Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sarawak Chief Minister, Taib Mahmud gives Oxford protestors the slip

Pehin Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Taib Mahmud has been Sarawak Chief Minister since 1981

As written by Joseph Sipalan, Malaysiakini

Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud gave protestors the slip when he arrived at Oxford University's Said Business School in London, where he was suppose to deliver a keynote address at a forum.

According to reports by freelance journalist Anil Netto, between 30 to 40 protestors, mostly Britons and a handful of Malaysians, had camped outside two entrances to the hall where the forum was to take place.

However, Taib did not use the entrances and it is believed that he used a side entrance instead.

According to Netto, the protestors are unable to enter the forum venue due to the exhorbitant British pound 1,000 entrance fee.

Protestors were seen wielding placards bearing messages such as "Any forest left?", "Stop denying Penan rape" and "Declare your wealth".

30 years of iron grip

Activists from the Bruno Manser Fund (BMF), who called Taib “one of Southeast Asia's (most corrupt) politicians”, have sent out emails since Saturday garnering support for the protest that they plan to stage at the Said Business School's entrance.

The longstanding Sarawak chief minister was invited to deliver the opening address at the school's inaugural Islamic Branding and Marketing Forum this morning, London time.

The BMF in an email statement said Oxford has tarnished its reputation by inviting Taib to speak at the forum, claiming the chief minister had pillaged and plundered Sarawak for his own gains during his past three decades in office, at the expense of Sarawakians.

“During his 30 years of iron grip, Taib Mahmud has systematically plundered a country once rich in natural resources, oil and timber. He and his family are now multi-billionaires, while indigenous tribes such as the legendary jungle nomads, the Penan, have been left destitute and robbed of their rightful hunting grounds," it said.

“Taib Mahmud has laughably advertised his UK visit as a promotion of 'green development' in Sarawak and will be focusing on the promotion of Islamic and Halal products, his latest venture, during his visit to Oxford."

Taib going green?

The BMF attacked Abdul Taib's management of Sarawak, accusing him of destroying “all but three percent of the Borneo jungle in the state”.

“Numerous species including the orang utan, proboscis monkey and a plethora of unique plant and animal life have been virtually wiped out by his rapacious and unsustainable plunder of the jungle.

NONE“The Penan are struggling to keep his loggers out of the last corners of their jungle, one of the most precious remaining areas of bio-diversity left on earth.”

The BMF, which has been fighting for Penan rights since Bruno Manser founded it in 1991, also slammed Abdul Taib for refusing to “acknowledge or investigate” recent reports of alleged systematic rape and abuse of Penan women.

It also accused Taib of using his family and cronies to “illegally” take over the state's resources through privatisation, and issuing oil palm and timber concessions following arbitrary state acquisition of native land.

“He now runs the state as a family business, maintained through systematic electoral intimidation and fraud.

“The people of Sarawak are struggling to rid themselves of this man and his parasitical family and to preserve their unique environmental heritage from his further 'business venture'.”

A thorn in Taib's side

Combo pictures of Bruno Manser while living with the Penan between 1984 and 1990

Manser, who was last seen in public on May 25, 2000, was a thorn in Taib's side since the mid 1980s, encouraging the Penan to set up blockades and oppose state-sponsored logging activities.

Bruno Manser spent six years between 1984 to 1990 living with the Penan, evading arrest by local authorities and later slipped from under their noses to return to Switzerland to spread awareness of the Penan's plight.

Among his most outrageous protest stunts was when, in 1999, he landed on the roof of Taib's residence in Kuching using a motorised hang glider.

He also published a book, 'Voices from the Rainforest' in 1992. In 2004 after he went missing, Basel-based publisher Christoph Merian Verlag followed up with 'Dairies from the Rainforest' in German, detailing the extensive notes, photographs and documents compiled by Manser.

On March 10, 2005, the courts in Basel declared Manser missing and presumed dead.

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