BBC Apology Vindicates Sarawak Report, So What About Bakun?
11 Feb 2012
BN mouthpieces, such as the Borneo Post, have been working hard to discredit the integrity of Sarawak Report and all our investigations into the corruption behind the destruction of the Borneo Rainforest and its peoples.
They refer to mysterious “hidden agendas” and have quoted accusations that we are producing “baseless and mischievous” information resting on “dubious sources making several erroneous statements and allegations”.
However, the world’s highly respected media organisation, the BBC, has today issued a statement acknowledging the truth of one of Sarawak Report’s recent investigations, regarding the UK production company FBC Media.
As we have revealed, FBC was hired by Taib Mahmud on a USD$5million a year contract, specifically to counter our allegations. A copy showing the full details of that contract is available on our website. It forms just part of our large body of documentation showing corruption on the part of Taib Mahmud.
So who do you believe, The BBC or the Taib-controlled Borneo Post?
In a world-wide apology, being broadcast four times across the BBC World channel today (Saturday) and expected to reach some 300 million viewers, the BBC has admitted that it was taken in by FBC Media, which was hired by Taib and also by Najib to put out false propaganda on what were supposed to be regular news shows.
The statement goes on to admit:
“In the case of eight other programmes, all of which featured Malaysia, we found that the production company which made the programmes appeared to have a financial relationship with the Malaysian Government. This meant there was a potential conflict of interest, though the BBC was not aware of it when the programmes were broadcast.”[BBC Trust Website 11/02/12]
The BBC’s discovery was based on the information that we revealed first here on Sarawak Report (and which we also passed on to the UK’s Independent newspaper), showing that the Malaysian PM’s own office had also paid FBC a total RM94million to promote BN and Malaysia’s oil palm industry on news shows that it was producing for the BBC, CNBC and CNN.
The UK’s regulator, Ofcom, is still investigating these wider issues with regard to CNBC and CNN. However the BBC has moved fast to acknowledge that BBC programme commissioners may have been tempted by the ‘nominal prices’ of the shows that FBC were offering on the subject of Malaysia and then Sarawak.
Programmes for just RM5!
We have learnt that the BBC top management decided to put up their hands when they discovered, to their embarrassment, that the programmes we had identified promoting Malaysia and the oil palm industry (Sime Darby and Iskandar included) had in fact been commissioned from FBC for the cost of just £1.00 (RM5.00) each.
This may have been helpful for the BBC’s budgets, but the managers responsible must have been aware that FBC had to be finding their true payment elsewhere. The corporation has now announced a complete overhaul of their commissioning processes to avoid any future such scandals.
Meanwhile, in a further demonstration of their own lack of integrity, FBC Media had initially denied outright that they had been hired by Taib and Najib. Their lawyers, the firm Peter Carter Ruck, insisted that FBC “never had any dealings with any government, including Malaysia”!
They had to retract when a mass of internal documents acquired by Sarawak Report proved otherwise, including this power point presentation by FBC Media:
So, when it comes to integrity and the truth, do you believe the Borneo Post, FBC Media and other Malaysian government controlled media outlets, or do you believe Sarawak Report and the BBC?
Sarawak Report has supplied carefully researched evidence to back its investigations, which all readers can see and check on for themselves. And the BBC immediately put things right when they discovered that Malaysians had managed to corrupt its service.
Questions for CNBC and CNN
However, questions still remain unanswered by both CNBC and CNN. Sarawak Report has evidence that CNBC not only received FBC programmes for cheap, but actually charged FBC Media for the privilege of being able to use its programme platform, World Business, to promote its clients.
CNBC should have been paying FBC Media to make this ‘editorial news and current affairs show’, but it turns out they were demanding some RM10million ringgit from FBC Media instead!
The staff in CNBC who were responsible for this arrangement will, therefore, have been plainly condoning FBC’s use of sponsors to pay for their biased programming, which is strictly illegal and forbidden both in the UK and in the company’s US base.
So, now that the BBC has come clean, is CNBC going to own up too – or are they going to hope that the UK regulator Ofcom will let them off the hook when it completes its own investigations?
Meanwhile, CNN are also trying to ignore the evidence of corruption surrounding their favoured broadcaster John Defterios, who for many years was President of FBC Media. There is now plenty of documentation that shows how Mr Defterios was willing to abuse his position as a broadcaster to serve his PR clients at FBC.
Is CNN going to continue to refuse to investigate this matter and likewise hope that Ofcom will let them off the hook?
So, when it comes to the integrity of evidence-based reporting does one trust the BBC and Sarawak Report or the likes of the Borneo Post, which has accused Sarawak Report of publishing false concerns about the construction of the Bakun Dam?
We have supplied video evidence provided by informed insiders, who were concerned about corner-cutting by workers on the dam, including the widespread practice of watering down the concrete used on the main structural face. Here it is:
Now, given that this is clearly the Bakun Dam site and that you can see workers putting water hoses into the cement mixer, is it not right that we should ask for this information to be taken seriously, especially as it was given to us by a highly reputable source?
Yet, it has been dismissed as “irresponsible” and “erroneous” by such outfits as the Borneo Post. Why?
Shouldn’t the authorities consider taking our evidence even more seriously on the basis that our information also includes stamped documents showing that batches of cement were rejected by quality controllers, because they had been watered down in exactly this way?
And is it not significant that the UK dam expert we spoke to in our investigation confirmed that workers on dams are well known to be tempted to water the cement, unless they are watched over like hawks by an adequate number of quality controllers?
The Borneo Post, in its attack on our report, quoted Sarawak Hydro Chief Zulkifle Osman:
“All cement and concrete samplings were witnessed by Sarawak Hydro’s quality controllers and accordingly approved. The article [Sarawak Report] is irresponsible and cites dubious sources making several erroneous statements and allegations,”
However, since our information is that there were only three quality controllers employed on the entire site, is it not worth listening to the assessment of the international British dam expert, whom we consulted? He was adamant that three quality controllers is not nearly enough to keep an eye on such a massive construction area.
Sarawak Report is not saying that the Bakun Dam is dangerous and we have no evidence as to whether the rumours about cracks having already appeared in the cement are true.
However, given our strong video evidence, our established integrity and the fact that the Borneo Post is a slavish mouthpiece for CM Taib Mahmud (who corruptly made so much money from providing the cement for the dam through his own company CMS), we think that our concerns about its construction should not be so readily dismissed.
To put concerns to rest it is time for some openness on the part of the authorities. We need to see the outcome of all the tests and safety assessments that have been made on the world’s second largest dam as it has filled over the last year.
Hydro-Tasmania is one Australian company that has been brought in to give the situation the all clear, through its subsidiary Entura. However, how about showing some rather more independent and third party assessments?
After all, Hydro-Tasmania is already involved in the construction of the Murum Dam, which was started illegally and in secret and worked on for two whole years before being discovered!
Hydro-Tasmania is also pushing keenly to get involved in all the other dams that Taib is hoping to flood Sarawak with over the next few years for his ‘Score’ mega-projects.
And, back home in Tasmania, Hydro-Tasmania is supported by the same set of state politicians, who have been vocal in supporting Taib’s cousin, Hamed Sepawi’s company Ta Ann, in its logging of the island’s native forest reserves, despite growing concern from local people and tree-top protests.
Onlookers have become concerned at the possibility of a tit for tat deal with Taib family interests in Tasmania, so is Hydro-Tasmania a suitable and objective company to be testing Bakun’s safety?
And if it is, is this statement on the Hydro-Tasmania’s website sufficient reassurance for Sarawakians who have been forced off their lands to live downstream?:
“The risks identified by the study may all be mitigated, by various means and effort, to successfully deliver a commercially operational power station.”[Entura statement on Bakun]
The people of Sarawak are entitled to know what ‘risks’ and what ‘mitigations’ are being referred to. Evidence and information is what is needed, not more brush offs.