Today Sarawak Report has decided to take a respite from investigative activity and to allow some pictures to speak for themselves.
In a recent statement, the Taib-owned timber company, Ta Ann, has sought to refute concerns that it is responsible for environmental degeneration and human exploitation in Sarawak.
It has also accused Radio Free Sarawak of ‘defamation’, because it broadcast the complaints of local people about the exploitation and pollution of their lands by the company.
1. What we have done for the Orang Utan
To promote its own ‘good deeds’ the Ta Ann statement published some pictures, that apparently show its activities in a good light.
However, although these pictures might be cause for self-congratulation by blinkered BN politicians, who control Ta Ann, they have provoked howls of laughter in Australia and beyond, simply because they reveal everything you need to know about Ta Ann and how Sarawak is run.
Look (above) at how the timber and plantation company boasts of its assistance to the beleaguered orang utan – no further comment needed!
2. What we do to help the native people of Sarawak!
Ta Ann is largely owned by Taib’s own cousin and nominee, Hamid Sepawi, one of the richest men in Asia.
The excuse Taib and his cronies have always used when cutting down the jungle and growing plantations, is that this will bring development and progress and modern comforts to the people of Sarawak.
So, is plastic rainwater butts the best they can come up with?!! In 2012?!!!
It appears that Ta Ann are seriously expecting to be congratulated for providing these rainwater butts to the villagers, whose lands they have stripped bare and re-planted!
There is a certainly desperate need for water butts in many areas, largely because the ‘development’ of the land has clogged up the rivers with mud and poisoned them with pesticides and fertilisers. This means they no longer provide the fresh running drinking water they once did. Neither do these rivers provide food any longer, since the fish have died, depriving the people and animals of their traditional nourishment.
So much for progress and development. These villagers once lived in a primitive environment, but they now live in a disaster zone. And out of all the billions that Taib, Sepawi and their henchmen from Ta Ann have made out of destroying these lands, they are willing to spare just enough money for rainwater butts for the people they have robbed!
What about organising wells, pumps and piped water? Too expensive?
3. ‘Charitable’ food donations!
Ta Ann next boasts of giving food to the desperate natives. This is a picture of their Gawai present – a quick dash round the local supermarket has produced some boxes of noodles and some other basic goods.
How sad that the people are so pathetically grateful for such incredibly basic provisions! Doesn’t it tell you everything you need to know about their desperate poverty and lack of development?
Of course, they are in extreme need and thankful for this food. Everyone knows that although Sarawak is Malaysia’s richest state in terms of natural resources, it has many of its poorest people.
These people have been made several times poorer and more desperate by the removal of their once rich natural forests and rivers that supplied all the food they needed.. by Taib and Ta Ann.
And, according to Ta Ann’s self-congratulatory statement, such people are now supposed to be grateful for this meagre food handout, in return for surrendering the wealth of their lands to Ta Ann.
4. How we have transformed lives!
No one could accuse Ta Ann of providing discreet assistance in order to enhance the dignity of the recipients of their ‘charity’.
Every act of giving has to be a public display of the magnanimous favours by the ‘owner’ of the wealth to those who have been reduced to beggars in their own lands.
Here they boast of their ‘large cheque’ (around £20,000/AUS$31,000) to rebuild a village longhouse. The local people are expected to be hugely grateful and have to be shown thankfully posing for photos in a ceremony to receive it.
But, whose land is this anyway? How much did Ta Ann pay for its lucrative concessions for the territory it has destroyed and how much was shared out in compensation to the people? With all the wealth generated by the unsustainable exploitation of this territory, why is it these people cannot afford their own houses?
5. Our joint ventures with the native landowners!
This piece of self-promotion has placed Ta Ann in a bit of a quandary, since they have always sought to imply that they have never taken native lands.
This is despite the fact that they were original joint owners of Grand Perfect, the notorious plantation company that has razed villages to the ground without compensation as it creates the largest acacia plantation in South East Asia.
Yet here Ta Ann is promoting the fact that it has offered ‘an advance dividend’ to a group of native land owners, allegedly in a ‘joint venture’ with the company to ‘develop’ their land.
Such ‘joint ventures’ are the instrument which have been used to disguise a great many of Sarawak’s exploitative land grabs.
Do we think the natives got a look in on this government-backed deal? Do we think they had a choice over the joint venture? Do we think they get a seat on the company board? Do we think they get fair compensation for their lands? Do we think they get a fair share of the dividends? Of course, we don’t!
Even so, the natives do get to have to thank nicely and publicly for a payment from Ta Ann. A payment which Ta Ann has decided upon itself, based on a decision about how much Ta Ann is prepared to pay!
And, of course, local MP Steven Rundi gets to put himself in the middle of the picture to remind the natives they need to vote BN again if Ta Ann is to consider giving them a little bit more later on.
With regard to Grand Perfect, the company’s Chairman and main shareholder, Taib’s nominee Hamed Sepawi, subsequently slipped Ta Ann’s shares in Grand Perfect right into his own pocket.
Ta Ann has chosen to take the view that this exonerates it from that company’s destruction of native villages.
Of course, Ta Ann should instead be pursuing a criminal case against their Chairman for stealing an asset worth billions from the other public shareholders.
6. Looking after our employees!
One of the gripes of natives in Sarawak against the logging and plantation companies is that they employ so many foreign workers and pay wages that are way below a living rate for Sarawakian families.
So, Ta Ann choses to présent this picture showing how many workers it is employing and how well they look after them!
A barbecue picnic for a handful of people in the desolated wasteland of this former forest area? Where can they hunt for their wild boar now?
Such generosity from the Chinese management staff, who will of course travel home in their luxury 4-wheel drives. Will they offer the locals a lift home too? If so, will it be in the normal style – an open air lift in the crowded and dangerous luggage area on the back? Or will they leave them to walk?
7. Our international recognition from environment NGOs
WWF has received widespread condemnation for this deal with Ta Ann, something the company fails to mention in the statement!
The respected environment NGO, Global Witness produced a highly critical report, proving the conflict of interest involved in Ta Ann’s dealings with WWF.
Indeed, WWF has come under increasing pressure over its willingness to do deals that are seen as ‘greenwashing’ bad companies, like Ta Ann, in return for funds.
Global Witness has demanded that WWF publish the full text of this controversial memorandum of understanding published between Ta Ann and WWF’s local Malaysian franchise.
Meanwhile, Ta Ann is of course, attempting to use the event to promote its supposed eco-credentials!
8. Who are we?
In perhaps the most revealing picture of all (above) Ta Ann choses to provide a line up of the powers that be who are really behind the company.
Taib Mahmud is handling a cheque from Ta Ann for a characteristically miserly RM30,000. Ta Ann has made billions out of Sarawak, as the largest recipient of plantations lands, along with logging licences.
Taib’s recognised nominee, cousin Hamed Sepawi, is the Chairman and largest shareholder of Ta Ann. He also dominates one of Sarawak’s major state-backed construction companies, the state electricity provider, one of the biggest oil palm plantation companies (which has benefitted hugely from the State’s ‘land bank’) and numerous private concerns that benefit from public contracts. Sepawi has also been the treasurer of Taib’s political party PBB.
But on this occasion Taib takes centre stage, along with his main political Henchmen. After all Ta Ann is ultimately his company, like every other concern in Sarawak.
In return for the wealth they have sucked out of Sarawak, through the system aptly described as “vampire economics”, BNs politicians are now running round the state and indeed the rest of Malaysia waving ringgit notes at the country’s poorest voters.
With an election looming, they are hoping that with a few ringgit they can continue to buy the authority that allows them to rob these people of their rightful inheritance that is worth billions.
Taib’s henchman, James Masing, has summed up BN’s political philosophy by explaining that democracy means you get a chance to vote once every 5 years for someone who will then be your ‘towkay’, who will be able to order you to do what they like and take what they like (never mind they cheated).
What happened to the law and to equality under it? The answer is in these pictures.