12 August 2010

Liberia: Lawsuit Hangs Over Sime Darby Plantation

Former Bomi County Lawmaker Sando Johnson has threatened to sue the Management of Sime Darby for what he termed as the company not living up to the agreement signed between it and the Government of Liberia.

The Government of Liberia and Sime Darby, a Malaysian Company signed a US$800 million dollars concession agreement to manage the former Guthrie Rubber Plantation in Bomi and Grand Cape Mount Counties.

According to the agreement, Sime Darby is to invest US800 million in three counties, Bomi Cape Mount and Gbarpolu, covering 52,000 hectares of land. The company is to cultivate oil palm plantation and is expected to run the plantation for 63 years.

Making the disclosure to the Informer, Mr. Johnson said since Sime Darby took over the plantation; it has done little or nothing to improve the living condition of the people. He said instead of investing the much publicized US$800 million under the agreement, the company is rather tapping the already damaged rubber trees to run the plantation.

The former lawmaker said "what is more frustrating is the constant wave of complaints received by me and other citizens of the counties over the low salary being paid by the company, coupled with the company's refusal to employ citizens of the affected communities."

Mr. Johnson said it is "unacceptable" for Sime Darby to pay the workers US$2.00 per day and called on the management to increase the salary scheme in order to improve the lives of citizens, whom he said have suffered as a result of years of devastation.

He also blamed some lawmakers of the three counties for signing the agreement under the "cover of darkness and not informing the people of the benefits that would accrue."

He said the company is yet to provide uniform for the plantation security and has also failed to renovate damaged housing facilities to the detriment of poor employees.

Sando Johnson who served in the 51st National Legislature of the Republic of Liberia, called on the management of the company to improve working condition at the plantation, or else he will be compelled to call on the government to revoke the concession agreement.

According to our reporter who returned from plantation, some employees complained about low salaries, noting that they were paid as low as US$30.00 and a bag of rice for the month of August, while others complained of receiving US$20.00 without rice.

Currently, a resolution is being signed by the people of Cape Mount to mandate Sime Darby to unconditionally employ citizens of the counties, especially those in the affect communities.

Sime Darby provides buses to transport students to and from school and has contracted the services of over 500 workers including women on its nursery sites in Grand cape Mount County. The company has also begun the renovation of the main yard complex and provided ambulance for the Clinic.

Mr. Morris Dukuly, the Media Consultant for the company dismissed Mr. Johnson's claims. He said the contract is still in its embryonic stage and that the company is currently renovating damaged facilities on the plantation. Mr. Dukuly promised to provide this paper with information concerning the development taking place on the plantation.

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