President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf says part of the causes resulting to some unfortunate incidence at Golden Veroleum Liberia’s operations is due to government “not fully engaging the communities.”
Mrs. Sirleaf made the comment after receiving letters of credence from Indonesian Ambassador to Liberia, Mr. Harry Purwanto at her office at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Monrovia.
Golden Veroleum Liberia or GVL is an Indonesian oil palm concession company that began operations here following negotiations between the Government of Liberia and its Indonesian counterpart to invest in the agriculture sector.
In May this year, GVL announced a force majeure after protesting youths in Butaw, Sinoe County, southeast Liberia allegedly attacked and looted the oil palm company’s operations site and wounded workers and a government official.
“There has been some unfortunate incidences, part of it comes from our own not fully engaging the communities way back there in the beginning; sit with the communities where sometimes they do not realize the benefits that are accrued from some of these large scale operations that we do,” President Sirleaf said.
She said Golden Veroleum’s operations are very important to Liberia and it is one of the major cornerstones of government’s diversification to transformation.
“We’ve been to your country; we had a state visit there – we met with the company officials; we met with your President and we all had high hopes that we can follow in the oil palm industry the same path that you have…” she told Ambassador Purwanto.
Sometimes, she said “we meet,” but that information doesn’t get down to the people in the community at the village level and so they do not know and their expectations are high.
As such, she says when those high expectations held by the locals are not met, they sometimes show their dissatisfaction.
But President Sirleaf says she believes that majority of the people in the areas of their concessions realize the benefits, adding, the benefits are beginning to show in form of housing, jobs, and infrastructure.
The Liberian leader said government will like to work with the Indonesian Ambassador accredited here to see how a program that will involve the communities could be held so that they will understand.
But she said an outreach program, which hasn’t started, was very important because it would have communities know that they have long term benefits from cooperation with investors that come in.
“So we must work together on that so that we make them economically viable in their own communities, on their own land as a part of concession land; they can grow oil palm, they can sell it to the company,” she suggested.
Additionally, President Sirleaf spoke of value addition, saying Liberia has for too long imported primary commodities and government thought this was an opportunity move to another stage.
She wants oil palm to be processed here into all kinds of finished products, as a way of moving Liberia towards industrialization as Indonesia, Malaysia and other countries have done.
“So we want to work with you and resolve some of those problems, we want to see Golden Veroleum succeed fully,” she assured the ambassador. For his part, Ambassador Purwanto emphasized his commitment to do his utmost to find ways and means to explore Liberia’s potentials; know the people and encourage for more to be done on the Liberia-Indonesia relationship.
Indonesian envoy said he looks forward to meeting more people in Liberia to learn the concerns and challenges they face as well as to learn more on the best practices and success story of the country. By Winston W. Parley – Editing by Jonathan Browne