International protests mark Malaysian kleptocrat’s 30th anniversary in power

International protests mark Malaysian kleptocrat's 30th anniversary in power

BMF supportes rallying at Berne’s Helvetiaplatz on 25 March 2011

BERN (SWITZERLAND), HOBART / ADELAIDE (AUSTRALIA). One day ahead of Abdul Taib Mahmud’s 30th anniversary in power as head of government of the resource-rich Malaysian state of Sarawak, environmental and human rights campaigners have staged street protests against Taib in Switzerland and Australia. These protests have been preceded by similar protests in London, Ottawa, Seattle and San Francisco earlier this month.

In Switzerland, members and friends of the Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) deposited over 21’000 signatures at the Malaysian Embassy in Berne. The signatories are urging the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) to launch a graft probe against Taib and his family. The signatures had been collected online and on paper by BMF and the German NGO “Rettet den Regenwald”. Over 1500 online signatures originated from Malaysian citizens.

The petition was received by a Malaysian embassy official who did not disclose his name. Malaysia’s ambassador to Switzerland, Ho May Yong, refused to meet the BMF delegation. Penan woman Reddo Kenli, who represented the people of Sarawak, said she had come to Berne to highlight the natives’ discontent with the Taib government. She also said Taib had broken all his promises given to the Penan in earlier years.

Last week, the Bruno Manser Fund sent a letter to Swiss President Micheline Calmy-Rey, urging the Swiss government to freeze all Taib family assets in Switzerland.

‘Sit-in’ at Taib family’s Ta Ann corporation offices in Tasmania

In Australia, campaigners of the Huon Valley Environmental Centre staged a sit-in at the Hobart, Tasmania, offices of Ta Ann, a highly controversial Taib family-linked logging corporation. The Australian police arrested four members of the group but released them later during the day.

Adam Burling, a spokersperson for the Huon Valley Environment Centre, attacked Ta Ann CEO, Hamed Sepawi, who had become a bilionaire through logging concessions in Sarawak awarded by his cousin Taib Mahmud. “Our forests are continuing to make these billionaire logging barons richer while our state loses its wildlife and forests. Ta Ann claims it is getting these forests cheaper than in Sarawak, where it benefits from being part of the Borneo timber mafia”, said Burling.

Ta Ann is benefitting from an unusually generous long-term timber supply contract from Tasmanian native forests. The company’s timber milling operations in Tasmania are heavily subsidized by the Australian tax-payers.

Adelaide University’s ‘cash for honours’ scandal

A third simultaneous protest action at Adelaide University has called for the University “to cut ties with one of its biggest benefactors, the Chief Minister of Sarawak, Taib Mahmud.” Speaking at today’s action, South Australian Greens’ Legislative Council Member Mark Parnell said that “Adelaide University should not have its good name dragged down by its association with a suspect foreign politician willing to throw around large wads of ill-gotten cash”.

In return for large donations, the University has bestowed an honorary doctorate and re-named a high profile plaza on campus the ‘Taib Mahmud, Chief Minister of Sarawak Court’.

Last week, the Bruno Manser Fund asked Adelaide University’s Vice-Chancellor-cum-President James Mc Wha to resign over this ‘cash for honours’ scandal. BMF also urged the University to remove Taib Mahmud’s name from its premises.

Taib Mahmud the main culprit for “the biggest environmental crime of our times”

Abdul Taib Mahmud came to power on 26 March 1981. Ever since, he has simultaenously held the offices of Chief Minister, Finance Minister as well as State Planning and Resources Minister of the Malaysian state of Sarawak on Borneo. Taib is the main culprit for the large-scale destruction of Sarawak’s tropical rainforests and the marginalization of its indigenous peoples. In Sarawak’s upcoming state polls which will be held on 16 April 2011, Taib is seeking reelection for another five-year term.

Two weeks ago, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown declared the large scale destruction of Sarawak’s rainforests as ‘probably the biggest environmental crime of our times’.

(25 March 2011)


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