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SG Sarawak land graft exposed

Property Here - Thursday, March 21, 2013

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By Farah Wahida:

A short film released by international NGO Global Witness has documented shady land deals in Sarawak involving the state’s Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud (pictured) and his relatives.

Posing as potential plantation buyers, the investigative team revealed how Taib’s cousins and several other intermediaries had acquired thousands of hectares of forest. 

“This film proves for the first time what has long been suspected — that the small elite around Chief Minister Taib are systematically abusing the region’s people and natural resources to line their own pockets,” said Tom Picken, Forest Team Leader at Global Witness.

Specifically, a conversation involving siblings Norlia and Fatimah Abdul Rahman — first cousins of the Chief Minister, revealed that they are the owners of 5,000ha of land given to them by Taib for a small sum, and which they were planning to sell under their company – Ample Agro.

“Ample Agro belongs to my family, but my sisters, the four elder ones are in the company. The Land and Survey Department, they are the ones who issue this licence... Of course it’s from the CM’s directive but I can speak to the CM very easily,” Fatimah said.

“And you think he’ll agree?” asked the cover team.

“Yeah, he was the one who gave us the land. He’s my cousin [laughs]. His mother and my father are sisters and brothers, siblings. He’s my cousin so it’s quite easy,” added Fatimah.

This isn’t the first time that Sarawak’s government has been accused of profiting from the state’s natural resources. Back in 2009,Bloomberg reported on hundreds of legal cases made by Sarawak’s indigenous Dayak people, alleging land seizures without adequate compensation. 

The rapid destruction of the state’s virgin rainforests has also attracted international attention. A report from The Economist said that Sarawak “has lost more than 90 percent of its ‘primary’ forests to logging, and has the fastest rate of deforestation in Asia”.

 

Farah Wahida, Editor of PropertyGuru Malaysia, wrote this story. To contact her about this or other stories emailfarahwahida@propertyguru.com.my