26 February 2013

Liberia: In Bomi County - 12 Affected Communities Vow to Stop Sime Darby Expansion

Twelve Communities in Bomi County affected by the ongoing plantation expansion by the Malaysian group, Sime Darby, have vowed to halt the company's operations due to what they called the company's failure to implement concession agreement reached by the Liberian Government.

The 12 affected Bomi County communities took the decision over the weekend after a mass meeting of citizens, Sime Darby Representative and the local forest advocacy and rights protection group, SAMFU, Safe My Future Foundation. The decision was contained in a Resolution read by Reverend Charles Mccarnley in the county and witnessed by local government officials, including Town Chiefs, James Gballey, Mr. S. Augustine G. Boakai, Home Office Coordinator of Senator Sando Johnson and James Acquire Agriculture Coordinator, Ministry of Agriculture in Bomi County and a cross section of the Media.

The resolution was presented to Sime Darby's Senior Supervisor with oversight between NGOs, Government and the Community Dwellers Anthony Konneh. The affected communities include: Jawajeh, Colode, Garnodeyen, Malima, Brown Village, Gbah Jake, Besah, Varney Bon, Gaya Hill, More Town, Family Town and Vagbeh. Among other things, the resolution calls for full employment and training of citizens from the 12 affected communities.

They want access to Health Care, that Sime Darby ensures land be reserved for community farming, which they described as the only source of livelihood, that the company publishes all concessions transactions to include communities benefits and that Sime Darby addresses immediately the issue of fair treatment.

The affected communities, in their resolution, also called for the reimbursement of damaged houses and accused the company of not providing Safe Drinking Water and Latrines even before operation as promised by the company, and that what they the harsh labor practice of 3us dollars of planting 50 Palm Trees per employee be addressed immediately.

In response, the Senior Supervisor, Mr. Anthony Konneh, promised to present the resolution to the management for prompt action in keeping with the policies of the company.

In his words, the 12 communities "Might Get Result". He promised his office will thoroughly review the resolution and conduct its own assessment, but in collaboration with the Bomi Community Dwellers. In addressing some of the items within the resolution, the Sime Darby's Executive bragged that his company is the only company that pays the highest pay for un-skill employees and that salary is based on income generation. However, Mr. Konneh admonished the affected communities not to allow their decision to be influenced by what he called "Outsiders".

According to investigation, Daily Hires are paid US$15 dollars monthly. Sime Darby started operations more than three years ago.

The forest advocacy and rights group, the organizer of the Round Table Meeting SAMFU and delegation which included the head , Mr. James Makor and Program Officer, Mr. Robert Nyahm promised to continue efforts that will ensure that the communities benefit from the social contract.

The SAMFU officer with oversight responsibility in Bomi County, Mr. Sam K.D. Kwennah said there is to ensure that the country's Natural Resources benefit all Liberians and not just a few. SAMFU established in 1987 is the country's full most forest advocacy and rights protection and award winning group whose works across Liberia have brought great improvement in the lives of Communities Dwellers, such works led to the United Nations Security Council imposing sanction on Liberia's forest during its exploitation of the forest under formal President Charles Taylor and the improvement of modern infrastructure at the Firestone Rubber Plantation which book spoke of Modern Day Slavery.

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