The head of CHICO Workers’ Union, identified as “Martin W. Kpor”, in River Gee County, has complained of being flogged by officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP), following an order by the county’s police commander.
According to Kpor, his ordeal began after his boss complained of him to the LNP county commander, Nelson Sumo, claiming that he (Kpor) had gone there to cause damage to the company’s facilities.
Kpor said upon the arrival, the police, without any investigation, began assaulting him. He said LNP officers dragged him out of the company’s fence during which he was severely injured with his arm nearly broken.
“When the police commander came, the Chinese man told him that I was not working with the company and I had gone there to cause destruction. They didn’t ask any question but started beating on me and dragging me out of the company’s compound,” he said.
Kpor said his trouble with the company started after he began advocating for the benefits of his 487 colleagues who had been dismissed by the company without any benefit or package to take back home to their families.
Martin further alleged that the company carried out the redundancy plan without any formal notice to the employees and, all the while, they were being constantly intimidated by the local authority, who they expected to speak for them. He explained that some of his co – officers of the union were also brutalized and wounded by the police.
“We [have] been working with CHICO from Buchanan until we came to River Gee County and currently we are based in Webbo, where the CHICO has her office,” he said.
This, he said, prompted him to begin his advocacy to ensure that the company does the right thing by finding compensations for the downsized workers, a move which put him at odds with the company.
“As the head of the union, it was my duty speak for my colleague workers, especially in conditions of such,” said Martin Kpor.
“I have my identification card and all relevant documents that I am an employee of the company. But the police did not care or make any inquiry only to beat on me at the request of the Chinese,” he said in tears.
Kpor said he knew that his advocacy would be a challenging task, but continued and solicited the help of Senator Mathew Jaye, who had responded positively.
But he said his effort proved unsuccessful after River Gee Superintendent Philip Q. Nyenuh, allegedly began taking sides with the company, asking the workers how they were employed and which parts of Liberia they came from.
“It was only Senator Jaye who talked on our behalf, but the superintendent marginalized us by saying we are not from the area and we got employed with the company,” he said.
CHICO is the Chinese firm that is in charge of the construction of 50 km road from Kaloken in Maryland County to Fish Town, River Gee. Several Liberians were hired by the company as both skilled and unskilled laborers.
When contacted via mobile phone on the afternoon of Tuesday, July 14, the police commander, Nelson Sumo, being skeptical of reporter, asked: “How do I know that you are a journalist?”
He began quizzing this reporter as to how the reporter got the commander’s number and from where the reporter was speaking.
Supt. Nyenuh said he was suffering from COVID-19, was currently undergoing treatment, and could not make any comment until he was well.
However, the Manager of CHICO, River Gee Project Mr. Xu Tao has denied ever giving an instruction to the police to flog any of the workers, especially the worker’s union president Mr. Kpor.
He denied even being around when the incident occurred, neither did Martin tell him anything about being beaten by police as he is alleging.
The head of HR said the police went into the compound based on security intelligence that the workers were planning to attack the asphalt plant and also destroy the offices.
“Upon the police arrival, they asked Martin and his aggrieved men to leave the compound and he Martin refused, and it was at that point that the police began forcing them out,” he said.
But, he said he was not around when the tussle was going on, neither did he know how much injury Martin sustained.
He said that the company does not employ anyone, rather they award contracts to people for six months and according to the police commander Nelson Sumo the contract of the aggrieved workers just expired in May from November last year.
“We have their back pay, but they refused to sign for it, but wanting us to give them severance pay,” he said.
He explained that the Workers Union head, Martin Kpor, has since been fired by the company in June this year and so he was no longer in the company’s employ.