Thursday 18 Apr 2024
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KUALA LUMPUR (July 15): Sime Darby Plantation Bhd (SDP) has dissolved its Expert Stakeholder Human Rights Assessment Commission.

In a statement, the group said the dissolution was one to provide more time for an independent evaluation of labour practices to be carried out.

SDP said while it had hoped to complete the labour practices assessment by May, the strict movement restrictions imposed in Malaysia due to Covid-19 has resulted in Impactt Ltd – an ethical trade consultant – not being able to finish its assessment.

Following this, SDP’s Sustainability Committee will take over the oversight function of the evaluation exercise.

Independent director Datuk Henry Barlow chairs the Sustainability Committee, with the other members being senior independent director and chair of the Board Governance and Audit Committee Datuk Zaiton Mohd Hassan, chair of the Board Risk Management Committee Zainal Abidin Jamal, chair of the Board Nomination and Remuneration Committee Datuk Halipah Esa, and Tunku Alizakri Raja Muhammad Alias.

The commission was first established on March 1. Both Impactt and a Stakeholder Consultation Panel make up the panel.

Impactt and the commission were appointed to undertake an evaluation of SDP’s operations, after the United States Customs and Border Protection imposed a Withhold Release Order (WRO) on oil produced from its Malaysian plantations.

The panel included human rights activist Andy Hall, Australian Human Rights lawyer Professor Justine Nolan and a representative from the National Union of Plantation Workers. According to Reuters, both Hall and Nolan have resigned from the panel effective today.

SDP said Hall will continue working with the group to review and improve its foreign worker recruitment processes.  

This work will involve collaborating in a programme aimed at creating a new standard for the ethical recruitment of foreign workers, it added.

“We would like to thank the commission, particularly Mr Hall, for their work and support over the past months”, said SDP managing director Mohamad Helmy Othman Basha.

Impactt’s evaluation of SDP’s labour practices across its Malaysian operations was to have been submitted to the panel, after which SDP, Impactt and the panel would have proceeded to agree on remediation plans.

The statement said since the assessment is incomplete, SDP has been unable to engage with the commission as anticipated, owing to the health and safety risks arising from the pandemic.

As soon as it is possible, the evaluation will resume, SDP said, adding that it will work with Impactt and other key stakeholders to review its operations.

“Whilst Impactt has carried out important work, we appreciate the limitations of a remote assessment, and the need to verify and evaluate data collected. “We want to address any gaps in our operations and thus, will continue to work proactively. 

“We are moving forward, working with Impactt and key stakeholders to protect the rights of workers and keep them safe,” Mohamad Helmy added.

SDP was the ninth-largest value loser on the local bourse today, declining 18 sen or 4.81% to RM3.56, valuing the group at RM24.62 billion.

Edited ByS Kanagaraju
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