Thursday, January 22, 2015

Poser over Taib’s no-show at ‘money-laundering’ book launch in London

21 Jan 07:00 PM

 by Mariam Mokhtar
QUICK TAKE: The pressure is piling onto former Sarawak chief minister Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud. His failure to attend or send a representative to the book-launch of “'Money Logging: On the Trail of the Asian Timber Mafia”, by Dr Lukas Straumann, of the Swiss NGO Bruno Manser Fund, is revealing.
The no-show by Taib, or his legal representative, at the London book launch, proves that the allegations of timber corruption, abuse of power, the use of Singapore as a repository for money laundering and Taib’s illegal acquisition of wealth are all true.
Taib thought that his billions could be used to intimidate Straumann in the same manner that he has threatened the Penans and other indigenous people of Sarawak. He issued the BBC and Amazon, the online book-sellers, with threats to sue them for defamation.
The latter had been warned that it was stocking a book which Taib and his lawyers claimed was “based on an entirely false and highly damaging premise”; however, they failed to provide the details that Straumann requested, of how Taib had acquired his wealth.
The lawyers also failed to show how the book was considered defamatory. As a result, Amazon reversed its earlier decision not to sell the book. This is a small victory for the Sarawak people.
The BBC has not decided to broadcast the interview, and questions are being raised about its reticence.
The world may be shocked by the disclosures in Straumann’s book, but Malaysians, have long known that Sarawak has been gripped by a gangster elite, whose objectives are to continue to suppress the people for the purposes of enriching Taib and his family.
What happens in Sarawak is not done for national interests. The motivation is purely personal gain.
Taib is a billionaire. He treats Sarawak as his personal fiefdom and he is allowed to do so, with the collusion of Putrajaya. The federal government closes one eye, provided West Malaysia receives the bulk of Sarawak’s petroleum revenue and be guaranteed seats in parliamentary general elections.
Taib’s successor Adenan Satem was initially thought to be acting independently of Taib, but the latest allegations are that he is continuing Taib’s disastrous tradition and is considered a worse threat.
Sarawak gained democracy in 1963, but appears to be the victim in the formation of Malaysia. Umno-Baru’s policies of racial and religious extremism, are being exported to Sarawak and are wrecking the country.
Taib may claim popular support by virtue of his refusal to allow Umno-Baru into Sarawak but he wins votes, by allegedly bribing the poor. A few hundred ringgit is nothing to urban dwellers or the middle-class, but it is a king’s ransom for the people of the interior.
Sarawak may call itself a democracy, but its political system is a farce.
Taib has been emboldened ever since he won his first polls. After that initial win, the ruthless Taib has treated the polls like a game, to allegedly bribe or to fiddle, every result.  
The people need to know what has happened to their money, and until a free press and a non-corrupt civil service are restored, democracy will not function in Sarawak.
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