According to the SRIL National Chairman B.S. Kanneh, immediately upon hearing of the violence, they moved in to ascertain the facts and circumstances that predicated the violence.
“Our inquisition established that the citizens were protesting on grounds that a lady had disappeared from the plantation’s hospital while seeking treatment, even though there are reports that the said lady has been found. The vandals accused the plantation’s management of being knowledge about the disappearance, hence the violent protest,” SRIL said in a press release.
According to SRIL, while the organization does not support the mysterious disappearance of anyone, it equally disagrees with the violent approach adopted by community dwellers which led to the destruction of the Lofa and Bomi estates, two security booths and the burning of thousands of oil palm trees of the company.
“We insist that the use of violence to seek redress is illegal, primitive and counterproductive to the stability of the state; as such, we call on relevant state authorities to launch an immediate investigation into the matter with the aim of bring the perpetrators of said violence and de4structino to justice,” Kanneh stated, noting that the attitude of vandalizing the assets and facilities of concessions whenever a group of persons feels aggrieved is totally unbecoming and if not addressed immediately, could lead to investment’s apathy and subsequent withdrawal of investors from Liberia.
“Investors in our country deserve all the protection from the government so as not to feel in secured, as insecurity is a major factor that leads to withdrawal of investment,” the SRIL release said.
SRIL also noted that Sime Darby’s investment in Liberia has brought a new meaning to several Liberians who are either directly employed or being sustained from the company’s employment. Hundreds of Liberian children living in and around the company’s facilities now have access to education and health care, while employees’ family members are benefitting from free education and health services at the plantation’s school and hospital respectively. “Do we want to rub ourselves off these opportunities by destroying such investment and driving our partners away?” SRIL wondered.
The reform rights group believes that anyone or group of persons who comes in defiance of the law must be reprimanded. Liberia has come too far with its recovery efforts and cannot afford to revert to the days where violence and destruction are the order of the day.
The government of Liberia now has the burden of responsibility to speedily investigate this act of violence and destruction so as to penalize the perpetrators and set precedence moving forward. Anything on the contrary could undermine the stability of the country’s business environment, thereby scaring away investors and other partners, SRIL cautioned.