Liberia: Suspension Hangs Over Several Security Guards Of Sime Darby For Refusing To Undergo Police Training

Confiscated Illegal Mills at Sime Darby

Gbah, Bomi County – As police Monday carried a major raid of illegal oil palm processing mills around Sime Darby Plantation, this paper has gathered from investigation that over one hundred and sixty security guards of the Company located in Bomi and Grand Cape Mount Counties have refused to attend a muster and training exercise meant to increase their knowledge on fighting palm theft.

Police Spokesperson Moses Carter confirmed that the Monday raid led to the arrest of over 15 illegal oil palm processing mills, three (3) single barrel guns, several gallons of processed oil palm, bags and brunches of harvested fresh fruits, amongst other items.

The Police Spokesman also said thirteen (13) suspects were arrested amongst them three (3) females and ten (10) males.

He said the police obtained a Search and Seizure Warrant to carry out the operations and indicated that the operations continues. 

Before the start of the raid, according to sources, the Police about two weeks ago decided to embark a training exercise for Sime Darby Security as part of the Government of Liberia efforts in helping the company build the security capacity to fight palm theft.

Sime Darby as part of the many challenges facing the company continues to complain that it is incurring huge losses due to widespread palm theft at its plantation and the Government continued to pledge its support to tackle the challenges.

According to police sources, training experts from the Liberian National Police Training Academy were sent to conduct in-service training for the Sime Darby Security to enable them effectively battle the increase in palm theft at the plantation but some of the company security guards have refused on two separate occasions to attend the training.

A senior police officer speaking on the basis anonymity told reporters that the LNP is undertaking the initiative as part of the Government of Liberia efforts to protect the investor as the company continues to complain about palm theft.

Sime Darby, the police source said is working together with the Government to combat the crop theft. 

The source added that the police believes that when the company security guards are provided further in-service training they will be in the best position to handle the theft situation.

“This effort by the police is in furtherance of a recent commitment by the President when he met Sime Darby officials and promised that the Government of Liberia will take every necessary steps to assist the company resolves some of the challenges facing the company including palm theft”, one police source stated.

Following President George M. Weah recent meeting with Sime Darby officials, the LNP source said the Police has been raiding illegal mills around the plantation but the police now believes that to solve the problem Sime Darby security guards should be up to the task to handle the situation.

“When you raid the illegal mills and leave, they will come back. So, to solve this problem, we decided to conduct special in-service training for the company security”, this, the source said prompted the in-service training exercise.

Accordingly, after several weeks of planning, when the Police training experts arrived at Sime Darby to conduct the exercise, a large number of the company security guards surprisingly refused to show up which prompted a postponement of the exercise.

During the new date set aside for the exercise, the bulk of the company security guards again refused to show up for the second time.

The source said the LNP told the Sime Darby management to rearrange a second date and again inform all the company security guards to attend the training.

For the second time, the police source stated that when they arrived at Sime Darby to conduct the training, majority of the company security guards again refused to turnout.

Another source hinted this paper that the defiant posture by the Sime Darby Security guards is an indication that the security guards are involved in the palm theft at the plantation.

“How can people who are serving as security to protect the company refused to be further trained in combating palm theft? It is hard to understand this kind of behavior”, one police officer told this reporter.

Although Sime Darby is yet to comment on the matter but accordingly the defiant security guards risk tougher actions including suspension for refusing to attend the muster and vetting exercise.

“For a security to refuse order two times is very serious. That will undermine the efforts to fight palm theft. Sime Darby should not take this lightly or else they will have serious problem”, another security source told reporters.

The LNP source said although bulk of Sime Darby Security guards are still refusing to attend the training, the LNP is still willing to collaborate with Sime Darby because protecting the investor is a priority for the Government.

In recent months there have been trading of allegations against the company security guards with some members of the local communities blaming the company security for aiding palm theft.   

When   the police carried out raid this week to remove illegal mills at the plantation, it was discovered that some of Sime Darby Security were indirect contact with the illegal mill operators.

Some residents even alleged that some of the security officers were owners of some illegal mills thus making it difficult for them to effect any arrest in the past.

Sime Darby continues to battle palm theft as in February a group of illegal harvesters used machetes to chase the company ‘back up’ security guards patrolling causing serious injuries to two guards.

October 2018, another Sime Darby Security guard, Joseph K. Gissi was heavily wounded by illicit harvesters.

Again in August 2018 another Sime Darby Security Guard, Preston Nunuh was shot at and wounded on the leg with single barrel gun.

The wave if palm continues unabated despite the intervention of the Government of Liberia with the Liberian National Police confiscating illegal palm oil processing mills around the plantation.