The highly effective campaign to prevent Taib’s family company Ta Ann from destroying Tasmania, like Sarawak, is making Pinocchios out of politicians there!
Last week the state’s Deputy Premier, Bryan Green, was subjected to national humiliation when he became the top story on Australia’s ABC news for supporting the company’s claims that its wood products are ‘eco-friendly’. [Click here for photos and here for campaign blog]
The MP, who is one of a lobby supporting Ta Ann, had just come back from a trip to Japan trying to convince buyers that Ta Ann has not been lying over its claims that its wood had been sustainably sourced.
This was in the face of a recent devastating report by local environmentalists, who have proved that, to the contrary, Ta Ann has broken its promises to use only plantation wood and has been getting cheaper wood by tearing down Tasmania’s native, high conservation value forests.
Waiting for his luggage Green found himself trapped by a humorous cardboard cut-out of the long nosed Pinocchio, the favourite children’s story character, whose nose grew with each lie he told. Ta Ann was written across the cutout’s chest and TV cameras lined up to film Green’s awkward moment!
The animals are getting worried
Campaigners have been increasingly questioning why local politicians like Green have been so vigorous in supporting Ta Ann’s destructive behaviour?
After all the company, which is largely owned by Taib’s cousin and nominee, multi-millionaire Hamed Sepawi, has produced a series of financial losses in the state.
Remarkably, these politicians have even threatened to destroy a vital Forest Agreement, currently underway with the Australian Federal government, which would pay the state hundreds of millions of dollars to protect its high conservation forest areas.
Ta Ann has been sourcing its wood from these areas and MPs like Bryan Green are demanding that unless the company is allowed to continue then they will pull out of the valuable agreement.
They have even attempted to blackmail Green campaigners, saying that if they don’t stop exposing Ta Ann’s misleading advertising then they will sabotage the Forest Agreement, worth so many millions to their own state!
So, as the animals are asking in this cartoon, showing the new comradeship between the endangered species of Borneo and Tasmania, both threatened by Taib, what is going on?
The Green Campaign scalps another ‘Pinocchio’!
Sarawak Report has already questioned a number of the links between some Tasmanian politicians and the Taib regime.
One of these was the Independent MP Paul Harriss, who had visited Kuching on three recent occasions, where he was presented as a representative of the Tasmanian Government.
Paul Harriss in turn told questioners back in Tasmania that in fact he had been on a ‘holiday’, despite being accompanied by Ta Ann Tasmania’s Chief Executive, David Ridley, and despite his meetings with key Taib side-kicks Awang Tenggah and Len Talif.
However, this week it was revealed that Harriss did in fact register that the trip was paid for by Ta Ann! He has also admitted that he has received gifts worth thousands of dollars from the company.
The development has put the pro-Ta Ann politician’s credibility at serious risk, as he attempts to lead the lobby to destroy the Forest Agreement. A series of newspaper articles reported that he has been forced to consult on whether he can continue to participate in votes and discussions about the Forest Agreement, given this clear conflict of interest, which he had failed to declare in previous debates!
Spotlight on Sepawi
And as the credibility of these Ta Ann lobbyists fast fades, more questions are being asked about those other politicians with links to Tasmania Hydro, which is currently chasing contracts in Taib’s deeply controversial and destructive SCORE programme.
Sarawak Report has noted that another key Ta Ann campaigner, MP Simon Crean, is the brother of David Crean, Chairman of Hydro Tasmania. Hydro Tasmania is leading the construction of Murum and is chasing three of the next of Taib’s dam mega-projects. The company is also in charge of monitoring the Bakun Dam as it starts to produce electricity.
That electricity is designed to power a new Rio Tinto Alcan factory, which will cause the closure of the current factory in Tasmania, throwing thousands out of work!
So, again, what is the motive driving these politicians to undermine their own country’s prosperity in favour of Taib and Ta Ann?
These questions have prompted a new study of Sepawi and his company Ta Ann, produced this week by environmental researchers in Tasmania.
The report “Ta Ann Destroying Rainforests and Violating Human Rights In Sarawak” provides a compelling insight for foreigners wanting to understand the problems in Sarawak and shows just how Taib manages the state, through a nexus of corruption run by his own family.
People in Sarawak should read it too. It explains how Taib put his cousin and nominee, and a handful of other key players, into all the key roles to create a single hub of political and economic control designed to enrich himself and his family.
Hamid has controlled Sarawak’s key resources, first as Chairman of the Sarawak Timber Industry Development Council (in charge of logging), then as Chairman of the SEB (controlling the electricity and dam programme).
Sepawi is also Chairman and major shareholder of the construction giant Naim Cendara (in receipt of major government contracts), Chairman and major shareholder of Ta Ann one of the largest plantation and logging companies (given huge lands by Taib), Chairman and major shareholder of Sarawak Plantation Bhd (in receipt of vast plantation licences). Crucially, he is also as Treasurer of PBB (putting him in charge of all the money in the chief political party). Then there are all the key associations representing people’s interests that Sepawi is also Chairman of, such as the Oil Palm Plantation Owners Association. He is also Chairman of the Board of Sarawak Enterprise. The list continues.
In short, Sepawi has been one of the main instruments by which Taib Mahmud has grasped total political and economic control of Sarawak and poured it into the bank accounts of his own family. It has turned Sepawi into one of Asia’s richest men.
Has his influence and control extended so far into Tasmania that Taib will succeed in destroying their forests in the same way as he has destroyed the forests of Borneo, Papua, Congo, Solomon Islands, Guyana and elsewhere?
If certain politicians in Tasmania have their way it would seem yes. But Pinocchio is watching their every move!