Sime Darby’s response to report by Basta! and Friends of the Earth Liberia

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(Photo: Basta! and Friends of the Earth)
Sime Darby | 14 December 2012

Sime Darby’s response to report by Basta! and Friends of the Earth Liberia

Sime Darby is proud to be a significant investor in Liberia. As a Malaysian company, it knows from experience how palm oil plantations can help to stimulate a young economy. It believes that its investment will bring about positive change to the people of Liberia. As this report itself states, the concept of foreign investment in agriculture is supported by the IMF and the World Bank, and such investments can bring about the revitalisation of an economy devastated by war.

To that end, as well as providing employment in Liberia, Sime Darby has built schools, medical facilities, day care centres and housing, and provided transport and ambulances. It is committed to assisting food self-sufficiency for inhabitants of local areas, and providing support for vulnerable members of the community. It is determined to be a major player in terms of growing the infrastructure and economy of Liberia.

In general, Sime Darby welcomes the conclusions of the report, which states:

“Communities must be allowed to participate fully in any negotiations between the government and Sime Darby based on the principle of free, prior and informed consent. No pressure should be placed on communities who must be free to refuse to give up their land and their forests for the industrial cultivation of oil palms.

In the case of those plantations already in existence and accepted by communities, Sime Darby must honour their social commitments and promises of financial compensation as soon as possible.”

Sime Darby is in complete agreement: it is committed to the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), and has improved its processes to achieve FPIC tailored to the specifics of the Liberian situation. Sime Darby will honour the commitments it has made to the people of Liberia.

It is worth emphasising that, while Sime Darby has obtained 220,000 hectares of land from the Liberian Government, this agreement does not mean it will develop all of the concession area. What it means is that Sime Darby will apply the FPIC process to develop nothing more than the land permitted by the local communities. We are clear: if the populace objects, we will not develop the land.

We note that the report contains criticisms of some of Sime Darby’s practices, many of which we do not accept. Sime Darby has noted the objections publicly expressed by local elders and other community leaders about the failure of NGOs to represent their interests properly. This is a matter of concern.

However, Sime Darby recognises that there have been some difficulties around land acquisition in the early stages of the development. At the beginning, there was some confusion around designation of land and objections were lodged by the local community. As a result, Sime Darby ceased operations, engaged in wide-ranging consultation, and has agreed to pay compensation in affected areas. This is an ongoing process that has not been easy, but Sime Darby is continuing to work closely with local inhabitants to improve the situation for the benefit of all involved.

We have now engaged with relevant stakeholders, including local communities, local and international NGOs and the Liberian Government to strengthen our FPIC processes and ensure full understanding and acceptance of Sime Darby’s activities. The new community engagement process put in place has been welcomed by the communities.

Sime Darby looks forward to continuing this engagement with members of local communities, the Government of Liberia and relevant NGOs (provided that they genuinely seek to represent the interests of local communities) to ensure that it can pursue its work in Liberia on an ongoing basis.

For further information, please contact: 

Leela Barrock
Group Head, Communications & Corporate Affairs
Sime Darby Berhad
Tel: (603) 2698 7669
Fax: (603) 2698 0645
E-mail: [email protected]

Carl Dagenhart
Head, Corporate Communication Africa & Europe 
Sime Darby Plantation Sdn Bhd 
Tel: +(603) 7848 5414 
Fax: +(603) 7848 4108 
E-mail: [email protected]

Stig Abell 
Pagefield, 
Tel: 020 3327 4069
E-mail: [email protected]

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Original source: Sime Darby
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