Liberia: House Finds Sime Darby Plantation Liable For Breaching Concession Agreement

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Report by Gerald C. Koinyeneh, [email protected]

Monrovia – A Special Legislative Investigative Committee on Operations of Sime Darby Plantation in Liberia has revealed that the company is in breach of the 2009 concession agreement it entered with the government of Liberia.

The Committee, headed by Rep. Tibelrosa Summoh Tarponweh (Margibi Dist. #1), was set up by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dr. Bhofal Chambers 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 Sime Darby for allegedly stealing a bunch of fresh palm nuts.

The committee was also mandated by Plenary to verify whether Sime Darby follows all provisions of the concession agreement, especially its social corporate responsibilities in the areas of health, education, water and sanitation, housing and roads.

Findings and Observations

The committee, among other things, observed that the company’s senior high school lacks proper sanitary facilities; no laboratory and functional library and Liberian employees and contractors lived in poor and deplorable housing units.

The committee: “It was observed that the company’s senior high school campus lacks drinking water facility and cafeteria; it was observed that there is no modern latrine with running water facility on the campus of the school visited. The structure being used by students for defecation is in a dilapidated and unacceptable condition; most of the classrooms contain between 60 to 70 students, in violation of the Ministry of Education’s standard of 45 students per classroom… The plantation consists of 24 camps in both Bomi and Grand Cape Mount Counties with a single sub-standard clinic.”

The special legislative investigative committee also mentioned that despite the company introducing several Liberians who are in top positions including human resource manager, chief security and warehouse manager, their investigation revealed that only a Liberian holds a senior managerial position and the others are mere contractors and not employees in top posts as claimed by the SDPL.

The Committee: “Only a single Liberian citizen, Mr. Dao Metzger holds a senior managerial position as an Industrial Relations Manager. This falls short of the stipulation provided in the Concession Agreement that states that 50% of senior managerial posts be occupied by Liberian after five years and 75% in 10 years of the company’s operations in Liberia as provided for under section 12.1 of the concession agreement, under the caption Employment and Training.

‘The company’s human resource manager, chief security and warehouse manager are all non-Liberians, without consideration for available qualified Liberians. Family members of teachers and other workers who are contractors do not get medication from the one and only clinic serving the entire concession communities; all of the camps have no water supply and latrine facilities in sharp contrast facilities occupied by the expatriates.”

Recommendations

In its recommendations, 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, allow 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 committee wants proper sanitary facilities to be restored within 30 days and the employment Liberians in top position be executed within three months.

It also called on the company to employ all contactors who have served the company for more than two years and those seen in the video torturing the Liberian citizen be identified and prosecuted to serve as a deterrent for would be violators of human rights on the plantations.

In addition, the committee wants SDPL to submit copies of its annual reports for the last five years to the House of Representatives to be used to compare what is on paper as reported and the reality on the ground.

Following the submission of the reports, the Chairman of the committee, Rep. Tibelrosa S. Tarponweh noted that the report is not intended to discourage foreign investments in the private sector, but to set reasonable precedent and standard necessary to discourage the abuse of future concession agreements, adding “this the committee will encourage responsible foreign investments and concessions that protect the national security of our country and the dignity of our people, while at the same time positively and reasonably benefiting both bodies.”

Meanwhile, the Plenary of the House of Representatives accepted the reports in its entirety and agreed to summon the management of SDPL next Thursday, May 17 for its implementation.

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