabas MCA said the 15 percent parcel Finlay was planning to give back to the local community could be the extra land they have been occupying illegally without declaring and are looking for ways to avoid being held responsible.
“By taking action early and quickly, we will stop James Finlay from further doing more injustice to our people,” said Kiprotich while rallying MCAs to back his motion.
He said if action is not taken there was a possibility that James Finlays and other Multinational tea companies were illegally selling off land to private investors.
The MCA said there were private residential homes sprouting inside the tea estates held by various companies an indication that the firms were secretly selling the land.
“I am concerned by the private occupants who have built homes insides these farms and call for urgent action,” he added.
Mr Kiprotich, through the motion, gave the County Government 30 days to set up a team of experts to spearhead the re-surveying.
While seconding the motion, Kimulot MCA Eric Kirui said the surplus land that will be gained through the process will help generate more revenue for the County Government.
He urged the Multinational Tea Companies to cooperate and support the process warning that any form of resistance would attract legal backlash that could end the planned sale of their business. He supported the motion saying there was increasing tension between tea companies and communities living next to the farms.
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“There has been rising tension between multinational tea companies and the neighboring communities due to the unresolved historical land injustices,” he said.
Leader of Majority Paul Kirui led other members including Nathan Kibet (Kapletundo), Rosaline Cheptoo (Rongena Manaret), and Stephen Changmorik (Longisa) in supporting the motion.