Amid the recommendations of the House of Representatives for the Malayan Oil Company, Sime Darby, to live up to its corporate social responsibilities to the people of Bomi and Grand Cape Mount Counties, Montserrado County District # 13 Representative, Saah H. Joseph, has given the company a 24 hour ultimatum to provide expert medical treatment for one of their contractors who was allegedly tortured by agents of the plantation.
Speaking Tuesday, minutes after the Management Team of Sime Darby received the recommendations of the August Body, in the House’s Chamber, Rep. Joseph who brought forth the tortured victim at the Capitol said, it is disheartening for such an International Company to violate the rights of a Liberia citizen through torture and failed to provide advanced medical treatment.
John David, (Victim) was captured in a video on Facebook being tortured by men known to be security officers of the Sime Darby Oil Palm Company.
In that video, David is handcuffed, at the same time with a palm bunch on his head while being tortured.
One of the securities in the video is heard asking for a digger and a shovel to bury David alive.
When the video became viral on social media, Liberians at home and abroad began calling on the government to arrest and bring the perpetrators to book. Some Liberians also called for the plantation management to answer questions about the inhumane act allegedly meted against this Liberian “and possibly others.”
Based on the grave nature of the incident, the House of Representatives constituted a specialized Committee to investigate the matter.
The specialized Committee, as part of its investigation, paid a one-day visit to the operating areas of the plantation.
Following its visit, the committee in a comprehensive document reported its findings and recommendations.
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.”
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 contractors 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.”
With the finding and recommendations, Rep. Joseph said not much effort was made by the specialized committee with respect to the cogent issue that led the investigation.
According to Saah Joseph, his advocacy is based on the fact that he is the Chairman of the House’s Standing on Health, as such, he wants to ensure that the victim, John David, is given expert medical treatment and insurance benefit for the level of maltreatment he received by agents of the company.
The Montserrado County Lawmaker said yesterday that if the Company refuses to address the issues raised in 24 hours beginning yesterday, he will be left with no other alternative but to take the Sime Darby Company to an international Court for its alleged abuse of Human Rights.
The Victim, John David who spoke to the media yesterday for the first time, said since the incident, he has been experiencing serious pains in his body.
Victim David alleged that since he was released from the custody of the Liberian National Police, he has not been catered to medically by the management of the company.
“I was only taken to a clinic in Cape Mount and given some pills, and then I returned to the village.”
Mr. David did not comment on the allegations for which he was said to have been tortured at the Sime Darby Plantation.