Our latest revelations come at the moment of another landmark court victory by a group of Iban villagers against the destruction of their lands by ruthless loggers, licensed by Taib.
Earlier this week 183 residents of Kampong Lebor, Serian, represented once again by the PKR leader and native rights lawyer, Baru Bian, won their epic case against the company Nirwana Muhibbah Sdn Bhd, which has been violating their Native Customary Rights lands, first through logging and then oil palm plantation for over a decade.
Since 1998 Nirwana Muhibbah has bulldozed their territory, polluted their water supply and planted oil palm without any recognition of the people’s rights, even though their communities have lived in the area since before the time of Rajah Brooke!
The judge is now assessing damages for these people against the Company, the Land & Survey Department (which ‘wrongfully’ provided the lease to the company) and the State of Sarawak, which permitted the outrage. Those damages include, according to the judge:
(a)Destruction of the plaintiffs‟ source of livelihood includes food valuable medicines, wildlife and other forest produce which the plaintiffs need and are dependant upon.(b) Extensive erosion and damage to the said native customary land. (c) Extensive pollution and silting of the rivers and streams, which the plaintiffs and the members of their community are dependant on for water supply and for their source of fish. (d)Damage to cultivated padi land. (e) Damage to fruit trees, rubber gardens and other essential trees and crops [Judgement Justice Clement Skinner, 23/02/12]
One particularly shocking incident that came to light in the case was that Nirwana Muhibbah had paid out a mere RM700 ringgit to the entire village as compensation for polluting their water supplies!
So, who were the individuals hiding behind this company name and profiting to the tune of millions of ringgit at the expense of the local people? According to our information, leaked from the secretive Land & Survey Department and to company records, they are none other than yet another of Taib’s Dirty Datuks, the Assistant Minister for Entrepreneur Development, Naroden Majais and his wife!
And, why do we think Taib’s Land & Survey Department (of which the Chief Minister is Chairman) decided to hand 4,500 hectares of valuable timber and plantation land to Nirwana Muhibbah for such a very reasonable sum?
Do we think it is because after a process of open tender it was decided that this company was best suited to manage the land and offered a very good price or because Taib wanted to buy the political loyalty of Naroden Majais?
Giant timber concessions – Exclusive!
However, it turns out that Kampung Lebor was merely small beer for Datuk Naroden Majais. We have obtained new evidence that for the first time exposes the full shocking scale of this Dirty Datuk’s extraordinary land grabs.
Our new information, obtained from Forest Department records, reveals that the politician, who has a reputation for being an ultra-close confidant of Taib Mahmud, is one of the biggest timber concession holders in the state!
He and a fellow political insider Hamden Bin Ahmad are key shareholders in the company Peninsular Rise Sdn Bhd, which has been granted 7 vast tracts of logging territory amounting to an astonishing 840 square kilometres in North East Sarawak!
The revelation raises immediate and serious questions as to how two former civil servants working in two of Taib’s key Departments rose to acquire such enormous wealth in their roles as Ministers?
Naroden Majais started out as a teacher and then an official at the Sarawak Economic Development Corporation.
Hamden Bin Ahmad was an accountant in the Sarawak Land Development Board, before being parachuted into a state seat by Taib.
Since giving up that seat to the Head of Forestry, Len Talif Saleh, at the last state election, he has presided as a Director of the Taib family construction firm Naim Cendera and as the Treasurer of the massive state supported oil palm enterprise Sarawak Plantation Bhd.
The glaring question remains as to how did their civil servant and ministerial salaries enable these two men to acquire a 30% stake in this enormous timber concern, Peninsular Rise?
Because Taib is so secretive about how he hands out his licences the very existence of these concessions and the position of these two Datuks have remained unknown until now!
Much of the area of these concessions falls within the deeply controversial region of the Baram Dam. Villages bordering the concessions are Long Liam, Long San, Long Luding, Long Julan, Long Anap, Long Palai, Long Apu, which stand to be flooded if the dam is built.
“Land grabbing a myth”! – Naroden Majais
In the light of these revelations it is worth recalling some of the remarks about land grabbing made by Naroden Majais over recent months, especially given the trampling of the rights of the people of Kampung Lebor by a company owned by himself and his wife.
He announced earlier this year for example that the complaints against the government for robbing landowners were “a myth”.
TEBEDU: Every single inch of the people’s land which are acquired by the government for development purposes will be compensated accordingly, assured assistant minister in the chief minister’s department Mohd Naroden Majais.
He said stories about the government robbing the people’s land, as claimed by the opposition during the recent state election, was only a myth.
“The government’s policy is clear. All land acquired for any projects will be compensated. Every single inch will be paid for, even when the projects were implemented for the benefit of the landowners themselves,” he said. [Naroden Majais, May 2011]
In which case, can Datuk Naroden Majais explain the outcome of the court case against him? Can he also explain how he has been able to complete the recent construction of his new and truly enormous house on the salary of a State Minister of some RM8,000 a month?
Indeed, can he convincingly refute the widespread rumours that he and his fellow former local civil servant, Hamden Bin Ahmad, are in fact mere proxies, holding lands and concessions for the Chief Minister himself?
After all, a massive house like this is a very nice perk, but it hardly reflects the true value of the enormous concessions that Naroden apparently owns.
Why would Taib have handed such huge concessions to these two former civil servants, when they would surely have been very happy with such a house, a state assembly job and the concession of NCR land belonging to the poor people of Kampung Lebor?
Vast oil palm plantations as well!
The matter does not end here, because readers of Sarawak Report may well recall that Datuk Naroden Majais is also registered as one of the largest beneficiaries of oil palm concessions handed out by Taib, as recorded by the leaked Land & Survey documents that we have already released for all to see!
Datuk Naroden Majais was the registered contact for the concession of an enormous swathe of property that has been handed out to two companies, Hydroflow and Indranika, originally based at Lorong 9, Jalan Rubber, Kuching.
Much play has been made about these two companies providing some form of profit sharing for the local people whose land was taken to supply these vast plantations.
In fact only 30% of the shares of Hydroflow and Indranika Jaya have been signed over to the thousands of people who have lost lands.
Those shares are held through the companies Sadong Wibawa Bhd and Punggur Wibawa Bhd.
However, both of the companies are run from the offices of the main shareholder, which is a private company, WFM Enterprise Sdn Bhd.
It means none of the local people have any control over how the enterprise is run.
Thus, last year a grand ceremony was reported by the Sarawak Tribune (edited by Taib’s own daughter, Hanifah) at which supposed ‘interim dividends’ totaling RM575,400 for the year was paid to some 2,877 oil palm ‘shareholders’ from Simunjan and Gedong in the two concerns.
That represents a payment of RM200 per annum per person for the loss of their timber, lands and heritage!
So where is the real profit being made? It will come as no surprise that the main shareholder of these vast concerns is now a private company which owns 70% of the enterprise and has a few key major shareholders.
Both Hydroflow and Indranika are 70% owned by WFM Enterprise Sdn Bhd. WFM is largely owned by one Kiong Goon Siong and a relative, Kiong Goon King. Kiong registered with the Land & Survey Department the same office address in Jalang Rubber as Naroden Majais, whom he replaced as the main contact for these companies, as well as assuming ownership.
Under Sarawak’s secretive system run by Taib Mahmud, where timber and oil palm concessions are quietly given out to political and business cronies, it is hard to know who really owns what.
But, again the questions arise. How is it that Naroden Majais and Hamden Bin Ahmad have acquired so many timber concessions and oil palm concessions after their quiet careers working as civil servants in two of Taib’s key land departments?
How is that concession after concession has been handed out by the Forest Department and Land & Survey Department to wealthy YB Datuks Naroden and Ahmad?
Why is it that even a forest reserve in Balingian is not protected from this pair?
Will Taib and BN start to answer these questions about how such vast lands have found their way into the hands of his own party men, BN’s Dirty Datuks?