The Legislature has summoned the Ministers of Justice and Agriculture – Cllr. Benedict Sarnoh and D. Moses Zinnah, respectively – to meet in the House Chambers on March 8, to explain why operations at the Cocopa Rubber Plantation have been halted and over 1,400 workers have not been paid their five months’ arrears and other benefits.
The House’s Plenary has also summoned the Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), Mr. Harrison Karnwea, the Chairman of the National Investment Commission (NIC), Madam Etmonia David Tarpeh and other members of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Concession (IMCC) on Tuesday, March 8, 2016 in the House’s Chamber.
Plenary has mandated its Chief Clerk to send for these public officials to appear with all necessary and significant documents.
Plenary’s decision was prompted by a letter from Nimba County District # 8 Representative Larry P. Younquoi, indulging the intervention of Plenary over fears that his kinsmen’s patience would run-out – meaning the County is on a time-bomb, if the Cocopa Rubber Plantation continues to delay the payment of the arrears of more than 1,400 workers.
“What is even more disappointing is that this interim arrangement, headed by Hon. Harrison Karnwea (a Nimbaian), has refused to make disclosure to me, the direct representative of the area, as to what is obtaining on the farm,” said Rep. Younquoi, in whose district Cocopa is located.
“Yet, I continue to get a signal that salaries are delayed beyond five months; housing allowances unpaid; health services refund unpaid, school facilities poorly managed and the planned paid-off of workers stalled,” he wrote.
“Mr. Speaker and fellow colleagues, I wish to enjoin the consciences of this body to kindly intervene in this situation so as to avoid the situation deteriorating any further,” he said.
It may be recalled that in 2012, the Government of Liberia turned the Cocopa Rubber Plantation over to the Nimba Rubber Incorporated (NRI) – a local business entity through a Receivership Arrangement headed by Mr. Harrison Karnwea.
However, the Management has failed to pay the workers for the last five months which has disrupted normal activities on the plantation, including the school and clinic located within the concession area.
The workers are reportedly threatening to engage in a public protest to block the main road leading to the southeast of Liberia from Ganta in order to bring their plight to the attention of the government.
The company’s offices have remained closed to the extent that, even security officers assigned with the company have stopped working until the management can pay their arrears.
The Legislature’s intervention, observers say, is due to what happened at the plantation in 2014 when proactive actions were not employed in a similar crisis that resulted in a violent protest that caused the destruction properties, valued at thousands of United States Dollars.
Latest reports from Ganta indicates that the families of the over 1,400 workers are planning a public protest to prevent vehicles from going to Liberia’s South East which goes through the plantation.