Ever since 2012 sand miners for the Chinese company LICHI have been trying to obtain payment of the US$100,892 which they say the company owes them.
The employees’ lawyer, Attorney Massaquoi, sued the company in the Commercial Court, presided over by Judge Eva Mappy Morgan. The case was handled by Associate Judge Richard S. Klah, who held the company liable after it failed to settle with the employees.
According to court records, the employees had supplied to the company on credit 4,586 loads of river sand for which they charged US$100,892, at the rate of US$22 per load.
Upon the company’s failure to pay the amount owed the employees, the court seized a bulldozer and two vehicles belonging to the company.
The employees were expected to receive their pay from the LICHI last Thursday, but surprisingly, when they arrived at the Temple of Justice, they neither got their pay nor did they find anywhere on the Temple of Justice premises the bulldozer and the two vehicles that had been confiscated. At that point, feeling betrayed by their own court system, the sand miners stormed the Commercial Court. This led the judges and staff to seek refuge in their offices as security officers prevented the angry workers from entering the courtroom.
There were, fortunately, no physical attack and no property damage during the fray.
Chief Judge Eva Morgan swiftly intervened and pleaded for a conference with the workers for yesterday, January 12.
When the employees and their lawyer approached Associate Judge Klah to find out why the company’s confiscated items had been released, Judge Klah told them that the company’s management, through their legal team, had “raised legal issues” which needed to be discussed.
Angry and disappointed, some of the workers were heard lamenting that “There is no justice in this country” and complaining that the Judges had “colluded with the company to deny us our money, but that will not happen even if it causes our death.” They even threatened to proceed to the office of the Chief Justice.
Several questions arise. First, how did Judge Klah come to release the company’s seized assets? Was he intimidated by the company’s lawyers? Why did he do this when he knew the company’s workers had not yet been paid? Did the company’s lawyers make any commitment to pay its workers, or does it expect to get away scot free? Do the Judicial officials, including those of the Commercial Court, know what it means for their own citizens to cry, “There is no justice in this country”?
Surely that is a lamentation no judicial official takes pleasure in hearing.
We plead with all the judicial officials, beginning with those of the Commercial Court, to deal expeditiously with this matter and ensure that the sand miners are paid in full as soon as possible.
There are two other concerns that we would like to raise quickly in this Editorial: First, does the government have a close watch on sand mining and what it is doing to our bridges and our environmental system?
Second, is it true that the Chinese have taken over the sand business in Liberia?
These two questions are critical to both our country’s environmental health and to Liberian business. Have we truly given away everything in business to foreigners? Is there anyone in government who knows about this? What is the response?