The visit attended by LEITI Head of Secretariat Samson S. Tokpah; Deputy Head of Secretariat Konah D. Karmo; Technical Officer Benetta Ackah and Communications and Outreach Officer Samson Wonnah, is part of efforts by the Secretariat to enhance collaboration and understanding amongst stakeholders of the EITI process.
Mr. Roslin Azmyhassan, Sime Darby Head of Project, in an introductory statement said, the meeting was necessary to allow the company share with the Secretariat, some of the many contributions it is making towards sustainable economic growth and human development in Liberia.
Highlighting some of these contributions in a lengthy Power Point presentation, Mr. Azmyhassan said, the companies has up to date employed over 2,600 Liberians as against the 1,500 workforce earlier proposed for each plantation and has also constructed over 180 housing units meeting modern standards, to accommodate these employees and their dependants. He also said that each housing estate has been provided with a high school, a clinic and a day care center where parents could take their infants while away from home.
The Sime Darby Head of Project also noted that contrary to the negative image being created by the media and some NGOs, the company is fully committed to responsible business practices and remain accountable to the government and the communities. “We have signed up and are committed to many international protocols promoting responsible business”
Dispelling reports that the company was encroaching on the communities’ land, Mr. Azmyhassan said that Sime Darby recognizes the community’s land rights and has left untouched all land regarded sacred by the communities for burial, religious and other purposes, as well as left buffer zones to allow the local engage in farming. “In fact, we are still operating within the same limit that Gutherie operated. We have not gone beyond and have not encroached on anyone’s property”.
A tour of the Central Clinic in the plantation show huge flow of patients including children, pregnant women and aged people. Mr. Sam T. Moore, the Head Physician at the Clinic said, the Clinic has the highest patient intake in the community with a daily flow of about 100 persons. He said the upkeep of the Clinic including drug supplies and compensation for staff is solely funded by the Sime Darby. He said, the Clinic has 12 rooms with short stay and laboratory facilities.
The Visiting LEITI staff also toured the Bomi Estate Elementary and Junior High School in the plantation, where over 500 students were in attendance. Mr. S. Daffa Zinna a Teacher said, the school has a current enrollment of over 800 students mostly comprising of dependents of the company’s employees as well as other children from the nearby communities.
Mr. Azmyhassan said, despite all the progress made by the company, one of their major challenges remains the negative propaganda they have received in the media. However, he noted that the communities are now recognizing their contributions and are welcoming them in almost every quarter.
For his part, LEITI Boss Samson S. Tokpah call for increased collaboration that will ensure the LEITI understands what Sime Darby and all other extractive companies are doing and that they too understand the EITI process and are contributing to resource transparency.
Wednesday’s visit was a follow-up to the Secretariat’s meeting with four Agricultural companies last week—including Sime Darby—during which discussions were held on several issues relating to improving relations and collaborations amongst stakeholders of the process.