A new book ‘Money Logging’, to be launched in Kuala Lumpur today, exposes the greed that has fuelled the destruction of forests in Sarawak which Mutang Urud calls ‘home’.
One of the greatest environmental crimes in history, the issue, said Mutang in the book’s foreword, is more than just the theft of trees.
“Surely, if my people have lost their ecosystem, their traditional way of life, their clean drinking water, and their freedom to roam the forests, they must have gained something. Yet they haven’t.
“Many of the people of Sarawak are as poor as they were when I was born.
“And yet, the value of the trees that have been felled is estimated to exceed US$50 billion,” Mutang wrote.
He alleged that the profits have fed corruption, kept oligarchs in power, and used to commit further crimes.
Mutang claimed that fortunes have been moved through the world’s leading financial system, most secretly, to places as distant as Zurich, London, Sydney, San Francisco and Ottawa.
The book, written by Lukas Straumann, executive director of Swiss-based Bruno Manser Fund, charts the trail of businesses and investments linked to logging wealth.
“It is also about power, more precisely, how a corrupt autocrat has liquidated the forest in order to keep himself at the helm of a state.
“For my people, it is also more than a question of trees. It is about our culture they have stolen,” he claimed.
As a young adult in 1970s, Mutang watched the loggers not only destroy the forests, but also divide communities with bribes and pay-offs.
“They were like thieves in the night; indeed, they were working in such haste that their machinery could be heard at midnight, even on Sunday.
“Our ancestral land has been desecrated, our history erased, the very memory of our origins lost.
“As a young idealist, I could not stand by while this crime was occurring. In the 1980s, I helped organised blockades to stop the bulldozers and chainsaws.
“I founded the Sarawak Indigenous People’s Alliance as a rallying point for our people’s resistance,” wrote Mutang, who went on a global campaign on this issue.
Wealth and impunity
“Back in Sarawak, the police attacked our blockades and sent many people to jail. I was arrested, interrogated, and held in solitary confinement.
“Upon my release, I left Malaysia to speak about these environmental crimes at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and at the United Nations,’ he wrote.
Fearing arrest, Mutang spent 20 years overseas, and upon returning, saw the rainforest he loved almost gone.
The big question for him “is how a single man, along with a small group of very rich politicians and businessmen, could destroy the richest ecosystem on earth despite not owning it, despite local and global outcry, despite international laws and regulations.
“Simply put: Who has stolen our trees?” he added.
‘Money Logging’ was launched by Batu Lintang PKR assemblyperson See Chee How in Kuching on Wednesday.
The book’s Kuala Lumpur launch is today, to be followed by events in Japan, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Belgium and Switzerland.