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Malaysia’s Palm Investor Sime Darby has no land in Liberia; Ex-President Sirleaf signed bad deal with them

ONTARIO, Canada – In a recent local daily publication, Malaysian palm company Sime Darby which operates palm processing on several acres of land in Liberia says it will leave Liberia and sell its land (LiberiaSime Darby to Leave End of 2019 – FrontPageAfricahttps://frontpageafricaonline.com/business/liberia-sime-darby-to-leave-end-of-2019/.

First and foremost, Sime Darby has no land in Liberia.  The land the company uses for its palm plantation and palm processing belongs to the Liberian people, especially the Kru and Sarpo people in Sinoe County and other localities.  So the notion held by the company’s CEO that when they are leaving, they will sell all “their land” is misleading, false, and unfortunate.

The land Sime Darby uses to do its agricultural processing was leased from the citizens of the counties and regions where the palm plantations are located.  In fact, no proper negotiation with the citizens of those areas took place when former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her clan unilaterally gave the land away.

Thousands of acres of land given away with no tangible benefits to the citizens of the region.

Besides, the citizens did not and have not benefitted from any substantial output and resources that having such a plantation in their area provides. They still continue to live in poverty.  Sime Darby has not made any real impact on their communities’ social and economic development.

The Sime Darby’s investment arrangement is not the only bad deal former President Sirleaf signed and forced through the throats of the Liberian people.  Other deals include several import/export contracts benefiting foreign nationals, the APM terminal contract at the Freeport of Liberia and several mining contracts throughout the country to name a few.   Based on these kinds of bad deals, it is reported that gold and diamond worth millions of dollars are flown directly from mining in Grand Cape Mount and other counties.

Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Sime Darby needs to ask Robert Sirleaf, then prime minister of Liberia during the administration of ex-president Sirleaf to review their contracts and provide answers to their investment failure in Liberia.

Robert A. Sirleaf

There are ethical, legal, political, social, and economic reasons and justifications why leaders need not treat governance as a family or personal affairs.  There are more reasons why leaders need to govern appropriately and transparently. If one doesn’t do so, things fall apart, and dirt comes to hurt them after they shall have left power or office.  This is exactly what is happening now in Liberia.

While in office and before leaving office, ex-president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and some of her family members, as well as their collaborators, signed all kinds of bad concession deals just for their personal enrichment and benefits.  Many of these contracts were signed for a duration exceeding two to three decades.

https://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/liberia/

It is hard to clearly determine which government is 100% a good one since no government will absolutely please all its citizens and partners. However, there is an inexplicit reasonable standard that portrays some governments as good and others as bad.

Most people know what a bad government is, but there are differing views in answering the QUESTION, “What absolutely is a better government?”

One writer once said that there are as many good answers as there are possible combinations in the absolute and relative situations of all nations.  But if it is asked by what sign we may know that a given people is well or ill governed, that is another matter, and the question, being one of fact, admits of an answer.

The preservation and prosperity of its members. And what is the surest mark of their preservation and prosperity? Their numbers and population. Seek then nowhere else this mark that is in dispute. The rest being equal, the government under which, without external aids, without naturalization or colonies, the citizens increase and multiply most, is beyond question the best. The government under which a people wanes and diminishes is the worst. Calculators, it is left for you to count, to measure, to compare. 

Laborers at Sime Darby in Liberia

In his Social Contract and  Discourses, 913 , Philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778)  wrote that [The Social Contract or Principles of Political Right Chapter IX: The Marks of a Good Government] the signs lie in understanding the preservation and prosperity of those being governed by the government.

He continued, “The preservation and prosperity of its members [makes a government a good one] And what is the surest mark of their preservation and prosperity? The government under which, without external aids, without naturalization or colonies, the citizens increase and multiply most, is beyond question the best. The government under which a people wanes and diminishes is the worst.” The unscrupulous contracts signed and the  bad governance practices of the previous government under Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf should be a teaching moment for future Liberian governments. Or else, more investors will face a similar fate like Sime Darby.  Ultimately, the Liberian people will always lose while those who imposed such bad deals on them would have left the scene with ill-gotten wealth .

Under paid Liberians laborers at Sime Darby plantation in Liberia

According to the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI) reports:

A total of sixty-Eight (68) Concession Agreements were signed in Liberia during the administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Among those 68 agreements, only six (6) are in compliance with the law of Liberia. This indicates that about 90.7% percent of the total contracts signed are not in the interest of the Country if sixty-eight (68) percent of these contracts are not in compliance with the Law of the Republic of Liberia.

For years, the Sirleaf -Liberian government repeatedly told Liberians that it was working in the best interest of Liberians, but the gap of unfairness between those contracts showed that the government has slowly deposited the entire country into potential risk.

Liberian citizens could continue to suffer an environmental problem, and health risk due to the outcome of these non-law abiding contracts. Liberians, especially young people, have the responsibility to respond against these contracts.

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Blama G. Konuwah

Blama G. Konuwah resides in Vancouver, Canada. He is a public issues analyst and senior contributor to Globe Afrique.

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