Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Fundraisers help villagers install own mini hydro units

Visiting … the housewives pose at a construction site of a wooden home at Kampung Nyukol. Photos courtesy of SB Lim.
Yam Phui Yee
A group of concerned individuals are raising RM40,000 to install mini hydroelectric units to power up two new villages deep in the forests of Ulu Bengoh — a 45-minute drive away from Kuching, Sarawak.
The villagers have to move out of their ancestral homes in Kampung Rejoi and Kampung Bujong/Pain to make way for the RM310 million Bengoh Dam project.
Located at higher grounds, Kampung Nyukol and Kampung Sting will be the new homes, respectively, for 27 Bidayuh families of Kampung Rejoi and Kampung Bujong. They turned down the government’s resettlement offer and some filed a lawsuit to claim their native customary rights (NCR) over the land.
The villagers stood their ground despite the expected impoundment this year. Their ancestral graves are still within the area to be filled by water from the dam.
Villagers from two other affected areas — Kampung Taba Sait and Kampung Semban — have accepted the government’s resettlement offer. But even so, some are beginning to build their own homes while waiting for the promised housing and compensation.
The prime movers of this group are the same people who made the Ulu Bengoh Darom Piin (Ulu Bengoh Under Water) short film which highlighted the plight of the villagers. They include the Malaysian Election Observers Network (MEO-net) coordinator Ong Boon Keong and IT consultant Joachim Leong.
Together with supporters, including a number of housewives, they want to install the mini hydro units in the villages, so that the villagers would have their own source of power.
In the words of Leong, 25, a Sarawakian based in Kuala Lumpur, he wants to “empower” the rural Sarawakians, starting with those in Ulu Bengoh.
The group also wants to see if the mini hydro units will facilitate technical knowledge transfer to the villagers. If so, the group will duplicate the project in other rural areas in Malaysia.
Currently, some of these villages rely on fuels that have to be carried into the forest by foot, or on solar panels that can power up only one light bulb for the night.
The two mini hydro units — one for each village — will be installed at the nearby rivers of Kampung Nyukol and Kampung Sting. They will generate enough power of between five kilowatts and nine kilowatts needed for the 27 homes.
altHopeful Rejoi children … the supply of hydro electric power at their homes will ease their studies.
“It will hopefully benefit their children, who will be able to read when they come back for the weekends or school holidays, from boarding schools. They currently require one gallon of petrol per generator daily for enough light until midnight per household. While not every household requires a generator — they tend to congregate at one house in the evenings — this comes out to around RM 2,000 a year, not to mention the difficulty in bringing in the petrol, cost of the generator and its maintenance,” said Leong.
With a steady supply of sustainable energy, the villagers can also continue with their usual evening communal gatherings at a neighbour’s home.
There have been talks that the Bengoh Dam might be fitted with turbines to generate electricity. In any case, Leong and Ong share the same view that Kampung Rejoi and Kampung Bujong villagers are unlikely recipients of the power, due to the large amount of stored water needed, high cost and low consumption.
Plus, these villagers still have a lawsuit against the government which is still pending.
So far, the group has managed to raise RM20,500, enough to install the first mini hydro unit for Kampung Nyukol. Ong said that they are trying to source for local products and manpower to save on costs. The villagers will be part of the labour with external consultants and an engineer chipping in with technical knowledge.
“We are taking on the bigger challenge of trying to fabricate the turbine — usually the more costly and technically demanding aspect — by studying the existing mini hydro units which are common in Penang. We already have a workshop owner in Sibu, who expressed interest to fabricate a turbine if we come up with a design,” said Ong, who has been banned from entering Sarawak since May last year.
His team had conducted early assessment of rivers suitable for the mini hydro units. They now look forward to a more accurate study when the waters are lower in February.
Among those helping to raise funds for the mini hydro units are Klang Valley based housewives SB Lim and Cynthia Tan, who went into the villages with three others to see the situations for themselves.
One of the villagers told them, in Malay: “Kami sekarang sudah pisah daripada pemerintah. Semua orang kampung yang lain sekarang tengok pada kami. Mereka nak tengok kami akan mundur atau maju. Kami mesti tunjuk pada mereka kami masih boleh maju, walaupun sudah berpisah daripada pemerintah.” (We are cut off from the administration. All other villagers are now looking at us. They want to see whether we will regress or progress. We must show to them that we can still progress, even if we are cut off from the administration.)
altEye-opening trip … Lim (right) and Tan (second from right) with their friends and guide, trekking into the villages of Ulu Bengoh.
The five ladies returned and shared stories from their eye-opening trip to their friends.
“What struck me most were the people. They were very warm, generous, strong and stoic. Their home, land and crops would be taken away from them and they still remain calm… Although we just met, we could talk about many things,” said Lim, who hopes to raise the funds quickly before prices of the items increase.
The 2010 Auditor-General’s Report released last year revealed that the RM310 million Bengoh dam, which was supposed to have been completed in December 2010, still has about 3% of work left and will cost the government RM58 million in overruns. It attributed the delay to poor coordination in land acquisition and resettlement, and noted that the resettlement site chosen by the government was unsuitable because it is a mountainous water catchment area.
The villagers held the same view but were dismissed by the authorities.
(To contribute towards the mini hydro electric units project, email meonet2010@gmail.com for details. For more information, read http://goodtimes.my/index.php/Community/the-voting-mystery-of-bengoh.html or watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbK8c4dSn-Y)

Source: Hornbill Unleashed 

DIY giants Wickes and B&Q 'selling wood felled illegally from Borneo rainforest'

Last updated at 10:42 PM on 29th January 2012

    DIY giants Wickes and B&Q boast of their environmental credentials and commitment to using products from ‘responsible sources’.
    But both have been selling wood feared to have been illegally harvested from endangered rainforests harbouring the world’s dwindling orang-utan population, the Daily Mail can reveal.
    Even though an official investigation found that a rogue firm had produced huge quantities of plywood in breach of rules – probably using trees from the  forests of Borneo – it has remained on sale in B&Q and Wickes stores across Britain.
    Stocked up: Strips of wood for sale at one of B&Q¿s superstores
    Stocked up: Strips of wood for sale at one of B&Q¿s superstores
    The Malaysian wholesaler involved, Asia Plywood, was stripped of its right to ‘green credentials’ last month, and the investigating body advised that none of its products made from late February last year onwards should be put on sale.
    However, when the Daily Mail contacted ‘forest-friendly’ B&Q on Friday, the chain suddenly began stripping the wood from its shelves. 
    Wickes – which assures customers ‘our timber has come from a responsible source’ – continues to sell the product, insisting it is better to give it to consumers than put it in a landfill site.
    The company pointed out that the Forest Stewardship Council, the timber industry-funded body that promotes ‘responsible management’ of forests, had authorised the continuing sale of Asia Plywood products supplied to UK retailers up until the day it stripped the company of certification.
    Endangered: A baby orang-utan clinging to its mother last week in an area where timber is being illegally lumbered
    Endangered: A baby orang-utan clinging to its mother last week in an area where timber is being illegally lumbered
    Last night the FSC was unable to explain why it gave this guidance when its investigation agency, Scientific Certification Systems, said no plywood produced since February last year should have  been certified.
    The embarrassing debacle calls into question how committed the industry and major UK retailers are to defending the rainforests.
    For while Wickes and B&Q both loudly trumpet their green credentials, both have been supplying wood produced in clear breach of standards.
    Environmentalists are particularly worried about the accelerating destruction of the Borneo rainforest, which threatens the orang-utan with extinction, along with an irreplaceable eco-system of rare creatures and plants.
    At particular risk is the rainforest in the Malaysian state of Sarawak on the island of Borneo, where corruption has in recent decades led to deforestation. 
    The Mail’s investigation centres on Asia Plywood, which boasts on its website that its operation is based in Sarawak. Pictures show huge piles of logs loaded on to a ship on Sarawak’s Rajang river. 
    The FSC was warned in 2010 that the products contained a high proportion of rainforest hardwood, with the low price a clue it did not come from sustainable plantations in New Zealand.
    The wood has been harvested from endangered rainforests harbouring the world¿s dwindling orang-utan population
    The wood has been harvested from endangered rainforests harbouring the world¿s dwindling orang-utan population
    As such, it was claimed, the wood should not have been given FSC certification indicating that it was ‘responsibly sourced’.
    A forestry expert shopper later said analysis of Asia Plywood bought at both B&Q and Wickes in Stockport showed high proportions of hardwood likely to be from Sarawak rainforest.
    The FSC eventually referred the claims to investigators at SCS last month, who reported: ‘The FSC products sold by Asia Plywood between February 25, 2011, and present are not FSC-certified... We have requested Asia Plywood remove the FSC label from any products that they have in stock and that Asia Plywood request the same of customers.’
    In fact, the FSC then told UK retailers the wood it had supplied before the end of December was still suitable for sale. An industry source said: ‘Consumers are being duped. The tragedy is that this  rare and beautiful rainforest hardwood is being sold off as plywood as the system is not dealing with the cheats.’
    Asked why it continued to sell Asia Plywood products, a B&Q spokesman said: ‘We sought and received written assurances from the FSC, as recently as January 13, that current stock is certified.
    ‘As a result of new information, we have launched a further investigation ... and removed existing stocks from shelves today.’
    A spokesman for Wickes, however, provided a January 13 letter from FSC which said ‘products supplied by Asia Plywood as FSC certified whilst their FSC certificate was valid (up until December 27,  2011 – including since February 25, 2011) should be considered  FSC-certified and can continue to be sold as such’.
    Managing director Jeremy Bird told the Daily Mail: ‘If we took it off sale it would end up in landfill, and someone would have to cut more trees down to replace it.’

    Source: Daily Mail, UK

    Crooked courts give ‘native’ titles to foreigners

    Luke Rintod

    January 31, 2012
    Chief Judge of the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak Richard Malanjum says that under the common law, Native Customary Rights (NCR) pre-existed any statutes and land laws.

    KOTA KINABALU: Corruption and abuse of power in the Sabah Native Courts is so bad that even Chinese nationals from Hong Kong and Taiwan have managed to become “natives” in the state, according to Chief Judge of the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak Richard Malanjum.
    “There are citizens from Hong Kong and Taiwan who have been given the status of native (anak negeri). Judges of the Native Courts gave them the ‘Sijil Anak Negeri’. There are cases, it is a fact.
    “Sorry to those Native Courts,” he revealed in his keynote address at a symposium on Sabah Native Rights: Issues, Challenges and the Way Forward held at Universiti Malaysia Sabah yesterday.
    In the audience were several native court judges.
    Malanjum said some rich non-natives married native girls and used the native spouse to buy native title lands that should only pass among natives.
    “They married the native, but the real owner (of the native title) is a non-native,” he said.
    Malanjum called on Sabah leaders, especially native leaders, to reflect on the problems plaguing natives.
    ‘NCR pre-existed any land laws’
    He said more can be done by the state government to protect the rights of the natives.
    “One thing the authority can consider is to establish a Land Tribunal to hear land-related cases and not throw to courts every land-related case. The Court relies on evidence as in Evidence Act and it is not easy to provide evidence in court on native customary lands.
    “(However) a tribunal does not strictly follow the Evidence Act, perhaps the government should consider establishing a tribunal,” Malanjum said citing as an example the Waitangi Tribunal in New Zealand.
    The senior judge made it clear that his talk should not be construed as a view from the bench but from him as an ordinary citizen and leader of Pusaka (Pusat Sumber Adat dan Mediasi Anak Negeri Sabah) which he founded with a group of lawyers and which co-organised the two-day symposium with UMS’ School of Social Science.
    Malanjum said Pusaka was founded to document the traditional customary laws or “adat” of the various indigenous societies of Sabah, handed down from their forebears and which had become the basis of their culture.
    He also pointed out that under the common law, Native Customary Rights (NCR) pre-existed any statutes and land laws.
    “The accepted court pronouncement is that native do not own land but is part and parcel of the land,” he said.
    Malanjum also explained that while Section 5 of Sabah Land Ordinance stipulated that “the whole land of Sabah belongs to the government”, the court’s position when it comes to dispute between native land owner and the authority is guided by the principle that “the government is in a fiduciary position to protect the interest of the natives.”
    “Whenever the court deliberates on cases that potentially will erode NCR, the court shall weigh the ‘adverse effect’ on the natives…,” he said explaining how the laws of the country, as in other countries like Canada and South Africa, are set to respect and protect native rights.
    Source: Free Malaysia Today

    More natives reporting ‘land grabs’

    Joseph Tawie

    January 30, 2012
    Within the next '10 years or less' several thousand natives in Sarawak are likely to end up being landless vagrants if the current government's policies continue.
    KUCHING: Alleged land grabs involving native customary rights (NCR) properties by the Taib Mahmud-led government is reaching such “chronic” proportions that “in 10 years or less” there will be no native-owned areas, claims a prominent Sarawak NCR lawyer.
    According to Baru Bian, an increasing number of cases of NCR land grabs are being reported from as far interior as Lawas in the north and Lundu in the south of Sarawak.
    “From Lawas to Lundu, the NCR lands have been grabbed by the state Barisan Nasional government.
    “It is so chronic that in 10 years or even less, the native landowners will have no more land left for them to farm and earn a living. And we are talking about several thousand natives being deprived of their land.
    “They will therefore be forced out of their land and moved to cities and towns as their land has been given to oil palm and timber companies under the so-called provisional leases,” said Bian, who is the Ba’Kelalan assemblyman.
    He said that in the cities and towns, these people will become vagrants living under bridges and becoming illegal squatters. Soon, they will create a new set of social problems.
    “Already many have become scavengers and are involved in crimes and drugs. This is our main worry as they pose social problems.
    “If the current government’s policy is not changed, and if the people keep on supporting the BN, this is going to be the reality,” he said.
    Bian since the state election in Aril, more than 50 NCR cases had surfaced and are waiting to be filed in court.
    Challenge to debate Taib
    Already more than 200 NCR land-grabbing cases are pending hearing in the High Court here.
    “The number of new NCR land cases is really shocking.
    “More and more natives are coming to see us with their complaints that their land have been taken away from them.
    “But the government denies this. It says it never grabbed NCR land.
    “And if it continues to say so, then my challenge to Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud for an open debate is still there, ” said Bian.
    Bian had, in February last year, challenged Taib to debate the opposition’s allegations of land grabs by the government.
    Initially, Taib was ready to accept the challenge if Bian could show strong evidence to support his allegation that the government had seized NCR land.
    Bian was ready with proof but the debate did not materialise as some leaders of Taib’s Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) said that Bian was not equal to Taib in stature and was not “even” an elected representative.
    On April 16 last year, Bian won the Ba’ Kelalan state seat defeating BN-Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP) candidate Willie Liau by 473 votes.
    With the win, Bian, who is also Sarawak PKR chairman, is in a better position to debate with Taib.
    “My challenge for an open debate with the chief minister is still on.
    “And I insist we debate with the number one (man), that is, the chief minister himself,” said Bian.
    Source: Free Malaysia Today

    Sarawak PKR: We’re better prepared than before

    Joseph Tawie

    January 30, 2012
    The April 2011 state election was a massive learning curve for young Sarawak PKR, and its three-seat win has helped chart its course for the coming parliamentary polls.
    KUCHING: Sarawak PKR is a lot more confident going into the 13th general election than it was during last April’s state election.
    The April polls had given it a massive hands-on experience. Since then, the party has been working the ground, identifying issues and collecting hard evidence to counter denials by Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s administration.
    Said state PKR chairman Baru Bian: “We are better prepared this time than during the state election.
    “We have been working for the past few months not only in the areas that have been allocated to us, but also in other areas controlled by DAP and PAS.
    “We’ve been compiling all native customary rights (NCR) land cases, issues on SCORE (Sarawak Corridor of Renewal Energy) and dams. These are matters which we will use in the coming election.”
    In the last state election, PKR contested in 49 constituencies and managed to win three seats in Ba’ Kelalan, Krian and Batu Lintang. The three assemblymen are Bian, Ali Biju and See Chee How respectively.
    While many within the Umno circles have dismissed PKR’s success in Sarawak as “miniscule”, others have said that it “showed that the opposition can win and that PKR had made inroads into Dayak grounds”, which was once considered the sacred turf of the Sarawak BN.
    This time round Bian, a prominent land lawyer here, said the party will take a more realistic approach.
    “We have identified issues. We have also identified our potential candidates and have submitted 10 names to Kuala Lumpur (PKR national headquarters),” he said.
    Sarawak PKR is reportedly planning to contest in 12 constituencies. Sarawak has 31 parliamentary seats.
    Not taking things for granted
    Last October, a member of the state PKR election bureau, Baharuddin Mokshen, told FMT that the party has been working hard in seven constituencies.
    While he declined to confirm the names of the constituencies, it was learnt from reliable sources that he was refering to Stampin, Baram, Layar, Julau, Selangau, Mambong and Saratok.
    The report also said the party was eyeing five other seats in Mas Gading, Petrajaya, Batang Lupar, Kanowit and Kapit, but this was subject to negotiations with DAP.
    Baharuddin had at the time said that the party had “learnt its lesson” from the last April state election and would not take things for granted.
    “We have been going to the ground, especially on seven seats that we are going to contest to ensure everything is in place.
    “We have talked to the key people who are to be involved in the election such as the counting and polling agents, the potential candidates and on our manpower and other election requirements.
    “We have learnt our lesson from the state election,” said Baharuddin.
    Source: Free Malaysia Today

    Monday, January 30, 2012

    UK Conservative Spokesman Made Video Promos for Sime Darby!

    The Conservative Party’s ex-Environment Spokesman, Bill Wiggin, agreed to play a starring role in videos promoting Sime Darby, after enjoying a luxury trip to Malaysia sponsored by the company.
    The palm oil giant, headed by former Deputy PM Musa Hitam, has been exposed as a major client of FBC Media, the disgraced British public relations company, which has now been axed by the Malaysian government and Sarawak, following our exposes into corrupt practices.

    Bill Wiggin appears on FBC's World Business programme for CNBC. FBC organised the visit as part of their PR contract with Sime Darby
    FBC boasted that it had managed to ‘cultivate’ and ‘influence’ prominent people to become ‘ambassadors’  to ‘champion’ Sime Darby, which has been trying to greenwash its image after a wave of international condemnation over deforestation caused by palm oil plantations.
    British MP cuddles baby orang utan in Sabah sanctuary on a tour paid for by Sime Darby. The practice is discouraged for fear of communicating diseases to the vulnerable creatures.
    The company lists Bill Wiggin, who was Conservative Shadow Environment Minister until mid-2010, as one of those ambassadors from the political arena.
    We have established that Wiggins was jetted out to Malaysia in 2009 and given a tour of Sime Darby’s showcase ‘eco-plantation’ on Carey Island, before being whisked to Sabah to see the Orang Utan Sanctuary there.
    Tour insiders have told us that Wiggin expressed it as a major personal ambition to cuddle a baby orang utan and gratefully responded to the hospitality with a near farcical performance starring as the reporter in a ten minute promotional video praising Sime Darby for its environmental credentials.
    Excerpts from the same interviews with Wiggin were then used by FBC reporter Ryan Meltzer to illegally promote Sime Darby on CNBC’s World Business show, in a package which was disguised as a genuine news report about sustainable palm oil.
    No expense spared to butter up Wiggin - car and escort all laid on as he visits Sabah.
    In fact, Sime Darby is the world’s largest palm oil producer and it owns vast plantations across Borneo in areas that used to be pristine jungle.  Few of its plantations had been certified as being sustainable.
    The company has also recently caused outrage and been forced to pay fines in Africa, where it is currently attempting to expand its operations, again at the expense of native people.
    One-sided report
    Wiggin seems to have willingly understood he was being used as part of a PR drive as Sime Darby attempted to get sustainability certification for its palm plantations in order to attract consumers in the UK and elsewhere.  As he says:
    “The purpose of my coming here was to learn about the process, which I’ve enjoyed doing, but I kind of knew what was going on.  It was really to support a company that was going hell for leather to hit that sustainability target, to encourage the people who are doing the right thing, to emphasise that we in the UK want to buy their product when they have gone to the trouble of making it genuinely sustainable”!
    It is perhaps no surprise then, that the report by Bill Wiggins on behalf of Sime Darby is blatantly one-sided and lacking in objectivity or balance.  The palm oil giant, which has indisputably destroyed vast tracks of jungle since the 1970s is painted as a benign environmental force, while smaller operators (who can’t afford jolly PR trips for MPs) are castigated as the main environmental menace!
    “One of the reasons why people are worried about palm oil is the orang utan.  So, when you go into the sanctuary they tell you that it’s the big estates that are doing the right thing but it’s the little guys, the smallholders, the private individuals, who simply can’t afford to take any losses on their very small operation, where the problems lie!”
    Wiggin says he was told that the big palm oil companies are not a threat to orang utans!
    Wiggin gives no evidence that he has explored this issue, beyond what he has been told by Sime Darby employees.
    He also fails to point out the fact that it is the vast plantations being rolled out across Borneo, thanks to massive investment and industrial scale logging, which have stripped out the jungle by the square mile and exterminated so many of his beloved orang utan.
    Wiggin also fails to make any mention in his report of the greatest environmental threat to Borneo, which is corruption and bad governance by BN politicians, of which the Chairman of Sime Darby is one of the most prominent.  Instead he gushes:
    “We should be doing everything we can to support Sime Darby in its efforts to lead and from everything I’ve seen it’s quite clear that not only is this company leading, but Malaysia is also in a different league to some of the other palm oil producers.  They’ve got proper government backing, proper government buy in, commitment, funding and all the right things are happening here!”
    Singing for his supper? Many of Wiggin's constituents have expressed anger at the 'jet-setting' MP
    Has Bill Wiggin stopped to consider how the destruction of Sabah and Sarawak, under the governance of the party of Sime Darby’s political boss Musa Hitam, can in fact be classed as one of the world’s greatest environmental disasters of recent years ?
    Has he likewise considered that the on-going destruction of Borneo in Kalimantan is being driven, to a very large extent, by the same Malaysian palm oil giants that have destroyed Sabah and Sarawak?
    These companies include, of cause, Sime Darby, which has ripped out around 300,000 hectares of Indonesian rainforest and farmland to make plantations in recent years!
    Ambassador Bill Wiggins
    Dressed for the part - kitted out in Sime Darby gear and logo!
    Given that Bill Wiggin MP was listed as having been ‘cultivated’ to become an ‘ambassador’ or ‘third party endorser’ for Sime Darby in FBC Media’s own promotional material, he can be said to have done a very good job on behalf of his hosts.
    However, the constituents who pay him a salary to represent their interests back in the UK, might have questions about the thoroughness of his recommendations that they should buy Sime Darby products.
    Sounding rather like advertising, Wiggin, in his capacity as Conservative Environment Spokesman emphases the company’s “virtuous activity”:
    “I want, when I am a customer in the shops in the UK, to buy palm oil from a company like Sime Darby, who have produced it in a sustainable way…. Borneo is so full of natural treasures, how are we going to protect that if we don’t buy palm oil from people who are doing the right thing like Sime Darby?”
    'Cultivated' - Bill Wiggin was an FBC target who delivered.
    Wiggin is not the only prominent person targeted by FBC Media on behalf of Sime Darby and its other Malaysian clients.  We have already exposed US economist Jeffrey Sachs as another prime catch as far as the PR company was concerned.
    Corporate leaning environmentalist - Jason Clay banks on big brands for WWF
    Sachs has appeared in a number of programmes for the BBC and CNBC, which had been commissioned by FBC clients.  He also featured in a major newspaper advertisement promoting Sime Darby.
    Jason Clay of WWF, also listed by FBC Media as one of its ‘champions’ for Sime Darby, is a major exponent of the controversial argument that the 100 top world brands can save the environment.
    It is a view that might explain the reluctance of WWF to get involved in criticising large companies when they threaten the environment and the charity’s willingness to engage in working with them!
    More FBC material bragging about forging contacts with Bill Wiggin and others on behalf of Sime Darby.
    However, any involvement by Clay with FBC, or the others mentioned on the list, appears so far circumstantial.  The list even includes British PM David Cameron!
    Cameron attended an enterprise forum involving Sime Darby and organised by Conservative MP Andrew Cumpsty, a former lobbyist, who is also listed as one of FBC’s networking contacts.
    Our letter to Bill Wiggin
    Remember who you need to thank. Promoting Sime Darby to school kids
    Sarawak Report emailed Bill Wiggin late last year asking for comment on FBC’s claim that he had been recruited as an ‘ambassador’ for Sime Darby and questioning his uncritical claims about the company’s environmental record.
    We also questioned the MP’s effusive praise of the company’s local school, which provides education for immigrant workers.  Wiggin posed beneath huge signs situated around the school promoting the company at the children in classrooms and their main hall.
    However, so far we have received no reply from the conservative MP!
    Visiting Sime Darby showcase. But why is educating workers' children such a great gesture by this Malaysian Government controlled company?
    These are the matters we posed to the UK MP in the email we sent 
    “Dear Bill Wiggin,
    Earlier this year we exposed the scandal surrounding FBC Media, which was later covered extensively by the Independent and also the Mail and the Guardian. You may have noted that the BBC and CNBC subsequently severed their relationship with this PR/ TV production company, which has now gone into administration in the UK. You can see extensive coverage on the matter on the blogg www.sarawakreport.org .
    It may have come to your attention that, as part of this coverage, we revealed documents featuring some of the ‘ambassadors’, which FBC boasted they had managed to recruit for Malaysia’s largest palm oil company Sime Darby. Your name was listed on their power point presentations as being one of these individuals.
    We have viewed some of the films that you made with FBC Media at the time of your visit to some of Sime Darby’s company locations, including their showcase Carey Island plantation. These films include your contribution to Ryan Meltzer’s report for the World Business programme, which has now been cancelled by CNBC.
    In the light of the content of these films we would like to ask you if you can comment on the claim that FBC Media was making to clients that they had ‘cultivated’ and ‘influenced’ you into becoming an ‘ambassador’ for Sime Darby?
    We would be grateful if you could confirm the information which we have received, which is that your trip and private jet travel to Carey Island was paid for by Sime Darby?
    We also understand that your stated motivation in visiting Borneo was to ‘cuddle an Orang Utan’. Are you aware that standard good practice in such circumstances is to restrain strangers from coming into contact with baby Orang Utans, because of the danger of passing them human infections?
    Could we ask what wider research you had done into the background and history of Sime Darby’s plantations before you provided such effusive and un-qualified support for the company in the film made by FBC media?  Very few of their plantations have yet, of course, to receive accreditation by the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil, controversial as that accreditation is in itself.
    We ask this, because the devastating extent of deforestation in Borneo owing to the activities of Sime Darby and other major Malaysian Oil Palm growers, like IOI, in both East Malaysia and Kalimantan is clearly well-documented as being one of the primary causes of the destruction of habitat that is responsible for the wiping out of the Orang Utan.
    You visited a school that was designed to educate the children of immigrant Indonesian workers. Sime Darby’s logo around the school is clearly featured in a somewhat totalitarian presence, yet you speak loudly in praise of the efforts of the plantation towards educating the children of its imported workers, as if it was the ultimate gesture in philanthropy.
    Might we ask if you enquired as to the situation regarding the indigenous peoples of the region, who have been deprived by Sime Darby and other large companies of their native lands to make way for these plantations? Did you ask why it is that they have not received jobs or education in the same manner, or indeed why it is that so many of the Indonesian workers have been given Identity cards and voting rights in Sabah, whereas a very large proportion of the indigenous population have not?
    Is it of concern to you that these immigrant workers have been told that to keep their jobs they need to vote for the governing BN party (whose former deputy Prime Minster is the current Chairman of Sime Darby)?
    Did you stop to consider that, since Sime Darby is controlled by the Malaysian Government, education of local children is clearly the basic duty of either it or its owners?
    You presented a very simple picture in the films that you made for FBC Media of a terrific company that is doing nothing but good in East Malaysia. Given that there is such an enormous weight of evidence to the contrary, in terms of human rights abuses against the native peoples of Borneo, whose welfare the British handed in trust to Malaysia at the time of independence in 1963; in terms of the world’s worst rate of deforestation and in terms of Sime Darby’s current activities in Africa and elsewhere, could you comment on just how much background research you did on the subject as Shadow Environment Minister before you agreed to the Sime Darby tour and the promotional video on their behalf?”
    Should Bill Wiggin eventually decide to reply to our questions we will print his comments in Sarawak Report!

    Source: Malaysiakini