By Clare Rewcastle Brown
Swiss-based NGO, Bruno Manser Fund, has compiled the names of people who have aided Taib Mahmud’s journey in acquiring his immense wealth.
For too long the destruction of the Sarawak rainforest and the land grabs against its indigenous people have been politely treated as an “issue” or an “environmental problem”.
But it is neither an “issue” nor an “environmental problem”. It has in fact been a crime.
The problems in Sarawak have come as a consequence of personal decisions by politicians to break the rules and abuse their power, in order to take the wealth of Sarawak’s people and put it in their own pockets.
If this had not been the case, there might have been a genuine debate to be had about trade-offs between the environment and sustainable development and how to best help the people.
But all that has actually happened is that Chief Minister Taib Mahmud, his family and henchmen have made off with the loot, leaving the people of the interior with nothing.
In order to hang on to power and keep milking the state’s resources, these political gangsters have further corrupted the electoral system and cheated, bribed and bullied their way into securing nearly 100% of Sarawak’s seats at the last federal election.
That amounts to a fairly devastating series of crimes, consisting of numerous counts of political corruption, theft from the state and crimes against humanity.
For much of the past year, Sarawak Report has been pointing this out, and also taking the trouble to amass some of the evidence that shows just how Taib has abused his office, in order to get rich at the expense of his people.
The impact has started to resonate.
The rest of the world and indeed Malaysia has begun to acknowledge that what happened in Sarawak – the fastest rate of deforestation in the world – should not be treated as just misguided actions but as a criminal act.
And this explains the significance of the publication today of the so-called “Wanted List” by the Bruno Manser Foundation.
The list names and shames Taib’s “international helpers”.
No accessible information
Without his team of experts, lawyers, property managers, bankers and agents abroad, Taib and his family members and cronies could never have managed to siphon out their stolen gains and invest them in properties and in banks around the world, in such places as the US, Canada, UK and Australia.
Back in the 1990s, when the American Ross Boyert started to work for Taib, such a role might just possibly have been excusable, for a person who was not too directly involved with the family.
Boyert told Sarawak Report that in those days there was no Google and no websites like ours to shed light on the true nature of Taib’s regime.
In his view, if the Federal Bureau of Investigation or FBI (the US’ top law enforcement agency) had decided that it was suitable to rent a building from Taib, then he could consider that to be a clean bill of health!
But, by the time of his death in 2010, Boyert knew differently, and so should anyone else who is still working for Taib.
Malaysia, among most corrupt
Just in the same way that Taib has made personal decisions, time and again, to abuse his power and steal from his people, those helpers also made a personal decision to work for a corrupt dictator and assist him in re-investing his wealth or carry out his policies in Sarawak.
They deserve to be named and shamed, just as they would if they had taken a job from, say, Robert Mugabe or Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
Malaysia’s corruption levels are among the highest in the world.
Capital flight (that is, money stolen from the people and taken abroad by politically exposed persons) is second only to two of the tiniest, least populated Arab oil states, per capita.
These “foreign helpers” have assisted this process by assisting Taib.