KUCHING: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will review a proposed USD 45 million loan to Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) for a power transmission line following allegations of corruption and failure to duly consult and compensate affected indigenous communities.
ADB officials reportedly said they were particularly aware of SEB’s close ties to the family of Sarawak Governor Abdul Taib Mahmud.
The proposed SEB loan was currently undergoing intense scrutiny which includes a review of SEB’s corporate structure, track record and procurement practices. Bank officials said that ADB was committed to upholding “its safeguard standards, including meaningful consultation and functioning grievance mechanisms”.
This was conveyed by ADB officials last week to a Malaysian NGO delegation at the bank’s headquarters in Manila, according to the Swiss-based NGO, Bruno Manser Fund (BMF), founded by an activist who disappeared in the jungles of Sarawak in May 2000 after coming across the Penan, an affected community of Orang Asal.
“ADB is taking our concerns very seriously and has initiated an in-depth due diligence process for the proposed loan to SEB,” said Caroline Nyurang from Sarawak’s anti-dam network SAVE Rivers.
Orang Asal representatives from Sarawak highlighted their concerns about the loan in meetings with ADB’s Office of Anti-Corruption and Integrity and senior bank staff. In particular, they presented the results of a fact-finding mission to the communities affected by the power line.
Thomas Jalong, president of Malaysian indigenous peoples’ network, JOAS, said: “We are confident that ADB’s due diligence process will reveal safeguard violations by SEB with their transmission lines as well as with other energy projects.”
The loan was being sought by the state-owned SEB to build a high voltage transmission line from Mambong (Sarawak) to West Kalimantan (Indonesia) as part of the Trans-Borneo Power Grid. As of February 2015, SEB reported the completion of 90 per cent of the transmission towers and 65 per cent of the transmission line.
In a first reaction, Sarawak Energy denied any wrongdoing and said it was “disappointed to note the latest chapter of the long running smear campaign waged against the company and the State Government by groups with “irrelevant agendas”.
BMF said it was committed to protecting the threatened tropical rainforests and the rights of indigenous forest peoples. The NGO’s focus lies on Sarawak.
~ Free Malaysia Today