11 January 2013

Liberia: Sinoeans Run to Legislative Caucus -As GVL Threatens Closure

Amidst threat of suspending of all Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL) operations for three months by its parent body, Sinoe citizens are seeking the immediate intervention of their legislative caucus so as to avoid the pending action and have the company continue its operation in the county.

Petitioning the County Legislative Caucus at the Capitol Building in Monrovia on Wednesday, January 9, 2013, the head of a Consortium of Sinoe Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Mr. Mike Nanklen warned, "Allowing Golden Veroleum to suspend its operation for just a day, less to speak of three months would mean returning us to serious economic hardship and security threat."

As a result of series of complaints filed against GVL by Green Advocates to Forest People Program (FPP), FERN, UNMIL and Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) on allegation of land grabbing, Golden Veroleum International (GVI) recently threatened to cease operation or suspend all activities of GVL for three months.

Upon the receipt of such information from their local management, staff members of GVL in Sinoe stage a major demonstration in Greenville, Sinoe County in support of a continuation of the company's operation in keeping with its concession agreement with the Liberian government.

As if this action was not enough, the Consortium of Sinoe CSOs wrote the office of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and UNMIL asking for their immediate and swift intervention so as to lay the issue to rest.

During a meeting with their lawmakers at the Capitol Building on Wednesday, the Consortium through Mr. Nanklen advanced a number of recommendations, among which called for the re-visitation of the social agreement with the locals so as to suit their development needs in commensuration with the land being provided.

Accusing Green Advocates Executive Director Atty. Alfred Brownell of being the mastermind of the prevailing situation that may put citizens of the county out of job, Mr. Nanklen averred: "We held several meetings with the EPA, GVL, the citizens of Butaw and the local authority. It was explicitly determined that the followers of Cllr. Brownell are responsible for most of the problems caused in Butaw and at the same time subjecting Liberia to international disrepute."

He added, "The following are facts gathered during these meetings. That prior to the enactment of the Golden Veroleum Liberia Concession Agreement by the Government of Liberia, there were several consultations and awareness created by key stakeholders and the Liberian Government for two consecutive years – 2008 and 2009.

When the Concession Agreement was signed, Sinoe County among five counties was prioritized for GVL initial operations and Butaw District specifically became the starting point. Stakeholders meetings were held on 18 and 19 August 2010 in Butaw and Greenville after which the people of Butaw agreed for GVL to work in their district at a mass Butaw Citizens meeting in Butaw in November 2010.

After its acceptance by the people of Butaw, Golden Veroleum, in line with EPA policies, contracted Green Consultancy, Inc. to conduct Environmental & Social Impact Assessment. This exercise was conducted for three months discussing with the inhabitants. Public notices were sent to all towns and villages within the project area prior to this exercise.

The Green Consultancy, Inc. submitted its report to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). EPA then issued GVL operational permit or certificate.

The Citizens of Butaw, in line with the concession agreement decided and prepared a Social Agreement after holding several consultative meetings in the various towns and villages in the District for three months."

With a hand of applause from other members of the Sinoe CSOs delegation, Mr. Nanklen stated that GVL has maintained a very cordial relationship with the locals and is on course with all of its undertakings in keeping with a concession agreement with the Liberian government thus shifting the livelihood of the people of Sinoe County in general to a better one.

Receiving the petition of his constituent, Representative Jefferson Karmoh vowed to ensure that the issue is resolved as quickly as possible.

Expressing the County's Legislative Caucus interest in the matter, Representative Karmoh noted that he and his colleagues would do everything humanly possible to protect the interest of Sinoe citizens and GVL.

Pledging the Caucus support towards all of the actions taken by local government authority in Sinoe, Representative Karmoh assured the citizen that they (lawmakers) will never compromise the interest of Sinoe county citizens.

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