Sunday evening I received a call from my professional colleague, Mr. Alphonso G. Toweh, Managing Editor/ Publisher of the New Republic Newspaper to join him the next day, Monday, April 11, to form part of a team of journalists to visit the Sime Darby Plantation-a Malaysian oil palm company operating in Liberia.
The planned trip came just a few days after the media reported that a woman who earlier sought medical attention at the Company’s facilities was missing and that some angry individuals were pointing fingers, on grounds that certain people may have abducted the woman for alleged ritualistic reasons.
A burnt portion of the plantation
The situation led to an arson attack on three estates of the Sime Darby Plantation, allegedly by some elements or the very group that had gone there to seek the Company’s approval to conduct a search among the palm trees.
A portion of the plantation before the incident
After wide media reports that the woman in question got missing, she was found a few days later. However, the damage had already been done to the company- I am talking about the reported arson attack.
” Jacob, we have not spoken for some time now ,but I realized that you have been covering stories from Sime Darby since 2010, so could you join us tomorrow for us to try to establish the extent of damage through investigation.” Alphonso said on the phone.
As God would have it, I joined my colleagues to go on the scene to try to report the stories by talking with Bomi County citizens- youth, women, traditional leaders and the superintendent of Bomi, Mr. Samuel Brown. All of them condemned the incident and called for legal action against those who may be found guilty during investigation.
We also talked with several top level managers of the plantation, especially those who are managing some of the estates of the oil palm company (Mr. Augustine Allie, Mr. Zolu Seh and Mr. James Kpenkel).
We equally sought the company’s approval to drive through the plantation in order to see for ourselves how the fire affected the company, including the level of damage, set back and the way forward in terms of prevention and what was the company’s position in the wake of increasing violence at its facilities.
When we started driving through the plantation, I was actually disappointed after noticing how the fire affected a company that has been helping to provide jobs for us as a country.
Only a detailed investigation will establish who may have set the palm trees on fire.
Nature of destruction:
We were told that the April 5 arson attack left 113 hectors destroyed, meaning a little over eighteen thousand palm trees in the three affected estates. Those in authority at Sime Darby also said the damaged palm trees had already reached maturity and were no ready for harvest. What a set back!
Can all of us imagine how long it took the company to plant those palm trees, how much they invested , both material and financial wise to get to the level at which the reported arson took place.
Is it that we have not realized that increasing lawless practices, including arson attacks, have the propensity to scare way potential investors and hold back our own progress as a nation country?
Since the inception of the Unity Party led Government headed by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, efforts continue to be made to move Liberia forward.
These efforts, among other important things include constant discussions with the international community to identify with our country in various aspects: job creation, capacity-building programs to help boost or build the country’s broken human resource capacity, scholarships, image building opportunities, among others.
But it seems that some individuals are not prepared to see a better Liberia where law and order will triumph over lawlessness, where the cultural and religious values of others are respected, where public facilities and those of concessionaires are protected by all of us, and where prosperity- through great employment opportunities and economic viability will triumph over poverty and frustration.
Let’s get the records straight before going further in this opinion. I am not suggesting that people do not have the right to seek redress whenever they feel offended. But what always sets my heart on psychological fire is, when some people, in the name of advocacy adopt the wrong approach, perhaps to make their concerns known to government or relevant authorities.
Stabbing ourselves in the back?
It is dangerous for people to always do things that amount to stabbing ourselves in the back while at the same time crying for help from others.
Recollection of arson and mob violence:
Some time ago it was in Nimba County- where violent activities affected the facilities of Mittal Steel, the other time it was at Golden Veroleum in Sinoe County, though not arson related.
At another point a police depot was set ablaze in River Gee County. There have been numerous other cases of attacks on public facilities, including mob actions in many parts of Liberia, just to cite a few.
For those who may see me as trying to cry for Sime Darby, or crying more than the bereaved, you have the right to your opinion. But what I always like to mention every time my colleagues give me the space in their papers, including the online version of the Liberia Broadcasting System to share my idea on crucial national issues, I am proudly one of the many Liberians who love this country, not through words by deeds as well.
It this way, I will always use my skills to help educate, inform and enlighten the public about practices that could stop the ship from peacefully sailing through to the land of unending opportunities for all of us, irrespective of any status in society. Again, let’s stop stabbing ourselves in the back.
A hint to the wise is quite sufficient!
The author is reachable through: 0886560455/0777604576 or firstname.lastname@example.org