The security officers on the Sime Darby oil palm plantation in Western Liberia were recently captured on a video camera brutalizing an already handcuffed criminal suspect.
Our reporter, Simeon Wiakanty, said in our front page second lead story yesterday that had a citizen journalist not captured the incident on his video camera, Sime Darby would have vehemently denied that such a terrible incident had ever occurred on their plantation. Is that not what happens in numerous cases of police brutality, especially against black young men in America?
That reminds us of a similar, although worse incident that occurred at the Correction Palace in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County in the late 1970s, when the commander of the Correction Palace, a close relative of President William R. Tolbert, shot and killed a helpless and totally confined prisoner whose feet were already locked in sticks! The commander, only in his forties and drunk with power, even though the President’s nephew, spent the rest of his days in prison, where he died in the mid-1980s.
President Tubman was one day in the mid-1960s walking along with a young Information Department reporter on the fourth floor of the Executive Mansion when the President spied a group of well-armed soldiers sitting quietly at their post. Said the President to the young reporter, “You have got to be careful with those ones. They are mean men.”
It turns out that it is not only government soldiers, police and other state security personnel that can be “mean men,” but even those of some private enterprises. It seems to us, however, that private companies doing business in Liberia have to control their security officers and other officials working for them and encourage them to treat fellow employees and the pubic with decency and respect. These security personnel and other high officials have to be very careful how they deal with the people working for the company and public, even with people suspected of mischief making or crime on company premises.
There are in every situation such things as good, ethical behavior, respect for human rights and the rule of law, which in any situation should always be observed. This is not to say that we are attempting to encourage wrong doing or any kind of criminal behavior on company premises. What we are saying is that people should be treated with respect in any situation, and even in the eventuality of crime, there are such things as the rule of law and legal considerations which should be observed.
Yes, state security and some paramilitary operatives can be “mean men”. But in the corporate world it is important for a company to maintain a positive public image in order to gain official and public respectability.
The Liberian civil conflict ended in 2003 and the country has for the past 13 years been governed by democratically elected regimens. We are no longer being operated by a Charles G. Taylor dictatorship, with companies such as the Oriental Timber Company (OTC), which President Taylor allowed to lord over people and resources, most especially our forests, with total disregard for corporate responsibility and with absolute impunity.
We are now learning that when the true story of Arcelor Mittal is told, the previous Liberian political administration allowed this company to operate with equal impunity, including duty free everything for decades, leaving poor Liberia and the Liberian people to get hardly anything out of the deal. This company did not even pave the already existing Ganta-Yekepa road it promised to pave. It looks like another LAMCO, where not even the people of Nimba County, whose land produced the precious mineral, iron ore, and Liberia as a whole gained very little out of this operation (LAMCO) that yielded billions of United States dollars for the American, Canadian and Swedish investors, leaving Liberia and Liberians with nothing.
It is now becoming clear that it was Arcelor Mittal that blocked Liberia and Guinea from proceeding with the most lucrative Mirfugi investment that would have allowed the Guineans to ship their iron ore through the Port of Buchanan in Grand Bassa County.
The government of President George Manneh Weah, with its “pro-poor” agenda, must revisit and correct this monumental economic blunder and allow the Mirfugi operation to proceed full speed and create serious and profitable economic cooperation between the two sister Republics of Guinea and Liberia.
This deal will create thousands of jobs for both Guineans and Liberians, and even facilitate not only railway shipment of iron ore, but passenger rail, making travel between Guinea and Liberia speedier and more comfortable.