MONROVIA, Montserrado – The House of Representatives has charged the management of Sime Darby Plantation Liberia with legislative contempt for providing fake testimonies in its torture allegations case.
The lawmakers took the decision on Thursday following the appearance of officials representing the company before the legislature.
The Malaysian oil palm company has been accused of torturing and manhandling residents in and around its concession areas after a video was released on social media showing a man who identified himself as John David severely tortured for allegedly stealing a palm fruit bunch.
The company’s managing director, David Parker, however, denied knowledge of incidents of torture and mistreatments against residents by the company.
“Sime Darby Plantation Liberia does not condone, in any way, the use of violence and any mistreatment of its employees or anyone in regard to theft,” Parker told the lawmakers.
David, who was victimized in the video, has told police investigators that the men who tortured him were acting under the authority of the plantation, but the company’s managing director informed the lawmakers that he could not identify anyone in the video.
“They are part of a police investigation now that will identify everybody in the video to verify where and when the video was made,” he noted.
It was, however, seen as a contradiction when Parker also told the lawmakers that the company had suspended its security manager in relation to the video and that their security team was reviewing current security activities and would report in three weeks on the measures to be taken to avoid recurrence of the torture incident.
The speaker of the House, Bhofal Chambers, took exception to the testimony, saying the Sime Darby managers were providing a fake account of the truth.
“It seems to us that our witnesses are willfully lying to us. It appears to us that they are misleading us. It is unacceptable. We will not be condoning adults coming here acting as though they are innocent infants,” Chambers said.
He called for an emergency executive session, after which the lawmakers voted to hold the company’s management in contempt and summoned it for reappearance on Tuesday, April 23 to give reasons on why the contempt charge should be dismissed.
Police Inspector General Patrick Sudue told journalists at the Ministry of Information press briefing on Thursday that the Liberia National Police has asked authorities of the Sime Darby Plantation to produce the three employees accused of torture.
Sudue disclosed that the police had arrested the company’s acting security manager, Boima Feika, who was also seen in the video along with others who are still at large.
Earlier, the company issued a statement responding to the video. It clarified that except for Feika, the rest of the individuals seen carrying out the torture were not its employees.
Featured photo courtesy of David Stanley