Archive for March, 2009

LIBERIA’S GUTHRIE PLANTATION: WHAT HAPPENED?

Posted in Uncategorized on March 29, 2009 by Nat Bayjay

The Guthrie Rubber Plantations are located in Bomi, Grand Cape Mount Counties, the western regions of Liberia.

But violence erupted there on the 19th of March, 2009 wwworkers of the plantations demonstrated against what they termed managemnt’s refusal to pay them their two months salary arrears.

 

An inter-ministerial committee was setup by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to investigate that recent violent fracas that vandalized the Guthrie Rubber Plantation in Bomi and Grand Cape Mount Counties Tuesday toured the troubled Plantation and held consultative meeting with citizens of the area at the Gba Public School.
I was fortunate to have formed a part of the assessment tour.

 

 

 

 

 
A victim of last weekend’s riot shows off a bullet still trapped in his stomach.

During the tour followed by long hours of meeting where the citizens through their representatives narrated circumstances that led to the protest, Labour Minister Samuel Kofi Woods, head of the Inter-Ministerial Committee promised that government will take action against those bearing the greatest responsibility for the incident.

 

 

Minister Woods told the Guthrie workers and other citizens that government will take the necessary steps to remedy the situation after his committee completes the investigation by speaking with the accused, Senator Lahai Lassana.

“I can assure you that government will take action against whosoever is found responsible for this incident, we will meet with the Legislative causes from Bomi and Cape Mount to ensure our investigation is objective”, Minister Woods told the citizens.

The Labour Minister said the trip of the Inter-Ministerial Committee is an assessment trip and not investigative, asserting that it was intended for fact finding.

“Thank you for welcoming us here, I know there are things you are not happy about but when you are not happy with your mother that will not break the family ship. The president is the mother of this country, even if you are not happy, you must know that the president is the mother of this country and she will listen to your concern this is why she told us to come here.

The Minister called for a team to be setup by the workers to meet with the team regularly instead of the entire citizens and requested the gathering to submit the list of a team the committee will work with.

He told the citizens all the comments made during meting were made by responsible people and will all be taken seriously for the investigation.

Minister Woods disclosed that initial report of the Committee will be submitted to the President this Friday.

Bomi County Superintendent Muhammed Massaly described the situation as unfortunate stating that in his new era of Liberia such violence is not necessary.

He said those found liable of committing violence crimes against the people of Bomi will not go free and he is sure the government will protect the rights of the people.

 

The citizens divided into sub groups-women, students, men, elders explained separately to the Inter-Ministerial Committee about the incident with nearly all the speakers pointing fingers at Bomi County Senator Lahai Lassanah for the shooting and also blaming the management team at Guthrie for ignoring the plight of the workers something they said provoked the incident.

The Guthrie workers accused the management team of the plantation of exploiting their labour by paying them low salaries and reflecting higher figures on the company’s payroll.

Displaying a document the workers said they obtained from the headquarters of the Guthrie Plantation company, the workers claimed several employees of the plantation names were reflected on a payroll for receiving 200 to 300 when they are getting less than US$100.

One of the employees whose name is listed on the payroll the workers obtained, Solomon Kandakai who was present and displayed his identification card to journalists had US$210 as salary on the payroll but said he is receiving US$60.

Dauda Metzger, Personnel Manager of the Guthrie Plantation defended that the workers do not know the difference between gross and net salaries but failed to explain the huge difference between US$210 as reflected on the Guthrie payroll for Solomon Kandakai and the US$60 the employee is paid.

Student Representative Edwin Kelly told the consultative meeting that their school campus was looted during the protest with chairs and other materials taken away.

Student Kelly told the Inter-Ministerial Committee that the schools at the plantation lack laboratory, library and other research facilities to make students prepare for the upcoming West African Examination Council (WAEC) exams.

He also complained that the students are facing transportation problem and some walk over long distances to get to school.

Majority of the speakers blamed Senator Lahia Lassana for the shooting at the plantation. “La Bagba fire and hurt our children that Bagba man must answer for what he did to us, he cannot shoot our children and go free”, Madam Theresa Karlay, women representative told the Inter-Ministerial Committee.

 

 

 

INTENSIVE LABOR MALPRACTICES AT GUTHRIE

Posted in Uncategorized on March 26, 2009 by Nat Bayjay

The vandalized Administrative Building which held the managerial offices of the Guthrie Rubber Plantations has shown evidences of unfair labor practices at the Plantations. A displayed payroll roaster showed inflation of workers’ salaries other than the actual amount being received by them. Stanley Brandy, a self-proclaimed leader of the strike actions that erupted on the Plantations last week who displayed a copy of the roaster stressed that he knows a lot of the employees whose names have larger salaries attached to their names whereas they having been receiving amounts far less than what is stipulated on the document. A particular employee identified on the rooster whose salary is reportedly inflated is Solomon Kandakai who told PFA that he has been receiving US$60 instead of the USD$120 that is reflected on the copy of the pay rooster. “I wonder to whom they have been giving the balance because only $60 I get. I was very surprised to see my name carrying USD$120 when I have been getting just half of that money”, exclaimed Mr. Kandakai who showed our reporter his company’s identification card to verify if truly indeed he is the ‘Solomon Kandakai’ whose name appears there. “But I am happy that the offices were looted so we the employees could know about some of these bad habits they’ve been carrying on here at the Plantations”, he concluded. Mr. Brandy explained during the reading of an 11-count grievance to the Inter-Ministerial Committee that the pay-document also showed several ghost names. But when Mr. Dauda Metzger, personnel manager of the company was quizzed on the matter he told reporters that the employees do not know the difference between gross pay and net pay. He emphasized that the workers need to know that there are tax, insurance, social security and other deductions including rice supplied to them from their salaries. He claimed that Kandakai, like many of the employees misjudged the issue of gross and net salaries because as a general worker (nomenclature for those who do miscellaneous jobs on the plantation), he, Mr. Kandakai, makes $30.00 daily. Mr. Metzger further explained that when calculated this will accumulate to a maximum $90 with Sundays inclusive. But what remains unanswered is the huge discrepancy between $120 and $60 even when those deductions are made. Meanwhile, the Minister of Labor who headed a team of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on an assessment tour to the Plantations promised to step into the issues of alleged labor malpractices. Minister Woods who is also the chairman of the Committee stated that this is the major reason why the Committee constitutes of the major functionaries of government so that these key issues will be dealt with accordingly. He said that the workers’ plight and concerns will be taken very seriously and revealed that an audit is being commissioned. He therefore asked them to forward all evidences and documents to the Committee while new investment negotiations are being carried out for a permanent investor to take over the company. The Inter-Ministerial Committee constitutes of the Labor, Justice, Education, Internal Affairs, Agriculture and Ministries. He promised workers of the company that indeed their plights will be adequately addressed, assuring, “I am still the same Samuel Kofi Woods. Just believe in me”.

(Photos to follow shortly)

Cleaning The Capital of Africa’s Oldest Republic

Posted in Uncategorized on March 19, 2009 by Nat Bayjay

Cleaning The Capital of Africa’s Oldest Republic

Monrovia From Atop

Monrovia From Atop

Monrovia is the capital of Liberia –Africa’s oldest Republic. For decades now,the capital’s primary challenges have been developmental and it’s  sanitatary needs. Looking at the latter, this challenge poses very serious tasks especially following the end of the 14 years of civil conflict which has left the city in filth. The City’s sewerage system is badly damaged with pipes under the  principle streets pouring out feces (toilets) and leaking out urine and toilet water. It is loaded with uncollected garbage and the sites of uncleaned and uncared for drainage.

The current government, under the leadership of Africa’s first female president, has apparently seen the need to raid Monrovia off  its protracted period of untidiness thereby leading to the appointment of Madame Mary Broh– a  lady whose past jobs has made her to be used as “a correction fluid”. Her  aggressive leadership style saw her destroying and burning down market tables in one of  Monrovia’s busiest markets while she was yet to be confirmed by the Liberian Senate.

Despite coming under extreme criticisms though with diverse opinions on both side of the coin, she proceeded to the nation’s only public university campus to carry out similarl exercise. Again, she met stiff resistance but triumphed at the end of the day. Then, yesterday the ‘cool aid'(a locally made frozen mixture of sugar and juice) factories in the commercial Bushrod Island were  targeted when Ms. Broh and team, accompanied by the representatives of the Environmental Protective Agency which saw a very filthy environment being used to produce ‘cool aid’ that are unfit for human consumption. Though the usual uproar ensued but it is important that we keep Monrovia clean.

Hello world!

Posted in Uncategorized on March 19, 2009 by Nat Bayjay

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