Liberia: Lawmakers Angered by Torture on Sime Darby Plantation; Summon Management
Monrovia – The House of Representatives has charged the management of Sime Darby Oil Palm Company with contempt for lying under oath and refusal to give clarity on allegations of security brutalities and torture of citizens and employees in and around the company’s operation areas.
Report by Gerald Koineyeh, [email protected]
Appearing before plenary on Thursday, April 19 to give clarity on allegation of maltreatment meted against residents and employees in and around the company’s concession area with specific reference to recent media report surrounding the torture of a citizen for allegedly stealing a bunch of palm nut from the plantation, the General Manager of Sime Darby, David Parker told the lawmakers that his company does not condone violent acts against any employee and was not willing to go in detail into the matter on grounds that it was before the Liberian National Police.
“Sime Darby Plantation Liberia does not condone in any way the use of violence and any mistreatment against any of its employees regarding theft. We are cooperating with the police investigation. I understand that people are in police custody.
“I understand that police have interviewed Mr. David and I am waiting for the findings of the police investigation and I am willing to cooperate with the police recommendations,” he said.
He continued: “For the videos in question, I do not know the individuals. They are part of a police investigation now that will identify everybody in the video to verify where and when the video was made.”
But his response did not go down well with the lawmakers who decided to press him and his team to give more account of the incident involving a Liberian employee named John David who was captured on a video being tortured with a palm bunch on his head.
Reps. Solomon George (Montserrado Disttrict #7), Johnson Gwaikolo (Nimba District #9), Jeremiah Koung (Nimba District #1) and Cllr. Fonati Koffa (Grand Kru) all took the floor with diverse suggestions to find a way forward but to no avail.
And when Parker, responding to Rep. Koung’s question concerning what actions he has taken against the head of the company’s security, acknowledged that he was suspended as soon the video was shown to Sime Darby.
The company’s manager was further questioned by Speaker Chambers about the video, which has been trending on social media.
The Manager failed to explain but noted that the head of the company’s security has been authorized to review the security activities within three weeks to put in measures that will stop the recurrence of what happened; something which prompted the Speaker to call for an executive session to find a way forward.
“It seems to us that our witnesses are willfully lying to us. It appears to us that they are misleading us. It is unacceptable. We will not be condoning adults coming here acting as though they are innocent infants. We will take them back into the Chief Clerk’s office and sit in executive to discuss what next to do,” Dr. Chambers said.
Meanwhile, following the executive session, the House Plenary unanimously voted to hold the Plantation’s management in contempt and summoned the entire management team to reappear on Tuesday, April 23, 2018 to give reasons why the contempt charge should be dropped.
The company’s lawyer, Ebenezer Gibson of the Dean and Associate Law Offices speaking to reporters after the hearing, pledged his clients’ cooperation with the House of Representatives and maintained that the company does not engage in brutalizing people.
“As we said in our presentation, the Sime Darby Plantation is not in the business of engaging in brutalizing people. Whenever there are issues we know that the police is responsible and because of that we are cooperating with the Liberia National Police.
“Individuals of interest have been caught and have appeared before the Liberia National Police. We just want to make this emphatically clear that the Sime Darby Plantation is a reputable company that operates in 26 countries in the world and she has no reputation of torturing people,” Atty. Gibson asserted.
The leaked Video
A man, identified as John David, was captured in a video trending on Facebook being tormented by men known to be security officers of the Sime Darby Oil Palm Company.
In that video, David is handcuffed, at the same time with a palm bunch on his head while being tortured.
One of the securities in the video is heard asking for a digger and a shovel to bury David alive.
When the video became viral on social media, Liberians at home and abroad began calling on the government to arrest and bring the perpetrators to book. Some also called for the plantation management to answer questions about the inhumane act meted against this Liberian and possibly others.
But the man believed to be in the video, John David, is currently in police custody. The LNP has been asking him to explain his ordeal.
Police spokesman Moses Carter told FrontPage Africa that the video is real, and a statement has been taken from David and others involved in the saga.
“Yes, the video is factual; the victim John David is still alive. We have taken statement from John who was seen being tortured in the video. He’s from Dama Town in Grand Cape Mount County and he’s 27 years old,” he explained.
The police spokesman disclosed that the incident occurred on the first Friday of February 2018.
Carter expressed his displeasure with the treatment of Liberians on the plantation as is seen in the video.
“It is unacceptable for our citizens to be treated in that form and manner; the police will not rest until all of the perpetrators are brought to book.”
According to the police spokesman, John David is not dead as was been insinuated on the social media.
Carter also disclosed the name of another 33-year-old Liberian in police custody identified as Mark Gibson, who was also allegedly tortured by Sime Darby Security.
Carter noted that the police also have in its custody the current head of security of Sime Darby, Boima Feakai, who was also captured in the video.