By Charles B. Yates
Report from western Liberia (Grand Cape Mount, Bomi and Gbrapolu Counties) reaching this paper has it that hundreds of hectares of palm trees on the Sime Darby plantation have been destroyed by fire, leaving the company losing millions of United States Dollars.
The cause of the fire outbreak is yet to be established by the management who is speculating that the incident was likely caused by saboteurs.
Many residents have described the incident to that of reaction from the locals who are not satisfied with the entire Sime Darby concession arrangement.
The locals have previously warned the company to halt its expansion exercise but the company refused and continued with its expansion exercise to areas the locals considered taboo areas or traditional bushes.
According to our reporter who recently visited the areas where the expansion has been ongoing the locals had registered their dissatisfaction over the manner in which the Sime Darby management is carrying out the expansion.
The locals told this paper that Sime Darby has no respect for their traditional bushes and ancestral land. “Even though we have warned them not to tamper with our traditional terrain, they have paid deaf ear to our concern and are moving on with the expansion exercise,” a youth leader stated.
The affected communities’ dwellers alleged that some of their lawmakers have compromised the interest of the people who own the land because of money they allegedly received from the Sime Darby management.
“Our lawmakers are not in our interest and since they are not in our interest we will show them that we own the land. We are warning Sime Darby to stop their invasion on our traditional land or else we will react,” one angry youth said.
But when this paper contacted the Sime Darby Management through its media officers, David Kolleh and Heston Jackson on the matter, they said that Sime Darby’s management is making use of all the process in its expansion exercise.
“We are following the free previous arrangement process and we are making use of that to the fullest,” Kolleh noted.
In a related development, this paper has received credible report of protest in Grand Bassa County at the Equatorial Palm Oil Plantation over the company’s expansion program. Our sources said local protestors in the areas have set ablaze several hectors of palm trees as a sign of dissatisfaction over the concessional arrangement process between EPO and the government of Liberia.
The locals claimed that they were left out of the arrangement process and not much consultation was done with them.
At the same time the Liberian President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has assured the people of Bassa that the expansion exercise by EPO will stop.
In a Front Page Africa report the President held a meeting held behind closed doors on Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at her Foreign Ministry office with the villagers. She assured that there would be no further expansion by EPO on the land according to the residents of the town who had traveled all the way from Grand Bassa County to Monrovia.
“She did well for our land business. When we spoke to her that we don’t want for the EPO to extend it, she agreed to it and said ok,” Joseph C. Johnson, Paramount Chief of Joghban Town, one of the areas affected by the EPO concession intimated.