‘I have no right to cancel Sime Darby deal’ – Sen. Johnson lashes at critics

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Front Page Africa | 23 March 2012

By J. RUFUS PAUL
 
“I can only compel the people of Sime Darby plantation to live up to the social side of the agreement the company entered into with the Liberian government, but for me as a Senator, I have no right or power to cancel that contract”, these were the words of Bomi County Senator, Sando Johnson when spoke at a news conference Monday.

Address a press conference at his Capital building office in Monrovia, the Senator indicated that Sime Darby’s contract was entered into by the Liberian government and as such, only the government has power to cancel it.

“The issue of people creating problems for investors in this country has to stop because these things also chase away potential investors wanting to come and do business with Liberia,” the Bomi County lawmaker noted.

Continued Senator Johnson: “It sounds so funny to me when I hear some people say I took money from Sime Darby in other to allow them take over lands in Bomi. How possible is that?

Am I the one giving out lands to concession holders in this country? But that is beside the point; the issue of me taking money from Sime Darby is a black lie. At no point in time did I take a cent from that company for any reason”, Senator Johnson said.  According to the Senator, he has seen the level of development including road construction, schools and clinics being carried out by Sime Darby in the region.

“Sime Darby needs to be commended for the level of development they are carrying out instead of just criticizing them,” he said.

“I visited the plantation the last time to see workers condition but it took me by surprise to note that Sime Darby is the highest paying plantation in Liberia. They even pay far more then Firestone Rubber Plantation.”

Farmers have been given money for their land by Sime Darby, but the compensation according to them is generally only calculated for one harvest. Some farmers have complained that they were given US$200 for land they used to grow rice and cassava on.

The farmers knew that compensation was inadequate while on the other hand, the Sime Darby investments did not bring many jobs for the local people. Residents in the region are also of the belief that government failed to ensure investors act properly to protect community interests.

The native people in Western Liberia where Sime Darby operates have found out that the company, which has invested huge sums of money in Liberia, was by far the most controversial concessionaire among the four companies, Golden Veroleum, Sime Darby, Arcelor Mittal and Putu Iron Ore Mining Corporation currently investing in Liberia.

The country has signed natural resource deals with foreign investors, mainly in iron ore and palm oil, amounting to a total projected value of around $19bn. According to reports, these deals cover almost half of the country's total landmass.

The report also estimates that corporate taxes and royalties from these deals could amount to $2bn in the next 10 years, although it may take a while for the government to see this money.
Original source: FrontPageAfrica
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