Once again local people in Sarawak have been forced to come out and protest against a greedy and un-regulated land grab.
Once again a place of great natural beauty and enormous scientific importance is under threat.
And once again it is the greedy Taib family who are behind the raid on one of Sarawak’s most sacred mountains and an area of unique historical significance.
This weekend people from 17 Bidayuh villages gathered at Siniawan Bazaar to highlight Sarawak’s latest land grab on their sacred Serumbu Mountain.
They report that for two months a quarry company has been clearing the area and preparing to make off with valuable granite. No consultations have been held with the local people about this destruction of their sacred and important water catchment area, nor have any environmental impact assessments been produced.
The community has already lodged 2 police reports and written no less than 5 letters to the company, as well as to the Lands & Surveys Department. Copies of their letters were also extended to their elected representatives.
Yet, in a sadly familiar scenario, they have received no reply from the institutions supposed to be protecting the interests of the public.
Permission has been granted almost without question, it seems, to the company, which goes by the deceptively mis-spelt name of Serambu Quarry Sdn Bhd
And there is a clear reason why.
Sarawak Report can reveal that the Director of this company is none other than Robert Geneid, the former Managing Director of CMS Property Development and brother in law of the Chief Minister.
And it will, therefore, be of little surprise to learn that the largest registered shareholder of Serambu Quarry Sdn Bhd is his wife, the Chief Minister’s sister, Raziah Geneid.
As we have demonstrated time and again, Raziah and her husband Robert Geneid have proved in recent years to have been one of Sarawak’s most greedy and notorious land grabbers.
Yet for numerous reasons this unannounced raid on Mount Serumbu is in a league of its own. As one of Sarawak’s most historic sites its destruction by this self-proclaimed ‘philanthropist’ and ‘promoter of culture and tourism’ ranks as extreme vandalism.
For the past three days Sarawak Report has detailed how Robert Geneid extracted millions of public money from the CMS Bandar Samariang project, which had been supported by Taib on the excuse that it was helping the poor.
However, there have been numerous other companies and land grabs associated with this couple, who have relentlessly exploited their connections to the all-powerful Chief Minister to lay their hands on heritage sites, including the Berawan territories of Mulu, the Iban area of Sebangan, the Ensengei Forest Reserve and numerous other regions of Sarawak.
The couple run a string of companies from their offices in Kuching, many of which have received large state contracts and huge tracts of land, all thanks to the influence of Raziah’s brother Taib.
The role of these companies is to operate as ‘shells’, sub-contracting the actual work to companies that are more qualified to perform the job, while siphoning off huge sums of money for their “turnkey” services.
Just as lucrative has been Raziah’s habit of joining the boards of ambitious companies, which are looking for permits.
The corruption of the state government under Taib means that the only way to be assured the opportunity to receive licences or contracts is to take on his family members as Directors and give them major shareholdings in the project.
Raziah became a Director of Quality Concrete, for example, a company which was forced to relinquish an illegally acquired logging permit in Sebangan, after a major campaign by locals to save their NCR land.
Likewise, it seems, Raziah and Robert have now similarly joined this latest venture by the Yong Family to gain access to an area of extreme fame and sensitivity in Sarawak. Raziah’s price was half the shares!
But if the Geneids got the biggest share in return for their influence, the smaller shareholding in the company is also a sad reflection on the way Sarawak is governed under Taib Mahmud.
Datuk Leo Chai is the Former Director of Forests. He more than anyone should be aware of the paramount importance of keeping such an area of outstanding environmental and historical significance protected from logging and quarrying.
However, he more than anyone must still retain knowledge and influence over where Sarawak’s remaining timber reserves are and how to exploit them!
Mount Serumbu and the “Sarawak Law”
Mount Serumbu and its stunning scenery represents one of the most important sites in Sarawak in terms of historical significance and its world class natural heritage.
It was here that the first Rajah, James Brooke built his favourite cottage, as many tourists and walkers come climbing to see.
Even more importantly, this was the place where the famous naturalist and co-discoverer with Charles Darwin of the theory of evolution laid down what he called his ‘Sarawak Law’.
Alfred Wallace had been invited by Rajah Brooke to spend time at Serumbu and here he penned the first plank in the discovery of natural selection:
“Every species has come into existence coincident both in space and time with a closely allied species” [Sarawak Law, written by Wallace, surrounded by species diversity on Serumbu Mountain]
This is the very year of the Alfred Wallace Centenary, which has been celebrated with a major series of lectures and events all over the world, including a lecture by the famous naturalist David Attenborough at London’s Natural History Museum earlier this month and the unveiling of a statue of the naturalist in his honour (see film).
How sad to see the destruction of such a significant location in his life beginning on the very same date as his recognition in this way.
Back in the last century Alfred Wallace saw the likes of Taib Mahmud coming.
Wallace begged governments and scientific institutions to take care of the amazing nature and wildlife that still remained on our planet in the tropical regions like Sarawak.
At the very moment that people were making huge discoveries by observing nature, he realised, it was in danger of being destroyed by the worst of all sins, greed, before our very eyes”
“If this [preserving Sarawak’s heritage] is not done, future ages will certainly look back upon us as a people so immersed in the pursuit of wealth as to be blind to higher considerations. They will charge us with having culpably allowed the destruction of some of those records of Creation, which we had it in our power to preserve; and while professing to regard every living thing as the direct handiwork and best evidence of a Creator, yet, with a strange inconsistency, seeing many of them perish irrecoverably from the face of the earth, uncared for and unknown.”
What better description of the actions of Taib Mahmud and the insane greed of his family, who at every opportunity can be seen promoting themselves as the supporters of religion and rescuers of the environment?
The Geneids even went so far as to invite Prince Albert of Monaco to Mulu and then sponsor an Islamic Fashion Show in Monaco, all to support his Foundation dedicated to……… saving the environment.
The poor and simple, yet decent and brave Bidayuh people of Serumbu deserve the support of Malaysia and the wider world as they strive to save their heritage from the bulldozers of the Mahmuds