MONROVIA, Montserrado – The House of Representatives on Tuesday constituted an eight-member special committee to investigate allegations of torture and poor working conditions of Liberians at Sime Darby plantation.
The committee is headed by Margibi’s first district representative, Tibelrosa Tarponweh, and will also review the company’s concession agreement with the government.
Members of the House voted on the decision during the second appearance of the company’s management to respond to the allegations against it and show cause why it must not be held in contempt by the lawmakers. It followed a motion from Rep. Francis Nyumalin from Lofa.
The motion, among other things, ordered the witnesses to stay under oath, while lifting the legislative contempt.
Nyumalin’s motion charged the committee with determining “what really transpired that gave rise to a Liberian citizen being tortured on the plantation” in addition to investigating and determining whether the company was complying with its agreement with the government, “specifically the well-being of the people within the plantation as is required by them within the concession.”
According to the Lofa lawmaker, a specific section of the concession agreement requires that at least 50 percent of the company’s senior staff should be citizens of Liberia after five years of the company’s operations.
“The plantation came in since 2009,” he noted. “This committee should examine to determine whether or not the 50 percent provision of the concession agreement has been complied with by the management of Sime Darby and to look at all other issues relative to the withholding on the concession agreement in its entirety.”
The company was charged with legislative contempt and ordered to reappear on Tuesday after its general manager, David Parker, was found to have provided false testimony to lawmakers on Thursday and refused to provide information concerning a Facebook video which shows a Liberian who identified himself as John David severely tortured after being accused of stealing a palm fruit bunch belonging to the company.
During his Tuesday’s appearance, Parker openly apologized to the lawmakers for his failure to provide a detailed explanation during his testimony last week.
The general manager said his failure to explain in detail during his first appearance was because the situation was already being investigated by the Liberia National Police.
He, again, however, refuted claims that the company was carrying out torture and other forms of maltreatment against Liberians in and around its concession area.
The police who is investigating the torture claim recently reported that it has arrested the company’s acting security manager. Others connected to the crime are still on the run.
Featured photo by David Stanley