Liberia: ‘Horrible’ Encounters at Ministerial Complex —Chinese Builders Remember

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By Samuel G. Dweh/freelance journalist (+231) 886-618-906/776-583-266; [email protected], Contributor

MONROVIA – Jiangsu Provincial Construction’s John Zhang’s tone became plaintive (sorrow-ful) when he reached to a particular part of his narration about his company’s works on Liberia’s Ministerial Complex that now stands at a spot once occupied by the Ministry of National Defense built by the government of Samuel Kanyon Doe, Liberia’s 18th President.

“Some intruders came with knives into the compound and stabbed a Chinese employee, because he did not have the money they were demanding. This happened in November of this year. We are here to help Liberia, things such as this shouldn’t happen to us,” he reported to journalists at the Ministerial Complex on December 14, 2018. His disclosure was a response to strings of questions on ‘security’ within the Ministerial Complex. He said around 100 Chinese casual workers live in the compound.  

He was translating for the JPC’s Project Manager, on the Ministerial Complex, Zhu Zhaoyou, speaking to journalists conducting series of interviews on Chinese Enterprises and China-Aided Projects in Liberia, including the Complex.

He said the Police was alerted but they arrived after the attackers had escaped.

“The victim is in a critical condition now,” said John Zhang, relaying the Project Manager’s statement spoken in Chinese.

The total cost of building the Ministerial Complex stands at RMD315m (USD47m), while the building covers 4,000-square-meter space, Mr. Zhaoyou disclosed.

The construction commenced in April 27, 2017, shortly after a groundbreaking ceremony by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf with officials of the People’s Republic of China, Mr. Zhaoyou said.  

The Chinese said the Ministerial Complex will host Ministry of Education, Ministry of Agriculture, and Ministry of Commerce & Industries. It will also host some departments of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Liberia Immigration Service.

The company contracted reputable local sand mining companies to avoid violation of Liberia’s environmental law on sand mining, and it refused ocean said, which “causes corrosion, weakens the building, and causes collapse of any building in the near future,” Mr. Zhaoyou explained.

JPC has more than 100 Liberians in the total work force.

Three of them are Aaron Somah, Anthony Gbussie, and Croxer Morris.

“On this Chinese Company, I can provide my family’s needs and wants regularly,” Croxer Morris replied to this reporter’s question to him on a scaffold at the third floor, rubbing white emulsion paint on the wall at the front of the building.  

On the welfare of all JPC’s local employees, the Ministry of Public Works is the Government of Liberia’s eye within the premises.

“The Company is treating its Liberian employees well, in terms of working conditions and payment of salaries or wages,” Mr. Winnerford Prout Richards, Assistant Chief Architect at the Ministry of Public Works, and the Ministry’s General Supervisor on the Ministerial Complex project, said in an interview with journalists at the Complex.

The MPW’s ‘eye’ on the Chinese builders narrated to the journalists his personal experience of violent attacks by JPC’s casual workers in 2017. The aggrieved worker later blocked the main street passing in front of the building, which caused a huge traffic hold-up that lasted hours. The protest went viral around the globe through local print and electronic media, and the social media, with some sensationalizing against the Chinese Company. 

“In 2017, some casual workers accused me of conniving with the management of the Chinese to cut their wages. But, later, these workers realized that I never did such thing,” explained.

Translator John Zhang had earlier explained to this reporter and his colleagues in his office how the violent protest ensued.

“After working hours, some workers did not want to return equipment given to them to work. So, during payment time, the management said to them, ‘return the equipment given to you, before your wage is released to you’,” he had clarified. 

On motivation of its Liberian work force, Jiangsu Provincial Construction give salary advance and provide free medical assistance to any worker who falls sick on duty or off work.

A state-Owned Company, JPC also has a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) package for the community (called ‘Peace Island Community) it operates in.

“We employ the young people in this area, train them on the use of some of the machines, and give gifts to the community people during Religious Holidays,” translator John Zhang responded to a journalist’s question on the Company’s “good will gesture” 

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