Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Malaysia tribes struggle with modern problems

Tribal chief Danny Ibang lived most of his life in the pristine jungles of the Malaysian portion of Borneo island until he was pushed into a modern world he was told would be better. 
And in many ways, it is.
His Kenyah community of 2,000 enjoys electricity, running water, health and educational facilities previously undreamed-of since being moved out of the jungles to a new village to make way for the huge Bakun hydroelectric dam.
But as expanding dams, oil-palm plantations and other development forces thousands off ancestral lands in the state of Sarawak, a host of modern new problems threaten to break down once tight-knit tribal communities.
Village elders and activists say alcoholism, drug use, and crime are on the increase and anger is rising over continuing encroachment on native lands.
"There have been a lot of social changes after the Bakun dam," said Ibang, 66, whose people were among the first moved to the relocation village of Sungai Asap 14 years ago.
"Some teens who go to school learn to rebel against their parents, and boys and girls now mingle freely as they see it on the television," he said. There were 10 recent teen pregnancies -- something unheard-of in the old days.
The state government is pushing to develop the economy of Sarawak, which is blessed by rich natural resources yet remains one of Malaysia's poorest states.
But critics say the effort, while necessary, is plagued by graft and harms tribes that are ethnically distinct from the nation's majority Malays.
Tribal lands make up about 80 percent of Sarawak and "nearly all has been taken for logging and plantations", said Mark Bujang, head of Borneo Resources Institute, a body working in defence of native land rights.
In October, Penan tribespeople blocked roads into their lands for a week to protest logging and alleged river pollution by Malaysian firm Interhill until the blockade was dismantled by authorities.
At a forum on native concerns in the town of Bintulu in October organised by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, about 150 Iban tribespeople alleged a palm oil company illegally seized their land for a plantation and disturbed ancestral graves, said Joseph Laja, an Iban.
"We are really angry," Laja told commission members.
"If they move into another part of our land, there could be violence."
About four million of Malaysia's 28 million people belong to indigenous tribes, most of which are native to Malaysian Borneo where some retain diminishing traditional rainforest hunting and farming ways.
Officially, they enjoy the same preferential treatment in business, education and other areas accorded to Malays -- a controversial policy meant to lift Malay socio-economic standing.
But natives and activists say this has meant little to tribes, who remain among the country's poorest groups.
As a result, many youths welcome their new life and opportunities in Sungai Asap, which now has 11,600 people from a range of tribes living in traditionally inspired longhouses.
Roads linking the village to coastal cities have, along with modern telecommunications, opened new employment vistas for tribal youths.
"I love living in Sungai Asap," said Lenny Prescially, 18, as she tapped out messages to friends on Facebook in a local community centre.
Her family moved here from the jungles when she was four and she knows little of the old ways.
"Only the elders want to continue the old lifestyle. They don't know anything," she said dismissively of the older men who still hunt wild boar in forests and nearby palm plantations, machetes strapped to their waists.
The Bakun dam has been widely criticised as a white elephant, disastrous for uprooted tribes and pristine jungles that are now inundated by a reservoir the size of Singapore, its projected power output exceeding Sarawak's needs.
Transparency International has called the dam, which began generating electricity in August, a "monument to graft".
Much of the anger in Sarawak is directed at Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud -- himself from the Melanau tribe -- who has governed the state since 1981 and is widely accused of corruption, cronyism, and plundering the state's resources, which he denies.
But Sarawak Land Development Minister James Masing said the state must develop the economy and give youths new opportunities.
"I have to support (the state's youths). We need to develop Sarawak," he told AFP.
But there is a palpable sense of rootlessness today for communities whose identity was long linked to ancestral lands passed down through generations.
"When our land is taken away, there is no longer any blood in our body," said Sungai Asap resident Stem Liau, 48.
Ibang, the Kenyah headman, said his people were promised eight hectares (20 acres) of farmland per family at Sungai Asap but only received a little more than one hectare of poor-quality land.
"Promises have been broken," said Ibang, who has struggled to grow pepper, cocoa and rubber.
Hasmy Agam, chairman of the rights commission, said it had received nearly 2,000 complaints over native land rights infringement in Malaysia over the past decade. Many of those complaining have threatened violence.
"We sense that. We hope that is not the solution," Hasmy said.
Source: AFP

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A retiree exposes gerrymandering in Sabah

A retiree arrested the attention of opposition members at the public hearing by the parliamentary select committee (PSC) on electoral reform, when he told them to forget about marching to Putrajaya under the current electoral system.

ng chak ngoon complain to psc 271111Armed with printouts of his presentation slides, Ng Chak Ngoon (right) who described himself as a retiree, presented the panel with a graph that showed 222 lines with every one being taller than the other as it progressed.

The graph, said Ng at the hearing in Kota Kinabalu yesterday, which saw several others testifying, was plotted against the population size of all the constituencies in ascending order for the 2008 general election.

"All on the left (in blue) are won by BN, on the right (in red) are all won by the opposition. The BN constituencies are very small and the opposition constituencies are very big. So what is happening here?

"It's not by chance that all the people in big constituencies like the opposition and all those people in the small constituencies like BN. I would think there is a design here for the Election Commission (EC) to sub-divide all the BN areas into smaller areas to increase their number of MPs," he said.

Ng added that the smallest constituency, BN-held Putrajaya only had 6,008 voters but Opposition-held Kapar had a staggering 112,224 voters, 17 times more than Putrajaya.

‘Kapar can have 17 MPs'

"If we break down Kapar to the size of Putrajaya, you would have 17 MPs from Kapar instead of just one."

If all the seats are made into equal size, Ng added, the last general election would yield a result where BN and Pakatan Rakyat would only have a difference of seven seats in Parliament as opposed to the actual results of 140 to 82 seats.

NONEHe further estimated that if a party relied on all the small seats to win power, it would only require 15.4 percent of the total votes to form a majority in Parliament.

"If the opposition thinks they can march to Putrajaya, forget about it."

At this point, PSC member Anthony Loke who is DAP's Rasah MP quipped: "Very demoralising."

Explaining further, Ng said the smallest constituency in Malaysia was 13 percent of the national average while the largest was 288 percent, in contrast to the UK's which smallest and largest constituency are 77 percent and 153 percent of the national average respectively.

"If the EC is sincere, it should redraw all the constituencies, this is not gerrymandering, this is outright cheating."
 PSC member Dr Hatta Ramli later concurred, pointing out that the Baling parliamentary constituency, supposedly a rural seat, had an unusually large number of constituents at around 70,000.

"This was because PAS has won the seat before," said Hatta, who then asked if Ng thought this was ethical.

"Unethical is a mild word, Can I answer outside?" replied Ng in reference to parliamentary rules that require members in the hearing to abide by appropriate language.

State by state breakdown
Ng later proceeded to present similar graphs with a state by state breakdown at which PSC member Mohd Radzi Sheikh Ahmad said: "Can you rate Kangar?", in reference to his own constituency.

mca disciplinary board 230210 fong chan onn"If you have Negeri Sembilan's, I would like to see my chances of winning," added Loke.

At this, Ng quipped: "I'll have to charge you for consultancy."

When asked by PSC member Fong Chan Onn (right) on how the panel can accommodate the increase of seats for Sabah and Sarawak to meet the Malaysian Federation agreement of 34 percent into his recommendations, Eng replied: "What is your objective?

"To win the election or to have an equitable dispersion of votes? If these are conflicting desires, obviously we cannot come to a compromise. BN has to answer that question, not me, I'm a retired man."

Source: Malaysiakini

Sabahans, Sarawakians plea to PSC for right to vote

Malaysians working in Brunei yesterday made an impassioned plea to the parliamentary select committee (PSC) on electoral reform to be allowed to vote overseas.

At a PSC hearing in Sabah, its representative Ng Kinn Sing read out a petition on behalf of one Teo Ai Im, recollecting the experience of Malaysians who witnessed overseas voting in action by neighbouring countries but who themselves had no chance of voting for their own country.

"This year, Thailand had their general election in July. As early as May, the Thai embassy in Brunei started contacting every Thai citizen here to inform and encourage them to go and register to vote, right here in Brunei.

"My Philippine and Indonesian colleagues, just like the Thais, were allowed to vote in their respective embassies. Why can't our Malaysian government do that?... Is our government more backwards than its neighbour?"

He later submitted a petition signed by 38 Malaysians working in Brunei, many of whom are Sabahans and Sarawakians, demanding the right to vote overseas, to the panel.

The PSC public hearing was held in Kota Kinabalu.

Later, Sarawakian and activist Lau Shu Shi, who works in Kuala Lumpur made a similar plea for Sarawakians and Sabahans working in peninsular to be allowed to vote there, and for peninsular Malaysian to be able to vote in Sabah and Sarawak.

"To go back to vote is really costly for me. Last election in Sarawak, when I went back to vote, it cost me a quarter of my salary.

"If I need a quarter of my salary, I cannot imagine how much people living in villages have to spend. There are many Sarawakains working in factories. They will not be able to spend so much."

'Ban ex-civil servant from EC'

Meanwhile, Tindak Malaysia activist Wong Piang Yow who had flown from the peninsula, recommended several measures to the PSC to improve the Election Commission based on his experience as a polling agent, counting agent, barung agent (Pacaba) trainer.

Testifying in his personal capacity, he called for appointments of EC officials to exclude those who have served in the government service.

"It is like a World Cup Game between Germany and Brazil and having a referee coming from either country. That would not be acceptable to the football fans."

Malaysia, Wong said, should emulate Indonesia, which has an EC Oversight Board.

"The Oversight Board will monitor the EC and impose sanctions on the EC should they be derelict in their duties."

He added that EC should be empowered to punish election offences on its own, as the current system puts the final say on the public prosecutor.

'Lifetime ban for quitters'

However, the PSC panel led by Maximus Johnity Ongkili was stirred when Sabah Community Welfare Organisation (Perkemas) preisdent Mohd Marsidi Katong called for by-elections to be replaced with appointments from the winning party if the prior results were won with large majorities.

"We also suggest MPs and state assemblypersons who resign without any appropriate reason to be blacklisted forever, including their family members."

"Even their brothers and sisters?" asked a stumped PSC member Mohd Radzi Sheikh Ahmad.

"Yes, until death. But there could be an exception for their cousins," replied Marsidi.

Several other private citizens, including Sabahans Dr Jurin Gunsalam, SM Muthu and Verus Aman Sham and Sarawakians June Rubis and Marita Adang Muda recounted their experience of electoral corruption and provided recommendations that were similar to electoral reform groups Bersih 2.0's eight point demands.

However, PBS testified again at yesterday's last day of hearing, this time  from its representative Roony Rusikan from Sook, Pensiangan, to provide a rural perspetive to electoral reform.

"We suggest that the serial number on the ballot papers be abolished. This is threatening rural voters because our numbers are small. When there is serial number our vote is not secret," he said.

When met after the conclusion of the hearing, PSC member Dr Hatta Ramli said the preliminary report of the panel's findings will be tabled in Parliament on Dec 1.

The third session of public hearing will commence on Dec 8 to 9 and will take place in Kuching, Sarawak.

Source: Malaysiakini

More On Daya Syukra – The Samling Connection!

Posted Saturday, November 26th, 2011

“Not me Govenor!” – Taib is finding himself in the dock time and again as he comes to the DUN to deny corruption!
Taib Mahmud is betraying big weaknesses with his useless attempts to shut up questions in Parliament about his family corruption and then to have those questions removed from the official records.
The first thing it shows is how dangerous he knows such questions are.  To sell a huge area of valuable state land worth RM225 million to a company owned by his own kids for just RM2 million is plain, dirty corruption for all to see. 
This is exactly what YB Wong King Wei most recently revealed in the State Assembly with his question about the scandal of Shoreline Development Sdn Bhd. 
As we know, there have been plenty of similar thefts linked to other scandals, such as Monarda Sd Bhd and the land round Kuching airport; the handouts to Naim Cendara; the World Heritage site of Borsamulu given to his sister and of course the scandal of the contracts and plantation licences given to Taib’s son Abu Bekir’s Titanium Management, which YB Chong also drew attention to in a series of separate parliamentary questions last week.
The Chief Minister is already suffering the indignity of a public investigation by the MACC, as well as questions over money laundering in Germany, Switzerland, the UK and Canada. Those investigators are not going to have to work very hard with such evidence as the Shoreline Development deal revealed in broad daylight! 
Voter power
I voted BN and all they ever gave me was this lousy t-shirt!
And what are voters to think with an election just round the corner?  Remember, it has just been announced that Taib’s administration has only been able to allocate a tiny RM3.47million to help alleviate the hard core rural poverty that afflicts so many Dayaks in Malaysia’s richest state. 
It is now easy to see why there is no money to help the starving poor, since Taib has just stolen land that could have raised RM222 million and given it to his own mega-rich children instead! 
The second great weakness that Taib’s behaviour reveals is that he clearly has not realised how times have changed. He now faces a real and strong opposition in the State Assembly and in his appearances there he is looking increasingly like an old man in the dock!
He can no longer control the opposition by simply trying to silence it.  Furthermore, his old tactics for suppressing embarrassing information can no longer work. Because, whatever the tame Speaker tries to do in the way of altering parliamentary records and shutting up speakers, the Chief Minister and his cronies can not wipe this information off the internet!
The Samling connection
YB Wong pointed out that the lucky owners of Shoreline Development Sdn Bhd, who were able to walk off with a RM 225 million plot of 90 acres for just RM 2 million, were two companies, Plieran Sdn Bhd and Sarawak Land Sdn Bhd.
Behind closed doors. Deals involving State Lands should be open and everyone should be allowed to bid. Then it would not end up going cheap to Taib’s family!
Company information plainly shows that Plieran Sdn Bhd is fully owned by KBE Malaysia Sdn Bhd, which is 60% owned by Daya Syukra Sdn Bhd, which in turn is owned by Taib’s kids Jamilah, Abu Bekir, Sulaiman and Hanifah! 
So, who are the other shareholders of KBE Malaysia Sdn Bhd?  They turn out to be the logging tycoon Yaw Teck Seng of Samling and Wan Morshidi bin Tuanku Abdul Rahman, a close proxy for Taib’s own uncle and predecessor, Abdul Rahman Ya’kub.   
My people are poor because they are stupid!
At this point it is surely right to remember Taib’s own statement just before the election, made in a recorded interview and released on his own website, in which he claimed that he and his family “never do business in Sarawak”, because if they did they would be “hounded by accusations of conflict of interest”. 
“If I do business inside the country people will say I use my influence to enrich myself. So, we did it outside” [Taib Mahmud March 2011]
Sarawak Report duly accuses Taib Mahmud of gross conflict of interest and of lying.  He has abused his influence by engaging in a secretive land deal, handing his wealthy children a huge area of state land for almost nothing.  This and numerous other similar corrupt deals have deprived his people of money that could have made their lives better.

Tap Tap - "If people haven't got it up there, then there is nothing we can do!" - Taib claims his people are poor because they are stupid!
Taib added insult to injury in his interview by saying that his children were rich only because they were so “clever” compared to others. 
He claimed that “anyone” who is clever could make themselves rich over 30 years, whereas (tapping his head) he explained that the thousands of desperate people in Sarawak remain poor because they, by contrast,  are stupid!:
“for those who haven’t got it up here (taps his head)there is nothing we can do!”.
So, there we have it.  Taib believes there is nothing he can do to help the poverty of his people because they “haven’t got it up here (tap, tap)”! 

Poor - so you must be stupid !
Sarawak’s Chief Minister clearly thinks money is wasted on his people, since they are stupid.  This must be why he could only find RM3.45 million to help all the rural poor and yet gave his own rich (‘clever’) children over RM200 million in a corrupt land deal. 
With such an open statement it would indeed be stupid for any of his people who have heard such heartless and lying insults to willingly vote for BN.
It is no wonder, therefore, that Taib had to blackmail, bully, bribe and cheat to produce a so-called ‘win’ at the last election.  No wonder either that his tactics were so dirty that tens of thousands of people came out on the streets of KL a few weeks later to protest in the Bersih 2 rally for clean and fair elections.  And no wonder that even BN Malaysia are desperate to get rid of the corrupt and arrogant ‘White Rajah’ of Sarawak.
More on Samling
From Samling to Taibs – US mansion
Meanwhile, the connection with Samling goes much further.  Its timber tycoon boss, Yaw Teck Seng, has turned his company into a massive global empire thanks to the many, many logging concessions that he managed to obtain from Taib Mahmud and before that his uncle, the same Abdul Rahman Ya’Kub whose associate has such a big interest in KBE Malaysia, Plieran and therefore the Shoreline Development deal.
Time and again the Taib family and Samling pop up together in joint business ventures and the Taib family, time and again, can be shown to enjoy large shareholdings in Samling companies. 
Given what we already know of Taib’s corrupt practices, who is willing to believe that he and his uncle distributed all those favours on Samling for nothing?
Joint Ventures 
So is it any surprise that the second company in Shoreline Development (see above) is Sarawak Land Sdn Bhd.  Sarawak Land Sdn Bhd also belongs to Samling’s Yaw Tech Sing?
Plieran (owned by Yaw/Taib’s children) and Sarawak Land are also major shareholders of Borsamulu, the controversial World Heritage site snatched by Raziah Taib from the Berawan and Penan people. 
The Taibs and the Yaws are the major shareholders in Mulu.
Plieran is likewise involved in family ventures with the Raziah and her husband Robert Geneid in numerous property deals in Miri, made possible by land grants from Taib’s government.  These include Miri Properties and the Marriott Hotel Miri development.
Meanwhile, Plieran is also one of the largest shareholders in Samling’s key logging subsidiary Lingui. Once again this raises the very conflict of interest that Taib was admitting he would be accused of. 

Taib family Plieran's interest in Samling's Lingui
And, of course, as Sarawak Report has previously pointed out, Taib’s cousin and proxy Hamed Sepawi, his Bomoh Ahmed Suiit and the same Wan Morshidi bin Tuanku Abdul Rahman, who is so close to Abdul Rahman Ya’kub, are the three largest shareholders of Samling’s main company, Samling Global, apart from the Yaw family themselves!
No money from BN for ‘stupid’ poor people in Sarawak
How did Taib’s black magic man, his cousin and his uncle’s proxy manage to gain 5% each of one of the world’s largest logging companies? Was it because they are so clever, or because of Taib’s misuse of his influence as he handed out logging licences behind closed doors to the Yaw family and Samling?
Likewise, how is it that two large mansions in Seattle, North America, so conveniently slipped from the ownership of the Yaw family into the possession of the Taib family for the apparent transaction of just $1 dollar? 
Taib puts the success of himself and all his family members down to their cleverness and the stupidity of other Sarawakians.  But he has lied about not doing business in Sarawak.  To the contrary, thanks to his influence the Taib family do almost all the business there is in Sarawak. 
The rest of the country are not stupid… they just aren’t related to the Chief Minister.  Taib may not like it, but his corruption is being exposed and he can no longer stop it from happening.
Source: Sarawak Report