The Bruno Manser Fund is about to launch an international campaign against the blatant corruption and abuse of public funds by Abdul Taib Mahmud, Chief Minister of the Malaysian state of Sarawak. A campaign website, http://www.stop-timber-corruption.org, will go online on Friday, 18 February, and will be regularly updated and equipped with features for an interactive campaign with public participation.
Taib, one of South East Asia’s longest-serving politicians, has been in office since 1981 and is planning to celebrate his 30th anniversary in power on 26 March 2011. The 75-year old kleptocrat will stand as an incumbent for another five-year term of office in the upcoming Sarawak state elections, which are due to be held before July.
Taib has abused his public office to a frightening extent and has managed to convert the state of Sarawak into his family’s private estate. He simultaneously holds the offices of Chief Minister, and Finance Minister, as well as that of State Planning and Resources Minister, which gives him enormous political power. In addition, Malaysia’s “Barisan Nasional” coalition, which forms the federal government, is dependent on Taib’s support to remain in power. Sarawak’s largest private company, its electricity supply, large-scale logging interests and the control of log exports are also concentrated in the hands of the Taib family.
Since 1983, Taib and his immediate family members have started to transfer considerable parts of their ill-gotten assets overseas. The Bruno Manser Fund has established a black list with 49 Taib companies in eight countries worth hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars. The list will be published next week, and the authorities of these countries will be asked to freeze all Taib assets and to launch criminal investigations against the Taib family.
In Sarawak, corruption has proved to be one of the main drivers of deforestation. While most of the state’s forests have been logged or converted into plantations over the last three decades, Sarawak’s indigenous communities have seen little, if any, benefit from Taib’s so-called politics of development. Poverty, illiteracy and a lack of basic infrastructure are omnipresent in rural Sarawak.
Sarawak’s numerous indigenous communities, and particularly the Penan, have struggled since the 1980s against destructive logging and have fought for their land rights but, in most cases, they have been outmanoeuvred and cheated by Taib and his cronies.
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