Four Equatorial Palm Oil Employees Investigated for Threatening General Manager

BUCHANAN, Grand Bassa – Police in Grand Bassa are currently investigating four employees of the Equatorial Palm Oil Company in Grand Bassa’s fifth district for allegedly threatening the life of the company’s general manager if any attempt is made to reduce the company’s workforce.

The four employees were arrested by police last Friday at the plantation following a discovery of a threatening letter that was distributed at various departments across the plantation last week.

The four employees, Sam Olu Garyardea, J. Alexander Hamilton, Patrick Jallah and Korwu Kabbah, were suspected of orchestrating the writing of the letter. With the exception of Sam Olu Garyardea, the rest are supervisors.

Dated May 24, 2019, the letter was addressed to General Manager Sandy Barblett and warned against downsizing the workforce.

The letter read: “We the concerned citizens – comprised of elders, zoes, youth, women, and chiefs – have observed with serious concern of your constant behavior of ill-treatment and sporadic dismissal of our citizens since you took over as general manager of the plantation in our district, which makes our sons and daughters of this land confused.”

It alleged that the general manager was recruiting workers from his former plantation, the Liberian Forest Products Incorporated in Sinoe, where workers are expected to be laid off anytime this year. The Liberian Forest Products Incorporated is an old plantation in Butaw, Sinoe that was acquired by Equatorial Palm Oil in 2006.

The letter stated that the plan of the general manager cannot take effect on grounds that the workers at the Equatorial Palm Oil have been taking care of the farm before his arrival at the plantation in 2011.

“The people of Palm Bay’s jobs should not be at risk because of the closure of LFPI,” the letter stated. “Moreover, for better exercise, we urge you to please desist from such an ugly plan because this is Grand Bassa County and not Kru people, who have been suppressing developmental plans through African witchcraft activities.”

The letter accused the general manager of denying employment to citizens of the district and disrespecting cultural and traditional norms and warned that workers would “physically, traditionally, and spiritually battle you because you have inserted dismissal war on them.”

As Barblett, the general manager, is preparing for a vacation, the letter warned that if he did not change his mind about the way he was currently running the plantation, “your arrival will be in a serious riot.”

The letter was signed by 13 persons who claimed to be youth, women, elders, zoes, and chiefs of the district. However, residents of the district have denied knowledge of the letter and said they could not recognize the names of the signatories. The residents urged the police to investigate the letter’s authors.

A source at the company said after the letter was discovered, the general manager convened an emergency meeting with department heads to establish its origin. The source spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

After the consultative meeting with heads of departments at the plantation could not establish the letter’s authors, Barblett informed police about the threat.

The source at the company said police discovered the four accused employees because one of the employees, Sam Olu Garyardea, had approached a motorcyclist to distribute copies of the letter on the plantation. The motorcyclist was also arrested.

The arrested men have been released on bail, and an investigation is underway to gather evidence to take the men to court. The suspects refused to speak to journalists to avoid jeopardizing their case; however, they have denied being involved in writing the letter.

The four employees are shortly expected to appear at the Buchanan Magisterial Court.

Employees at Equatorial Palm Oil’s Grand Bassa office told The Bush Chicken that they fear being replaced by workers from the Sinoe plantation, which is winding down its operations.

Featured photo by Sampson David

Sampson David

Sampson G. David is a journalist with over eight years of experience. He is a deputy manager at the Diahn-Blae Community Radio Station, a correspondent of the Liberia Broadcasting System, and a sophomore student at Starz College of Science and Technology, studying Management Information Systems.

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