Palm Plantation Patronage – How Taib Pays off Political Pals!
28 Mar 2011
Many have questioned in our comments why Taib’s political colleagues allow his corruption to continue?
Our researches through the land registry are starting to provide the answer. Most of his political cronies, who occupy the top ministerial jobs, have themselves been major benefactors of the Chief Minister’s largess over state lands.
In recent years they have started to try and cover up their names, but we have gained access to some of the older records as well! It is plain that for many BN YBs the end of Taib would mean the end of their cushy plantation titles, so they are hanging on to the old ‘rainmaker’ with all their might!
Take for example Naroden Majais. He has repaid the trust of his constituents in Simunjan by taking a staggering amount of their land! We identified no less than 19 land titles handed out to him via the companies Hydroflow and Indranika Jaya in the Simunjan area during the period 2003 – 2007.
Naroden has also bagged a massive 5,000 hectare plot in Baram region, according to the records.
These handouts alone amount to a total of 15,500 hectares which were given out for a premium of RM5.7 million. But, in case Naroden could not afford to pay or sell these on in time he was given a nice discount of RM500 per hectare on much of the land, says the records, and he was also given between 5 and10 years to pay it!
Sarawak Report has also detected some rather half-hearted attempts by Naroden to cover up his control of these land titles, which provoked some criticism amongst bloggers in 2008. If you look at the current land records (which we have made publicly available on our site) you will see that Hydroflow and Indranika are currently registered under the name of Kong Goon Siong, based at Lot 298, Tingat 1, Lorong 9, Jalan Rubber, Kuching.
However, if you go back to the 2007 land registry the connection with Mr Majais becomes rather plainer. You will note that it was then his name in the land records, next to exactly the same address as the one now used by Mr Kong Goon Siong!
What’s more, in the current 2010 land records, Naroden is still openly listed as the recipient of the land title for the 5,000 hectares in Baram under the company Harta Mastira Sdn Bhd!
Bearing in mind that Taib’s brotherOnn Mahmud is currently advertising palm plantation land for RM 30,000 per acre the value of these 15,500 hectares of plantation land can be assessed at comfortably over billion ringgit!
What the local people got
The issue of Native Customary Land Rights in the area was clearly ‘negotiated’ by Mr Naroden to the extent that the local landowners were enmeshed into a ‘profit-sharing’ deal, whereby they became shareholders in two companies that were handed 30% of Indranika Jaya and Hydroflow.
At the end of last year, with great fanfare in a ceremony held at the grand residence of the Chief Minister himself, these local people were handed their dividend from the first year of profits. The Sarawak Tribune (which is controlled and edited by Hanifah, the Chief Minister’s daughter) described how 23,579 metric tons of palm oil had been produced and that as a result a handsome cheque for RM 575,400 was presented to the local landowners.
Since there are 2,877 of these shareholders, each of the local landowners had to make do with a meagre RM200 for the year! So, what happened to all the profit from the wood that was cut down and what happened to the profit from the sale of the land? Could any of that money have ended up with Mr Naroden Majais, whose house alone implies a certain level of prosperity that one would not expect from the modest salary of a State Assemblyman?
Our researches indicated that yes, that is exactly where the money has ended up. While the local people got 30% of the shares (but no control of the company), 60% of the shares went to a private company called WFM Plantations, which is in turn largely owned by WFM Enterprise Sdn Bhd. WFM operates out of the same set of offices as the NCR shareholder companies, which are called Punggor Wibara Sdn Bhd and Saddor Wibara Sdn Bhd.
The main shareholder of WFM Enterprise turns out to be a familiar name, one Kong Goon Siong along with a clear relative, Kong Goon Khiing! The same couple also direct the sister company WFM Plantations. Kong Goon Siong is of course the trusty employee working out of Naroden Majais’s office, who kindly took over as the contact in the land registry after all the fuss in 2007! Kong Goon Siong shares the same address as Mr Naroden Majais (see land record excerpts above).
So either Mr Majais has kindly handed millions of ringgit worth of palm plantation to his employee Mr Kong Goon Siong and his family or he is using them as his agent in a rather ludicrous attempt do disguise his ownership of 60% of the shares in these Simunjan plantations and his control of the entire company. Nice Mr Majais to give the real owners of the land, the dwellers of Simunjan, RM 200 ringgit for the loss of their forests and livelihoods!
Naroden has more
Sarawak Report concludes that Mr Majais will remain a very strong supporter of of Taib Mahmud and his BN government. Indeed we wonder if with so much land he isn’t in fact acting as a trusty proxy for Taib Mahmud himself? Surely, such a man as this could have been bought and paid for with far less land than the huge plantations that have been generously handed to him for a mere RM5.7 million to be paid for sometime over the next ten years?
That suspicion grows with a further perusal of the land records, which reveal even more lands that have been handed out in recent years to this Minister, who is known to be a particularly close confidant of Taib. Again, one has to look back to the land records of 2007, which are copied below.
- This land in Gedong adds up to another huge plantation of 12,000 hectares, again with a potential worth of around a billion ringgit, according to the sum being asked by Taib Mahmud’s brother Onn for his own plantation. Yet YB Majais’s boss only asked him to pay around RM6 million ringgit to the state of Sarawak!
If BN make such clumsy thieves, we wonder how good they are at running the country?!