LIBERIA: Sime Darby’s Response to The Inquirer’s Article

SDIMonrovia, 26 July 2016 – In reference to the article published in The Inquirer on July 25th headlined “Sime Darby Given 14 days Ultimatum” , Sime Darby Plantation Liberia (SDPL) would lik e to inform all our stakeholders who have been assisting us and the communities in this matter, that SDPL has received a letter from the communities that is in substance the source of the story published in The Inquirer .

The letter was signed by Eshmeal H. Pusah, Sr . and Jefferson V . Paasewe, claiming to be, respectively, new Secretary and new Chairman of the Project Affected Community. The le‚er was also signed by 65 residents of the 15 townships which are part of the 17 project affected communities (P AC).

SDPL tak es seriously the concerns raised by the community, and that is why SDPL established the independent multi-stakeholder crop compensation  investigation process that would review the evidence and make recommendation  on how best to resolve the issue.

Meanwhile, SDPL seeks to set the record straight. Contrary to the claims of the signatories of the letter that there are no health facility , no toilets and no hand pumps, SDPL would lik e to clarify:

(i) Since 2010, it has been operaࢢng a health clinic located in Bomi Estate. The clinic provides free medical assistance to some 30,000 people a year . This clinic has been open continuously, even during the Ebola outbreak, when most other clinics were closed. The clinic employs one doctor and 46 qualified support personnel.

(ii) SDPL has been financing and running 7 schools, employing 130 highly qualified teachers, and providing education to 5,500 students from all the surrounding townships. The SDPL centralized school system has been in operation on since 2010.

(iii) Over and above the 7 schools, the company built and has been operation and

funding a 12-classroom community school dedicated exclusively to the needs of the P AC.

(iv) Thirty six water pumps have been built and maintained in the P AC areas.

(v) Sixty five latrines have been built and maintained across the area of operaࢢons.

(vi)  Each SDPL employee, including employees from the P AC, receives 100 kg of rice a month.

Each P AC household has at least one person employed by Sime Darby , a measure that effectively provides jobs to over 700 P AC residents.

T o address the issue of food security , in 2013, the company assisted the P AC to establish an intensive f arming project on 60ha of land. More than 400 farmers from 15 towns participated in this community f arming project.  SDPL also provided the P AC with 99 sheep for breeding purposes.

On the issue of crop compensation, SDPL clarifies:

  1. Farmers from the 17 P ACs around SDPL’s Matambo Estate received crop compensation in 2011 based on the then existing rates established by the Ministry of Agriculture.
  1. In response to P AC complaints that they have not been paid for all of their crops or that they have been paid at a rate that was not correct, the company decided to examine the evidence and agreed to pay additional compensation to those who could present evidence.
  1. The multi-stakeholder crop compensation investigation committee was subsequently established comprising the P AC, civil society, SDPL and the Government of Liberia. The committee’s work encountered several challenges as the matter is complex and evidence was difficult to find.
  1. The multi-stakeholder internal investigation committee (IIC), comprising Government of Liberia and civil society , is ready to start the investigation, after a delay caused by the death of the P AC Chairman, Mohammed Karmo, and to review the claims of each individual farmer .
  1. In order to move the process forward, the company submitted all its crop compensation records to the Ministry of Internal Affairs as a custodian and arbiter.
  2. SDPL regrets that the farmers and the NGO representing them decided to walk away from that process and gave us this ultimatum.

SDPL is committed to working with all stakeholders for the purpose of achieving a f air outcome for the P AC. At the same ࢢme, SDPL acknowledges that the initial  Free Prior and Informed  Consent process conducted in 2011 with the 17 communities around Matambo Estate was not as robust as it should have been. It has been much improved since then, with the assistance of The Forest T rust (TFT), government of Liberia, and civil society organization.

SDPL ’ s strongly believes that to have a successful business in Liberia, it must tak e good care of its employees, environment and the communities  we work and interact with. The company expects that with the growth of its business there will be more opportunities to have additional positive impact on the livelihood of the surrounding communities, the regions we operate within, and the whole country.

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About Cholo Brooks 14342 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.