Friday, August 31

Hydro Tasmania admits lack of anti-corruption audits in "100 billion dollar" Sarawak dam scheme


23rd August 2012 – for immediate release

Roy Adair, CEO of Hydro Tasmania, confirms company's involvement in controversial Malaysian rainforest dam constructions – Hydro Tasmania downplays compliance deficits of Sarawak Energy, its Malaysian business partner

(HOBART, TASMANIA) Roy Adair, the CEO of Australian state-owned energy provider Hydro Tasmania, said yesterday his company had no audits in place to prevent Hydro Tasmania’s participation in projects that involve corruption.

In an interview with the Australian ABC Radio, Adair admitted that only general “pre-bid checks” were done on Sarawak Energy, a Malaysian dam builder and business partner, prior to Hydro Tasmania’s engagement in a “100 billion dollar” energy project in Sarawak. He said that “not so much auditing” on potential corrupt practices of Sarawak Energy had been done.

Sarawak Energy is owned by the Malaysian state of Sarawak and chaired by Hamed Sepawi, a cousin and close business associate of long-term Sarawak Chief Minister, Taib Mahmud (“Taib”). Taib is currently under investigation by the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) for corruption and abuse of public office. Taib’s last major energy project, the 2,400 MW Bakun mega-dam, had been labelled by Transparency International as a “monument of corruption”.

In an attempt to downplay Hydro Tasmania’s involvement in Sarawak’s dam building spree, Adair said his company role was “relatively minimal” as it was only earning 3 million dollars from its Sarawak business. However, Adair failed to acknowledge the central role plaid by Hydro Tasmania engineers such as Andrew Pattle. The latter has been the Project Director of the 944 MW Murum dam, which is currently under construction, and has been appointed as the Senior Project Manager for another two proposed dams, Baram (1,200 MW) and Baleh (1,400 MW). Last year, Pattle said that “safety and environmental compliance” were “not given much importance” with dam-building in Malaysia.

The Sarawak dam building spree has drawn heavy criticism from indigenous associations and environmental organizations. The Baram dam alone would displace 20’000 Sarawak natives and flood over 400km2 of tropical rainforests. Yesterday, the Tasmanian Greens called on the Tasmanian Minister for Energy “to recall all of its employees currently involved in environmentally and socially destructive dam building practices in Malaysia.“

Without the expertise of foreign consultants such as Hydro Tasmania, Sarawak Energy would not be in a position to realize its controversial dam plans. 

– Ends –

Thursday, August 23

Prove it by solving the problems in Sungai Asap & Batang Ai first

Miri:  Save Sarawak’s Rivers (SAVE Rivers) commends a statement by The Senior Minister and Minister of Social Development, Tan Sri William Mawan published in the Borneo Post on the 18th August, 2012, admitting to the shortcomings in Sg Asap resettlement scheme. It is hoped that Tan Sri Mawan would also further clarify that these issues, including similar issues affecting the Batang Ai resettlement, have not been resolved many years after the initial resettlement.

Today, promises are also made to the people of Baram that the government will look after them and will not abandon them. The promise made to them today is the same as was made to them when the exploitation of timber first started in the district in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Those promises were on better standard of living, good roads and infrastructure. They were told that the government always has the interest of the people at heart. It was just like those made to the people of Bakun/Sungai Asap and Batang Ai.

Just like those in Sungai Asap and Batang Ai the promises in Baram are not fulfilled. Over 30 years since the first promises were made; there are no tarred roads or infrastructure for the communities who still eke a basic standard of living today. There is a burning question to how state and federal development funds allocated to the Baram have been spent or were there any such allocation in the first place.

SAVE  Rivers would like to see that the government settle all unfulfilled promises made to the people of Bakun and Batang Ai who were forced to make way for these mega-dams, before embarking on building other mega-dams which would negatively affect the lives of many more communities. Building new dams would only add more problems for the government and subject more people to suffer as the consequence. The people affected by Bakun were 10,000 those affected by the Batan Ai 3,000, Murum 1000. But Baram will be about 20,000. So if the government cannot be trusted to meet the need of those in the earlier dams how can they amicably settle those of the 20,000 people?

On the formation of the Baram HEP Consultative Committee, the view of SAVE Rivers is that is a futile exercise. Similar committees were formed for Bakun/Sungai Asap years ago but they fail to meet the real needs of the people.

The phrase, "there is no smoke without fire", thus aptly applies to Mawan's complaint about the "spin off these shortcomings in Bakun". If the issues of the mega-dam resettlements in Sarawak were efficiently resolved after many years, there should be no spin.

SAVE Rivers urges Mawan to take his own advice, whereby the current ruling party should act as problem-solvers, particularly of societal and environmental problems they have created.

Peter Kallang, Chairperson of SAVE Sarawak, comments, "politicians should not say good things about the Baram dam just to stay in power. The Baram dam will have a permanent effect on the life and well-being of the people. It would be most irresponsible to make such statement for personal or party interest."

Original Signed
Peter Kallang
Chairman SAVE Rivers
H/Phn: 013 833 1104

NOTE: SAVE Rivers is a Network of individuals and 8 Malaysian Indigenous Peoples’ Non-Government Organisation NGOs and Community Based Organisations (CBOs), namely
1)      Baram Protection Action Committee (BPAC)
2)      Borneo Resources Institute, Malaysia (BRIMAS)
3)      Indigenous Peoples of Malaysia Network (JOAS)
4)      The Sarawak Native Customary Land Rights Network (TAHABAS)
5)      Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA)
6)      Sarawak Indigenous Lawyers Alliance (SILA)
7)      Sarawak Conservation Alliance for Natural Environment (SCANE)
8)      Centre for Community Information and Communications (CICOM)

Monday, August 20

Olympic medalist Pandelela asked to turn down Malaysian potentate’s "special gift“


20 August 2012 – for immediate release

Malaysian diving champion warned of political manipulation by Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud

The Bruno Manser Fund congratulates Malaysian Olympics medalist Pandelela Rinong Pamg for her fantastic performance at the London Olympics, which won her a bronze medal in the 10 m platform diving event. The Sarawak diver was the first Malaysian woman to win an Olympic medal.

However, the Swiss human rights organization warns the diving champion from political manipulation by Sarawak potentate Taib Mahmud ("Taib“). Last week, Taib announced he would reward the 19-year old bronze medallist with a "special gift“ upon her return to Sarawak. Pandelela is a Bidayuh native of Sarawak, a Malaysian state that is home to over 40 indigenous peoples

"Taib Mahmud has abused his political power and done more harm to Sarawak’s indigenous peoples than any other Malaysian politician“, the Bruno Manser Fund wrote in a statement. 

"He lacks the moral legitimacy to make a special gift to an outstanding Bidayuh champion like Pandelela. We call on Pandelela Rinong Pamg not to let herself be politically manipulated and advise her to politely turn down Taib’s 'special gift’.“

Taib Mahmud has been Chief Minister of Sarawak since 1981. He has abused his public office in a spectacular way and has granted his family members logging and plantation concessions over several hundred thousand hectares of native lands. Last year, research by the Bruno Manser Fund showed that Taib family members are stakeholders in more than 400 coompanies in 25 countries, worth several billion US dollars.

It is feared that Taib is planning to abuse Pandelela’s Olympic success to boost his own dwindling popularity. 

"The only gift Pandelela should accept from Taib is his resignation as Chief Minister, which would be a relief to the whole of Sarawak.“

- Ends -

Thursday, August 16

PRS wants more Community leaders

KUCHING:  Parti Rakyat Sarawak wants total revamp to a system of appointing community leaders in the state, who have now become a political tool of the state Barisan Nasional to ‘suppress and oppress’ (to borrow a famous term by Deputy Chief Minister Alfred Jabu), those who do not support the Barisan Nasional.

“Indeed the community leaders have now become the ‘eyes and ears’ of the government, and report directly to their respect elected representatives,” said a senior PRS leader who did not wish to be named.

The case of Frusis Lebi came into mind. Frusis had his welfare allowance and agricultural subsidies withdrawn when his case of supporting the Opposition was reported by his Tuai Rumah to the local representative.

“In fact they (community leaders) will help strengthen the position of the political party in the rural areas,” he said, pointing out that in Sarawak Temenggong is the highest in the hierarchy of the community leaders.

In Iban, the Tuai Rumah (longhouse headman) is at the bottom of the list. His responsibility is towards the security and development of people in his longhouse. Often, he is the chairman of the longhouse security and development committee (JKKK). A step higher than the Tuai Rumah is a Penghulu who controls a number of longhouses.

Coming next is the Pemanca. A number of Penghulu is under his wing.

Likewise, a number of Pemanca is under the Temenggong.

Unlike the days of pre-independence when Tuai Rumah, Penghulu, Pemanca and Temenggong were elected by the people and were basically native courts judges, but today they are appointed by the parties in the government. Often they are also grassroots leaders of political parties especially within the Barisan Nasional.

“The strength of a party especially in the rural areas is determined by the number of community leaders it can appoint as they are the ones who control the rural dwellers,” said the PRS leader, pointing out that sometimes they are being used to intimidate their own followers or even used to prevent the opposition from entering the longhouses.

In the previous elections, they were also used as campaigners and ‘distributors’ of funds to voters in their respective longhouses.

The community leaders are obligated to do what their political masters want them to do, since they receive monthly allowances ranging from RM450.00 for Tuai Rumah to RM650.00 for Penghulu, RM750 for Pemanca and to RM850.00 for Temenggong.

The appointment of community leaders especially the Tuai Rumah has also other negative effects on the longhouse folk as everyone scrambles to curry favours with the local elected representatives, and in the process it creates a lot of enmity and animosity amok the longhouse people.

Even among the component parties of the Barisan Nasional, the appointment of community leaders can create suspicions.

This is what is happening now.

And for this reason and others, PRS President James Masing has formed a committee in his party to relook at the community leader appointment system with a view to ensure fairness in the distribution of the community leaders among the component parties of the Barisan Nasional.

The committee is headed by Vice-President John Sikie Tayai.

Masing said: “The main aim of the committee will be to come up with an appointment system which better reflects the ethnic composition of an area.

“This would involve taking a close look at the criteria for the appointment of community leaders such as Temenggong, Pemanca, Penghulu and Tuai Rumah or Tua Kampong among in particular the Dayak Community.

“Once we have made the findings, PRS will then forward its recommendations to the state government,” said Masing, who is a senior minister and Minister for Land Development.

PRS and Masing have every right to be moaned the treatment meted out at the party.

 Even though PRS denies that it is being bullied or treated like ‘anak tiri’ (adopted child), facts speak volumes of how the party is being treated in respect of the appointment of community leaders as well as other political appointments – posts of political secretaries and directors of government-linked companies.

Citing the appointment of Temenggong as an example, a PRS leader said the party has no Temenggong in all the 11 divisions of the State Administration.

“We did recommend Asan Ngang to be the Temenggong of the Iban Community for the Limbang Division to the State Task force following the retirement of Temenggong Jarum. His nomination was rejected by the Task force.

“And for several years now, Limbang has no Iban Temenggong,” he said.

Even Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party has no Temenggong in its fold.

The task force is said to be headed by Deputy Chief Minister Alfred Jabu Anak Numpang, who is also the Deputy President of PBB.

PBB appoints its own men or those who have close links with PBB as Temenggong. For example,  former Kapit MP from PBB James Jimbun as Temenggong of Kuching, Samarahan – Temenggong Anthony Nyipa,  Sri Aman – Temenggong Kanang Anak Langkau,  Betong – Temenggong Nunong Anak Danan, Sibu – Temenggong Adrian Ranggau,  Kapit – Temenggong Kenneth Kanyan,  Bintulu – Temenggong Kelambu Ak Medan, and Miri – Temenggong  Wilson Atong Anak Limping.

Even PRS’s recommendations for some of its men to be appointed as Pemanca, Penghulu and longhouse chiefs have been rejected.

Undoubtedly, PBB has little respect for PRS which is the ‘youngest’ of the four-party BN coalition in the State. It was registered on October 24, 2004 the day Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak was deregistered by the Registrar of Societies.

PRS was supposed to take over the place of PBDS, and has been fighting for the rights and interest of the Dayaks, the Ibans in particular. But it is being treated with suspicions by especially PBB until today because the majority of its members were once PBDS’ hardcore supporters.

“We are still being regarded with suspicions even though we mean well in the so-called power sharing of the Barisan Nasional,” said a PRS leader.

Sunday, August 5

District Officer behaves like a little napoleon

KUCHING:  Bau District Officer Simon Japut, who is also the Chairman of Bau district council behaves more like a ‘little napoleon’ rather than a civil servant who should be humble, courteous and be responsive to the people’s complaints, said Mordi Bimol, a special assistant to Chong Chieng Jen, the Kota Sentosa Assemblyman and the MP for Bandar Kuching.

“I am quite frustrated with a statement made by Japut which appeared in a local daily regarding complaints made by the people about poor maintenance and inefficient garbage collection in Kpg Serikin.

“Kpg. Serikin, which is a very popular week-end shopping centre, is also a tourist attraction, and yet rubbish remains uncollected which is an eye-score not only to the villagers, but also to the shoppers and tourists,” he said.

“It is giving us a bad image,” Bimol said, pointing out that Japut refused to accept responsibility.

“Instead he puts the blame on those who made the complaints as politicising the whole issue,” he said.

Last Monday Japut had described the complaints as ‘tidak masuk akal’ (stupid) and that he would not entertain them.

“I am firm in my decision that I will not entertain such stupid complaints,” he added.

“The matter should have been reported to the Bau district council first before going public in the media as this will tarnish the name of the civil servants,” Japut said angrily.

“And by the way, who is this Mordi Bimol? I don’t know him,” Japut said, pointing out that the Opposition should not politicise the issue of rubbish collection.

Responding to the harsh words used by the District Officer, Bimol said: “Local authorities such as council should not take any complaint made by any political party especially opposition as a threat.

“Any political party tries to serve the people and it is the job of the politicians to voice out people’s complaints and problems.

“Media is one of the channels for the public and even political parties to share the community problems. So, local authorities should take this positively, investigate and solve the problem.

“Instead of saying those harsh words, he should investigate on the matter, whether it is true or not, and solve it. I am not pointing fingers...but I just want to share the problems and want the council to take a relevant action on the matter.

“Maybe he should go and visit the place to see the real situation of that place,” he said.

Bimol said that he visited Kpg Serikin last Thursday, and saw the problem, and interviewed few groups of residents.

“They are it is my job to help them and voice out this matter,” he said.

He noted that RM2 is collected each day since 2004 from each Indonesian who operates a stall. Roughly there are 400 stalls operating on both Saturday and Sunday in that border village.

“Counting on the amount of money collected for eight years, residents of Kpg Serikin are very frustrated with the poor service provided  by the council.

“They should improve their efficiency to service the people as efficient as they collect the money.

“According to the residents, the garbage collection supposed to be twice a week (Monday and Friday). However, garbage collection is done only once a week and in fact, sometimes only once in two weeks.

“Therefore, the trash containers which are located at the end of that village are always full and spill out,” he said, pointing out that “this in turn causes the problem of bad smell and a dirty environment”.

“We are very concerned on this matter because Kampung Serikin is one of the best tourist attraction places in Bau which never fails to attract tourists every weekend.

“Proven as a good tourism place, it is very important for those relevant authorities or government agencies to work together with the residents of that village to maintain and improve the area to keep the area clean and healthy.

“This little problem might affect the impression of the tourists to Kpg Serikin and might jeopardize the business of the local people.

“So, we must work together to help them to improve whatever facilities needed,” Bimol added.

See Chee How demands apology from Jabu

KUCHING:  The state Disaster Relief committee had failed to respond to calls for search and rescue (SAR) operations when the helicopter crash on July 20, 2012 as there was nobody to coordinate the operations, claimed See Chee How vice-Chairman of Sarawak PKR.

In the crash Peter Mayau, an engineer, Siti Khuzaimah Annuar (surveyor) and Henry Loh (architect) were killed. They were on the way to Nanga Merit, Kapit, to inspect a school project when the helicopter crashed at the mouth of Sungai Lingga, Sri Aman.

The pilot, Rico Steger was the sole survivor.

See, who is the Batu Lintang Assemblyman said: “The bodies of the three victims were recovered by civilian volunteers – fishermen and villagers of Sebuyau.

“The disaster relief committee had not done anything,” he said in replying to remarks made by Deputy Chief Minister Alfred Jabu Anak Numpang, who is the chairman of the State Disaster Relief, committee.

Jabu had told reporters that he could not be bothered with the criticisms of the Opposition leaders who also wanted him to resign as the Chairman of the Relief committee.

“I will not resign as the chairman of the committee as demanded by the Opposition,” Jabu had told reporters.

“It is up to them to say what they want to say.  The bottom line is I am always in contact with our disaster relief headquarters’. I can’t satisfy everybody, but this does not mean I am not in touch with the situations.

“As for the recent helicopter crash, I have sent my condolences to all the families of the three victims. Only God Almighty knows what I am doing,” he had said.

Unhappy with the reply, the PKR leader said: “Jabu was very evasive with his answers when pressed by the reporters for an explanation.

“I think he should personally apologise to the families of the three victims.

“He just said that he has done lot things. He does not want to say that he had done nothing to help in the SAR operations.

“I think he is being irresponsible, because we talk about people’s lives. Just say that you have not done anything and apologise to the family members and promise that you will do better in the future.

“The chairman of the State disaster Relief committee has an important job and carried out heavy responsibilities,” See said, pointing out that when things go wrong, the people expect him to come out and do something.

The Batu Lintang Assemblyman said:  “It was unbecoming of Jabu to say ‘let the opposition say whatever they want to say.

“I think this is bad enough. I hope he can be more responsible in answering question by us. We want to know where he was on the day the incident occurred.

“Did the committee initiate the SAR Operations? Were there any boats, helicopters or planes being deployed?  And who was in charge? Had the committee met after the crash?

“These questions need answers, but Jabu avoided them.

“It is obvious that he has failed to do anything,” he said, and asked the State Cabinet to remove Jabu and replace with someone who is much younger and more committed.

“If they cannot find anyone suitable, I am prepared to offer myself. Even if the State Cabinets finds someone, I am prepared to volunteer to help,” he said.