Liberia: Illicit Harvesters Attack Sime Darby Security Again, One severely Wounded

Sime Darby patrolman Joseph K. Gissi

Bomi, Grand Cape Mount Counties – The widespread theft of palm at the Sime Darby Plantation Liberia continues unabated as the company security guards perform their daily patrols in extreme fear of attack from illicit harvesters.

In the latest, patrolman Joseph K. Gissi was the next victim as he was beaten by illicit harvesters and severely wounded.

Patrolman Gissi met this untimely situation after he and others arrested a lady in the plantation hauling Fresh Fruits Branch (FFB).

The group of illicit harvesters angered by the arrest of their member went on the rampage by beating Patrolman Gissi and forcibly taking him to a nearby town, Bessao Town where he was turned over to the chairlady.

He was later released by the chairlady after already suffering severe beating which left bruises to his eye and other parts of his part.

The brutalizing of Patrolman Gissi is not the first in recent months as Sime Darby Security guards have come under series of attacks from illicit harvesters with many sustaining severe injuries in the process.

These attacks against the company security have created huge burden to the company with high cost of medical treatment for the injured security guards.

On a regular basis, illicit harvesters attack Sime Darby Security who stand in their way, to prevent them from illegal harvesting of palm from the company plantation.

Statistics indicate that the company continues to incur losses in thousands of United States dollars from the illegal harvesting of palm.

The company is now compelled to prematurely harvest fresh fruits found in what is now dubbed Red Zone areas to avoid the palm being harvested by illicit harvesters. The premature harvest is also contributing to low yields as the unripe FFB produce low oil.

Few months ago, another security guard was shot and sustained multiple injuries where he is still undergoing recovery.

The story of Patrolman Gissi is just one of many terrible situations taking place at the Sime Darby Plantation.

On August 28, a group of armed men with cutlasses and other deadly weapons including a short single barrel gun, attacked five Sime Darby’s Plantation-Liberia security officers who were patrolling the company’s facilities.

The attackers overpowered the security and took one hostage. Security Officer Anthony Tamba was several beaten with bruises on his back during the incident.

The illicit harvesters rely on Sime Darby plantation to supply their illegal mills nearby. These events are taking place without help from the Government of Liberia to curtail the illegal palm theft despite a provision in the concession agreement providing for the government to protect the investor by ensuring that there is no processing mill with 60 kilometers of the concession area.
Section 5.4 of the Concession agreement states “License to Third Party.

Government represents and warrants that it shall not, throughout the Term of Concession Agreement, grant any license to any third parties to construct or to operate (I) any rubber buying stations within ten (10) kilometers of the border of the Concession Area, (II) any oil processing plant or buying station within sixty (60) kilometers of the border of the Concession Area, and (iii) any rubber processing plant within sixty (60) kilometers of the border of the Concession Area so as to ensure that the operations of Investor are not interfered with or impeded”.

Despite this provision of the concession agreement there are several illegal mills being operated within the proximity of the Sime Darby Concession area.