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SOCFIN’s hired Security Guards beat up Sick Man in Malen Chiefdom for Palm Fruits

By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya

A press release from Green Scenery says on the 20th of July 2016 eight private security guards of Sharp Security attached to the Socfin Agricultural Company in Malen Chiefdom allegedly attacked community members of Walleh village, claiming they were in possession of palm fruits belonging to the company.

According to the release which was issued on the 18th of August 2016, “in an attempt to effect an arrest and to confiscate the palm fruits in-process, the Sharp Security personnel, led by Daddy Sama and another man known as Sorie, physically manhandled and beat up Samking Musa and Musa Mammy who had recently undergone surgery. Both men were processing palm oil when the Sharp Security men pounced on them”.

Reports say after the beating, Musa Mammy’s condition rapidly deteriorated and the sick man was rushed to the police in Pujehun, who made a referral to the Government hospital. According to the Malen Affected Land Owners and Users Association (MALOA), Musa Mammy’s family had to pay 200,000 Leones for admission and treatment.

Samking Musa, Musa Mammy and several community people stated that the fruits in question had been plucked from palm trees left in the bushes around the village. “A few lucky people still have small portions of oil palm trees that were not bulldozed by Socfin due to their proximity to villages on account of the buffer zones. These people are now being harassed and beaten. Is this not a blatant abuse of human rights?” says Sima Mattia, Secretary General of (MALOA). In an email to the Non-Governmental Organisation Green Scenery, MALOA expressed apprehension that so far “the police has not done much to investigate the Walleh incident.”

According to Green Scenery, the email states further, that “the police told the victims that they have received a counter report from the security and can therefore not take any further action.” Green Scenery questions the means at the hands of Sharp Security or Socfin to determine who owns which palm fruits. Due to beatings, an unwell man’s condition was made worse and his family was made to pay an unbearable sum for medical treatment.

We tried to get back to the Company General Manager Philip Tonks for feedback on the matter but proved futile. Green Scenery claimed “there has been no reaction from Socfin since in spite of a reminder sent to him by text on Friday 12th August, 2016”.

According to Green Scenery, “the Walleh incident shows blatant abuse of the rules of engagement on how to effect arrest and consequently poor policing. Such high handedness has inflicted further hardship on the livelihood of innocent community people”.

“The Police which is the lawful constituted body must investigate the Walleh incident to ascertain the facts with objectivity. Equally so, the Sharp Security agency must institute their investigation against the eight security guards headed by Daddy Sama and Sorie and bring disciplinary action against them,” says Joseph Rahall, the Executive Director of Green Scenery.

The Green Scenery release states that on August 12th 2016, the Local Unit Commander Mr. Brewah informed Green Scenery in a telephone conversation that he has not heard of the Walleh incident. However, he stated that he was aware of situations in Malen Chiefdom where private security would impound palm oil passing through the chiefdom and company checkpoints. “We are putting modalities in place to ensure that these challenges are surmounted,” LUC Brewah told Green Scenery.

Green Scenery has documented many accounts of matters of this nature. For instance, in Banaleh, Momoh Aruna was apprehended by private security personnel while processing his own palm harvest. He was taken to Sahn, the Chiefdom headquarters, and asked to pay 500,000 Leones to the Chiefs in order to be released.

The entire Pujehun District is well known for its trade fairs where community people normally converge to buy or sell local food stuffs. In Gbondape trade fairs occur on Tuesdays and Wednesdays while in Pujehun on Thursdays and in Fonima on Fridays.

These trade fairs attract people within the district with agricultural products including palm oil which for most times would be passing through or originating from the chiefdom. “The LUC confirmed that misapprehension between community people and private security personnel occurs continuously as it is difficult to discern between palm oil or palm fruits belonging to SOCFIN and those products originating from left over bushes or those that are just passing through the chiefdom and heading for markets” Green Scenery’s release says.

In a matter of urgency, Green Scenery urges the police to quickly take appropriate steps to forestall this development from becoming a pattern of rights abuse.

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