Suaram is appalled with the silence maintained by the government with regards to the release of a list of secret foreign assets connected to the family of long-serving Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud by the Bruno Manser Fund (BMF).
Taib, who has been the chief minister since 1981, is also the state finance minister as well as the state planning and resources minister. He and his family is believed to have set up a worldwide business empire across eight countries and is estimated to be worth at least several billion ringgit, according to the list released by the BMF on February 21.
The 49 companies are located in Malaysia, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, the US, UK, the British Virgin Islands and Jersey. Some of the companies are involved in high end real estate and property, such as notable Malaysian companies Cahya Mata Sarawak (CMS), the largest private company in Sarawak, and the Ta Ann logging group.
Taib Mahmud is alleged to have abused his position, giving preferential treatment to his business interests who are engaged in the mistreatment and forced evictions of the indigenous population in Sarawak and land grabs of Native Customary Rights (NCR) land in the state.
Furthermore, Taib Mahmud has allegedly failed to be accountable for over RM4.8 billion in state funds over the past three years. In 2007, Japanese tax authorities uncovered a corruption scheme involving kickbacks from nine Japanese shipping companies in exchange for timber export licenses.
Suaram is surprised why the government, and particularly the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC), with such a vocal stand against corruption, has remain silent and failed to take any action against Taib Mahmud, even with the evidence put forth, virtually on a platter, by the Bruno Manser Fund and many other whistleblowers.
Suaram is concerned that inaction by the government will be seen as tacit approval of corruption and an inability or even an unwillingness to crack down on corruption, despite many public statements to the contrary.
Therefore Suaram demands that the MACC immediately investigate the allegations of corruption and misuse of power against Taib. The government must also cooperate with international efforts to identify and freeze Taib’s illicit overseas assets, if any, for future restitution to the people of Sarawak.
The writer is Suaram coordinator.