Maryland County - Othello Doeplah, 54, struggled to get in his living room, minutes from a commercial motorbike, as he walks with a pair of clutches in Pleebo-Sodoken District, Maryland County.
Doeplah, a former security officer at Cavalla Rubber Plantation (CRC) and Maryland Oil Palm Plantation (MOPP) got wounded on duty while pursuing thieves along with four other security guards, that led to him having one leg and two clutches.
He said since his injury, the companies have refused to assist him, decrying abandonment despite all efforts by local county authorities to intervene.
In an interview with FPA, Doeplah said it was unfortunate that he had to move with clutches after 40 years of seeing himself walking normally with his two legs.
He narrated, “I worked with CRC/MOPP 2008 and got injured on job that lead me to one foot cut."
"The injury happened 2011 New Year’s eve."
"We went to work at CRC, we were five in number at night, then rogue entered and we started chasing them and a sharp iron penetrated my flesh.
“It was my friends who pulled me from the iron."
"They called our bosses that night and I was taken to CRC hospital and was treated for three months, 21 days and the sore closed up, after sometimes it (the sore) came back with rising and I went back to the same hospital (CRC) and they burst it.”
Doeplah said when the rising was burst black blood came out and later began to peel which he was treated for two-months at the hospital but there was no improvement in his leg.
He added, the hospital recommended that he attend J.J. Dossen Hospital in Harper where he spent six months and was transferred to John F. Kennedy Medical Center (JFK) in Monrovia.
“But there was still no improvement, so I called John Y. Barkemeni, and he said I should get to Monrovia, and the transfer slip was made for JFK, when I got to JFK in 2012, an x-ray was done and I was told that the sore derived from rust so they ordered that my foot be cut.”
“I refused knowing that I wouldn’t be fully able to manage the affairs of my family anymore, but then CRC send someone to me and told me that the company say I should agree for them to cut my foot and they will give me car and when I’m working I won’t walk and I told them to put it into writing and they did, so I signed my operation paper,
He continued: “After two days my operation was done, After 14 days the sore opened again, JFK said the place they should have cut they didn’t cut so my foot started swelling and I was in the hospital for a year and there was no better, so I left the hospital and went New Kru Town and a doctor from Sierra Leone ordered that I followed him to his country and we later went Guinea, but still my foot wasn’t improving.”
Doeplah said the company helped with US$600.00 for his transportation to Sierra Leone and Guinea where he stayed over a year seeking medical treatment.
“My foot was cut three times in 2013 my wife called me and told me that she hasn’t received my pay for five-months so I called the former hospital administrator, she told me that management has pronounced me dead.”
“So I asked them even if I die they won’t pay my woman and children knowing that I got wounded on job?
“That compelled me to return to Maryland days after I was pronounced okay by Catholic Hospital because I was also told that my name was placed on redundancy after I was pronounced dead by the company.
“When I came they reinstated me but only paid the five months that they didn’t give my wife while I was seeking treatment.”
“So I came back to Catholic for medical check-up, as soon as I arrived in Monrovia In 2014, my name was again placed on redundancy, and because they said I couldn’t do the job any longer so they decided to pay me off.”
“So I asked them why, when they promised to help me with a car and to continue my work, but there was no response, even the paper they signed before my operation the doctor didn’t give it to me, so I think it was fake paper between the company and the doctor.”
“Today of all the papers I have, I don’t have the paper that they consented to me cutting my foot.”
The Concerned youth movement and association of elders of surrounding Community of MOPP and CRC –Pleebo-Sodoken district expressed dissatisfaction over the wrongful dismissal of their citizens from the plantation.
The two groups said since the agreement was signed there had being no tranquility and understanding between the two companies and affected communities in the district because the company refused to meet up with some of their obligation as promised in the concession agreement.
When contacted via mobile the Labor Representative in Maryland County, Judy Howard said he couldn’t comment because he hasn’t given the authority to speak on such matter.
Doeplah said since the company failed to compensate him for the years he worked for, he took a complaint to the County attorney and the County Judge Nelson Tokpah who called the company instructing them to pay him US$50,000 but the company has refused.
“I took the complaint to Dr. Bhofal Chambers and Senator John Ballout, but it still didn’t improve despite Dr. Chambers speaking against their act.”
“I waited eight months no communication from them so I said I was going to receive the US$4,000 because I had to send my children to school and they took me from home I was in on the plantation.”
“The money I received, I thought it was a part-payment and they were going to help send my children to school since they couldn’t pay me in full.”
He also complained of the National social security not given him his benefit.
“Now, I’m a cripple because of an agreement our government signed."
"The company is not a blessing and it is a curse to this county and the nation at-large.”
Despite his physical appearance, Doeplaah said he’s still the head of his family including his eight children.
“I am suffering and can only provide food when I have to sit in this chair that is gradually breaking to split wood for my children to go sell, and then we can get food for the day. I also buy steel nails in bulk for the five of the eight children to sell so we can buy kilo [of rice] for the day.”
Pointing at his house, Doeplah home is the only one that has zinc and living home though built with mud around many homes nearby.
“Look at the house by now it should be plaster, the US$4,000 I received, this is what I could do to tell my children I worked for a company, even this land I bought it but I didn’t survey it, but yet a house is built.”
Doeplah disclosed that of his eight children three are attending government school while one is attending private school but is sponsor by his brother in-law.
“This life is not used to me, the places I used to go I can’t go anymore, I am facing serious problem with the leg and clutches.”
He continued, “Before this company employ me I was not sick, I was a security running behind the rogue when my foot got to this, but now they have abandoned me.”
“This company is not fair to me, there were times that rogues regularly raided that plantation and is because of me and my team that I had, that’s why theft seized at the plantation, and look at me is this my reward for securing a plantation?”
He is not alone as he named several persons who got wounded but left the plantation like him.
However, Doeplah is requesting that the Government help in getting their just benefit from the company, so they can empower their families and rebuild their lives in spite of their injury on job at the plantation.
“We shouldn’t be abuse and maltreated in our own country, this is the time that we expect our leaders to speak out for us for once,” he said.