14 February 2013

Liberia: Job Protest Ends in Arrests

Written by ND Staff

Officers of the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) of the police swung into action in Maryland County Tuesday and arrested several young people who were protesting against the employment of "foreigners" by the management of an oil company.

Reports said the demonstration took place in Plebo Sodoken District where the protestors claimed that the management of SIFCA, a local palm oil company has employed "foreigners" to work while they (youthful citizens) roam the streets unemployed.

"They illegally arrested and detained the youths for their peaceful protest against SIFCA. ERU has a history of killing our people and this is a strict warning to everybody, be it security or any other person, that if anybody is physically wounded in Plebo, there would be an act of reciprocity. If anybody is killed in Plebo, there would be an act of reciprocity. I hope that they are not staging or planning a war against the people of Plebo Sodoken District," said Rep. Bhofal Chambers who made the disclosure at a press conference yesterday.

There has been a long standing stalemate between the citizens of Plebo and the management of SIFCA over employment issues. In 2011, prior to the elections, a violent protest that saw the killing of some workers by officers of the ERU occurred in Plebo over claims of "bad labour" practices at the SIFCA oil company.

At the press conference yesterday, Dr. Chambers said the arrested youths -

Pindarous Latoe, Rufus Geneyan, Opal Robertson and Jinkins Wufuel - were amongst hundreds of others who converged from various parts of the county to protest SIFCA's "unfair employment scheme"

against them in Plebo Sodoken District.

He claimed that the youths followed all the necessary channels to allow them carry on their protest. But he said the protest was disrupted by ERU officers "who bundled the youths as they prepared the petition to be served against the SIFCA management in the county."

"They (youths) wrote all of the stake-holders. Besides writing, they sat and discussed with them and they even called on the police to give protection to them while they were marching. They also contacted UNMIL in Maryland County to be there while they were marching. So, they did not do anything outside of the law," he said.

Rep. Chambers said the youths claimed that they were being marginalized by the management of SIFCA which, he revealed, "have so many foreigners in their employ at the disadvantage of thousands of unemployed youths in the county." But he did not say whether the youths were qualified and ready for work.

According to him, "what the people of Plebo Sodoken want is justice as demonstrated by their continuous protests against the operations of the company.

"What they want is fairness. What they want is what others have.

They did not want more and they don't want less. They want to be dignified like others in the country. Every time it comes to SIFCA, state security must be there, why?

"We are not slaves. Let the government understand that the people of Maryland have had enough. We would not sit down for our rights to be trampled on. We do not want a new war in Liberia and mind you, big things to create war, these (marginalization) are the things that create war. Remember the incident in Tunisia was not because the people's houses were burnt but because of self-humiliation," he said.

He cautioned the government against the Arab springs that resulted in the ousting of several governments in the Middle East and warned them: "Do not create one."

"Because we (the people of Maryland County) are not cockroaches, we are not insects. We are people that have the same breath like any other person. The same thing that other people in Liberia are enjoying today is the same thing that people in Maryland want to enjoy," he said.

However, the police in Harper and Monrovia have not commented on the issue.

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