— Says Mano Palm reneging on US$12M transferred Sime Darby’s social obligations to Grand Cape Mount
Grand Cape Mount County Senator, Cllr. H. Varney G. Sherman, has informed the Liberian Senate that the Mano Palm Oil Plantation, Inc. which took over the Sime Darby Oil Palm concession in his county, may be operating outside concession of guidelines.
“It is my information that whatever was entered into between the Government of Liberia, Sime Darby and Mano Palm, which was intended to effectuate the transfer of the Concession agreement from Sime Darby to Mano Palm was never submitted to the Legislature for ratification as the original concession agreement was. If this information is true, it is my considered opinion that this failure or dereliction affects the legality and the binding effect of the transfer and exhibits a total disregard for the Legislature in the Concession transfer process,” Senator Sherman pointed out in a three-page communication to the Senate.
The July 2009 Concession Agreement allowed Sime Darby an operating area of 31,010 hectares of land in Grand Cape Mount, 57,003 hectares of land in Bomi County; 55,342 hectares of land in Bong County, and 159,827 hectares of land in Gbarpolu for the purpose of palm oil and natural rubber plantations and the production of products of these two crops.
The communication disclosed that Sime Darby only developed and utilized 5,600 hectares of land in Grand Cape Mount as an oil palm plantation, but did not develop or utilize lands in any of the other three counties.
Section 19.5 of the Concession Agreement obligates Sime Darby, as the investor, to make an annual contribution of US$5.00 for each hectare of land within its developed areas to a community fund to be used for development purposes for the county in which its developed area exists.
“However, Sime Darby never complied with this financial obligation to the people of Grand Cape Mount until it sold its interest in the concession agreement to Mano Palm oil Plantation Inc., which was concluded in early 2020. In recognition of section 33.10 of the Concession agreement which makes its terms binding on Sime Darby’s successor, the amount of US$12 million was reportedly made available to Mano Palm; notwithstanding, Mano Palm too has not discharged the financial obligations of Sime Darby to the people of Grand Cape Mount as at the date of this communication.”
Concluding his communication, dated March 16, 2021, Senator Sherman, who chairs the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights, Claims and Petitions, requested plenary to cite the Minister of Agriculture, Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Director General of the Bureau of Concessions and Mano Palm Oil Plantations Inc., for a five-count enquiry.
Senator Sherman wants the Senate to launch an investigation into the compliance of Sime Darby and Mano Palm with respect to their corporate social responsibilities to the people of Grand Cape Mount County pursuant to Section 19.5 of the Concession agreement.
The Senate’s intervention, according to Cllr. Sherman’s letter, “Is to ascertain the status of the US$12 Million which Sime Darby deposited with Mano Palm and to determine why Mano Palm has not paid to the people of Grand Cape Mount their overdue and unpaid entitlements.
It is also to show cause if any, why Mano Palm, has not paid the US$5.00 for the 5,600 hectares of land it utilized in Cape Mount during 2020, and to determine whether the agreement by which the Concession was transferred from Sime Darby to Mano Palm was ever ratified by the Legislature, and if not, why.”
In a strong-worded motion, Maryland County Senator, J Gbleh-bo Brown, requested that the communication be sent to the Committees on Concessions and Investment, Agriculture and Judiciary with the mandate to do a thorough investigation to report to plenary a week after the Easter break.