The National Bureau of Concessions (NBC) has resolved the longstanding land dispute involving the management of Sime Darby Liberia and citizens of Zodwah in Garwula District, Grand Cape Mount County.
Speaking at the closing session of a day-long peace forum convened by the NBC over the weekend, NBC Director General, Gregory Coleman, informed the management of Sime Darby to explore all means possible to address the plight of citizens represented by the Zodwah Land Committee (ZLC).
Coleman reiterated the government’s continuous commitment to doing everything possible to protect the interests of citizens as well as investors.
According to Mr. Coleman, the protection of the interests of stakeholders is very crucial for business as well as the betterment of the postwar economy for sustainable growth and development.
He then informed citizens to exercise patience with the company as it endeavors to fulfill its promise to address their grievances.
In remarks, the chairman of the Zodwah Land Committee, Mr. Bah Sherman, said they had entered into a Memorandum of Understanding under which the committee provided additional land space to the company for a stipulated number of jobs for community residents.
Chairman Sherman said since the agreement was signed Sime Darby has refused to abide by the Memo after receiving huge portions of land from the citizens of Zodwah community.
The Zodwah Land Committee chairman also named road rehabilitation, provision of better education and safe drinking water as additional aspects of the MoU that the company had promised citizens of the communities.
Sherman emphasized the need for the NBC to ensure that the agreement signed between the company and the Land Committee in the presence of the NBC Director General is complied with by Sime Darby.
Also making remarks at the forum, the Operations Manager of Sime Darby Liberia, David Koredia, informed the NBC that even though the MoU had not been implemented in the past, he was sure that his management would speedily study it and start working in line with the agreement.
He recalled that the same MoU had been under scrutiny by management over the past eight years, it will act soonest so that the tension in the communities can be addressed by going back to the agreement signed by all sides.
Koredia promised to award contracts to the Land Committee, stating that his management will decide on these issues soon.
The Sime Darby Manager vowed to address the issue of citizens of the Zodwah community as it relates to taking them from contractual status to full employees.
According to him, some contractual workers are saying that they have worked for the company for more than six years and deserve to be full-time employees of Sime Darby in line with both Liberian and international labor standards.
Sime Darby is an oil palm company with majority interest holders from Malaysia.
The company operates in parts of both Cape Mount and Bomi Counties in Western Liberia.