Campaign group Global Witness today restated its concerns that two firms linked to Malaysian timber giant Samling, a company notorious for illegal logging and conflicts with local communities, are being considered for major logging contracts in Liberia because of flaws in the bid evaluation process. A third Samling-associated company has already had its forest management contract (FMC) ratified. Global Witness also published a rebuttal of allegations by the companies in question.
On 15 July 2009, Global Witness issued a press release that set out our concerns about the FMC allocation process. In response to this press release, three of the companies named - Alpha Logging, Atlantic Resources and Southeast Resources -issued two press statements and a letter via a media consultant. Today, in a document to be published in Liberian newspapers, Global Witness clarified its position and responded to allegations made by the three companies.
Global Witness Director, Patrick Alley said: "The Liberian government and its international partners have spent five years and millions of dollars reforming the country's forest management system. These efforts are now being undermined because of inadequate vetting of companies bidding for new forest management contracts. Samling, with its long record of illegal logging and conflicts with local communities, appears to be trying to get control of Liberia's forests through stealth."
Alpha, Atlantic and Southeast claim that they are independent companies. However, Global Witness investigations have uncovered a series of interconnected relationships with Samling Global. Samling is a highly predatory group of companies which has made huge profits at the expense of poor people in Cambodia, Guyana, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea.
Global Witness wrote to Samling asking about its relationships with Atlantic, Southeast and Alpha. Samling responded stating that ‘Samling Global Limited is not involved in the bidding or awarding of any forest management contract in Liberia. We therefore regret that we will not be able to respond to your due diligence questionnaire.'
Alley: "There is evidence that all three of these companies have breached Liberia's laws on procurement. Global Witness is calling on the government to annul the contract already awarded, disqualify the current bids of the two remaining companies, and debar all three from bidding for forest management contracts. It should also hold off allocating any concessions until thorough background checks on all companies have been carried out."
"If Alpha, Atlantic and Southeast all win forest management contracts, this will give Samling-associated companies control of 750,000 ha of Liberia's forest for 25 years - 58% of all the forest allocated for logging so far, and approximately 7.8% of the country's entire surface area. Allowing these firms to take control of a huge swathe of Liberia's forests could be disastrous for the country's efforts to reduce poverty and manage its forests sustainably."
Global Witness' response will be published in Liberian newspapers, the New Democrat, the Observer and the Analyst. It is also attached below.
Contact: Natalie Ashworth on +44 207 561 6369 or +44 7968160377
Read correspondence between Global Witness and Samling