Liberia: “Sime Darby In Compliance With House of Representatives’ Mandate” – Concession Commission Boss

Mr. Gregory Coleman, Director General, National Concession Commission

Monrovia – The Director General of the National Bureau of Concession (NBC) has told lawmakers that Sime Darby is following the House’s mandate in providing basic social services to employees.

Report by Gerald C. Koinyeneh, [email protected]

It can be recalled that a Special Legislative Investigative Committee on operations of Sime Darby Plantation in Liberia was set up by House Speaker Bhofal Chambers in April 2018 to investigate a video that went viral on social media showing a Liberian citizen being tortured by people believed to be agents or securities of the company for allegedly stealing a bunch of fresh palm nuts. 

The committee, headed by Rep. Tibelrosa Summoh Tarponweh (Margibi Dist. #1), was also mandated by plenary to verify whether Sime Darby was following all provisions of the concession agreement, especially its social corporate responsibilities in the areas of health, education, water and sanitation, housing and roads.

In its report to plenary, the committee noted that Sime Darby was in violation of the 2009 concession agreement it entered into with the Government of Liberia.

The committee, among several requests and with specific time frame, called for the SDPL to install basic sanitary facilities at the school and the plantation, provide proper housing facilities, employ Liberians in top managerial posts, allowed family members of all contractors be entitled to healthcare services provided by SDPL and ensure salaries of teachers, nurses, securities and all other professional staff commiserate with their qualifications and positions.

The National Bureau of Concession was charged with the responsibilities to coordinate and ensure that the company complies with the House’s mandate.

Appearing before the plenary on Tuesday, February 5, NBC’s Director General, Mr. Gregory Coleman revealed that the company has renovated several employees’ houses, restored safe drinking water through the construction or rehabilitation of hand pumps and 53 latrine units totaling 212 rooms.

On health and education, Coleman stated that Sime Darby has upgraded the services at the clinic and can now take in 50 to 100 patients a day.

In addition, he added that the clinic is equipped with two ambulances that can refer major cases to John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital and the Jackson F. Doe Regional Referral Hospital in Tappita, Nimba County.

He furthered that seven schools are currently being operated by the company and a library for the Sime Darby Central High School is being supply with books and other materials. 

In addition, he told the lawmakers that the school has trained teachers; while two rooms for laboratories are been upgraded and are expected to be completed soon.

On the torture case, the NBC boss also told plenary that the Liberia National Police (LNP) has assured him of ongoing investigation along with the death of the Sime Darby Workers Union’s Grievance and Ethics Committee Chairman.  

Company’s Going Nowhere but Grappling with Challenges

Meanwhile, Mr. Coleman told plenary that contrary to media reports, Sime Darby is not shutting down.

However, he conceded that the company is grappling with series of challenges and needs government’s cooperation to address them.

Some of the challenges include the relocation of illegal occupants from the housing units in the concession area; something he noted is stopping the company from renovating the occupied houses as mandated by the House of Representatives.

“In compliance with the recommendations, SDPL should keep up with the rehabilitation of housing units, but this cannot be done without the government playing its part. That is to ensure that illegal occupants are relocated. So, we are working with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the county authorities to evict the illegal occupants,” he averred.

When asked by Rep. Clarence Massaquoi (Lofa District No. 3) to give detail information on the number of Liberian staffs in managerial positions at the company, Coleman noted that company, by its current standard and amid several challenges is complying.

He mentioned four Liberian employees have been promoted to top managerial posts.

He revealed that out of the 220,000 hectares given to Sime Darby for concession, only 10,500 hectares have been given to the company.

“Today government has only given 10,500 hectares. So, all the technical components that require them to have their expertise in the country to ensure that they turn the company over to Liberians have not been met,” he intoned.