Reports from the former Sime Darby Plantation Liberia (SDPL) in Bomi and Grand Cape Mount counties, respectively say all Malaysians who previously worked there have left the plantation in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic coupled with some technical reasons, local workers there disclosed.
"It is true that there is no Malaysian at the plantation. When the COVID-19 started, all of them left," Amos Kandakai, a contractor explained.
Following the takeover of SDPL last year by a new company, MANO, the Government of Liberia and the new buyers agreed that a technical team of Malaysians would remain at the plantation to carry out technical work.
"From my understanding, there were no cordial relations between the new company and the Malaysians. Sometime, when the Malaysians give technical advice, it will not be honored by the new management team. So, maybe it was what made the people to leave," another employee added.
Similar situation took place in 2014 during the Ebola outbreak here, and for safety concerns, they left, some said.According to part of the agreement, the Malaysians were to remain at the plantation to help with some technical work for about a year. They would have been paid by the head office in Malaysia and not the new company.
SDPL signed a 63-year concession agreement with the Liberian government during the regime of former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2009 to develop 220,000 hectares of land in Grand Cape Mount, Bomi, Gbarpolu and Bong Counties into oil palm and rubber plantations. But the company was not able to develop even half of it due to the unavailability of land and other technical problems. Management only developed 10,500 hectors.
The head of a Civil Society organization operating in Cape Mount, Alex K. Balo also confirmed to this paper that no Malaysian is at the plantation currently."My understanding is that all of them have left the plantation. The understanding is that since they know a lot about the technical work, they should remain there to help and they would be paid by their head office in Kualalumpur and not the new company."
Some officials from the workers union admitted that all the Malaysian expatriates have left the plantation. "We do not know if they will come back. But from what we have been told by some of our friends from here, they may not come back."
When the plantation office was contacted, a senior officer, who prefers anonymity, said they may return after the pandemic but nobody can estimate when the pandemic will be over and when will global air traveling resume to normal.Early this year, Sime Darby Plantation Berhad (SDP) the parent company of SDPL, announced the completion of sale of its entire 100% equity interest in Sime Darby Plantation (Liberia) Inc. to Mano Palm Oil Industries Limited (MPOI).
Under the SPA, SDP's entire equity in SDPL was sold to MPOI for a total cash consideration of USD 1 plus an Earn-Out Payment, the sum of which will be determined by the average future crude palm oil (CPO) price and future CPO production of SDPL in 2022. The earn-out consideration is payable in equal quarterly installments over a period of eight (8) years, commencing April 2023.
Sime Darby Behed MD, Mohamad Helmy Othman Basha
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