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Villagers reject report on Sime Darby

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Villagers in Bomi and Grand Cape Mount counties, Western Liberia have slammed recent reports by a Canadian based newspaper, “La Presse’” under the caption: ‘A model that has been proven’ and ‘Farmers in turmoil.’

From L-R, Sylvester Varney Folley, PAC Chairman Mustapha Foboi, Paramount Chief Fakamu Samukai, Chief Armah Freeman and Mr. Abdul Sombai

According to the traditional leaders and elders of the two counties, the reports by the La Presse’ contain serious inaccuracies and misrepresentation of their views about Sime Darby’s operation in the area.

Addressing a joint press conference in Baka– Kenemah, on Saturday, March 29, 2014 the Chairman of the Project Affected Communities (PAC) Mustapha, accompanied by Clay District Paramount Chief, Fakamu Samukai, Chief Elder and official spokesman of Gobla Clan, as well as the two people named in the article to have spoken to the La Presse’ condemned the publication.

Abdul Sombai, of Baka village who sounded angry, challenged the publication and termed it as a lie. He said it is true that he met a “white man” but did not make any comment as reported by the paper.

“As I said, the white men came here. The things he wrote, is not what I said. I didn’t spoil Sime Darby name; because we love this company! Before the company came here, we made the decision. So everything that the Whiteman wrote is a lie. Right now, we are working with the company;”Sombai asserted.

Varney Folley, who was named as Sylvester Folley in the La Presse’ report said it is strange that an article will quote him as saying “Unless they come kill everyone, we will continue to say no.”

“I am the development chairman for my clan, how can I say that we don’t want Sime Darby. How did I arrive at that decision?”Folley asked in surprise.

Folley further said if his clan has any issue with Sime Darby there is sufficient platform to discuss it, rather than taking it to the press. Sime Darby alongside other stakeholders has a regular monthly meeting with the communities called the Sustainable Partnership Initiative (SPI). The SPI was launched by SDPL and Green Advocates (a Liberian NGO) on March 9, 2013.

It is designed as a multi-stakeholder platform, involving local communities, civil society organizations, government and its agencies, international organizations and academic institutions, working together to provide Sime Darby Plantation Liberia and the local communities in the area of its operation with guidance on social and environmental issues. SPI’s ultimate objective is to develop a new, sustainable model for large scale plantation development in Liberia. Folley believes with the availability of such a platform like the SPI, citizens are able to put forward their grievances and get redress.

“With regards to the statement that I Sylvester Folley said that Gobla Clan, Malamah Gobla and Golode, will not accept Sime Darby and we don’t need Sime Darby is a blatant Lie.” The community leaders expressed more frustration, as they told journalists about the alluring opportunities that have accompanied the coming of Sime Darby into their region.

Paramount Chief Fakamu Samkai, said if his people from Gobla had any disenchantment over the operation of Sime Darby, they would not have given their land to the company. He said the company’s operation has brought a lot of benefits, including school for school-going kids and well as access to good road.

“We never said that we don’t want SimeDaby. We want Sime Darby to work in our area. We understand that Sime Darby is an investor that has come to our area.  But to start any good thing is hard, but now Sime Darby is trying their best. Our roads are good and our children are in school to be good citizens”, the chief said with a heavy voice.

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