Taib has grabbed the Governorship, but now he is worrying about his reputation.
In his outgoing speech as Chief Minister he chose to focus on the international bad publicity over his destruction of the rainforest; his rolling out of oil palm plantations and his self-enrichment in the process.
Clearly, this matter has spoiled his promotion party and it is preoccupying his mind.
As usual, he blamed “malicious attacks” by NGOs and he called on Malaysia’s “envoys” to repair his reputation across the globe.
Then he came out with some claims that have produced gasps and astonished laughter.
50% of forest ‘untouched’!
The new Governor announced that he has “managed Sarawak’s forests quite well” and “looked after the interests” of the Penan tribespeople, many of whom are in fact starving now that the forest is destroyed.
As listeners sought to re-capture their breath at such bold lies, the clearly self-deluded despot then went on to seriously claim that he has left 50% of Sarawak’s forests so they “cannot be touched” and that no less than 84% of the state is still covered by forest:
“Regarding forest issues, Sarawak has policies on forest reserves to make sure that 50 per cent of our forests cannot be ‘touched’, in fact 84 percent of the state is still covered by forest.”[Bernama]
Such a precise figure as 84% is particularly ridiculous, given the rampant and uncontrolled illegal logging that is stripping out the last remaining forests in the state, all of it carried out by crony companies linked to Taib.
A glance at the ravaged hillsides of the Baram region, which are presently sliding into Sarawak’s rivers or at the satellite images showing the shocking destruction of what was till recently pristine rainforest, exposes the old man’s statistics as a pack of lies.
So, no surprise that Taib’s core claim in this speech was that of honesty!
“Honesty has been my leadership principle” he told his hand-picked audience, not one of whom could have honestly agreed.
After all, how does an honest Chief Minister convert himself from a penniless student into the head of one of Asia’s richest families over 40 years on a mere ministerial salary?
Taib is no Mahatma Gandhi.
He is, in fact, the head of South East Asia’s biggest timber mafia, a matter that is compellingly detailed in a new book on Sarawak, published this week in Switzerland and which will soon be available in English.
The author, Dr Lukas Straumann of Bruno Manser Fund told Sarawak Report:
“Under Taib Mahmud, Sarawak has become one of the hotspots of the global crisis of tropical forests. Less than 10 per cent of primeval forests remain and indigenous forest communities like the Penan have been forced to abandon their traditional way of life.”
So, do we believe Taib’s claim of 50% ‘untouched’ rainforest?
The NGO Global Witness has issued their own fact sheet detailing the full scale of Taib’s lies over his management of Sarawak.
It says that only 65% of the state remains forested and the vast majority of that is heavily degraded, much of it “degraded beyond recovery”:
“Satellite images show that only 5 per cent of Sarawak’s forests remain in a pristine state (unaffected by logging or plantations Independent analysis of satellite images shows Sarawak has a higher deforestation rate than any other major tropical timber producer and that the deforestation rate is increasing”.[Global Witness fact sheet]
So now Taib’s critics have been put on notice to await his next wave of ‘reputation envoys’.
Sarawak Report has already experienced its fair share of Taib’s hired PR managers and learnt that they operate by going on the attack.
Firstly, there was FBC Media, a bunch of London-based crooks, who cheated their way into TV news and broadcasted promotional films about Taib Mahmud, while hiring poison bloggers in the US to defame and criticise Sarawak Report.
Next, through his son-in-law Sean Murray, he hired another UK PR outfit, Bell Pottinger, to worm their way around the internet improving his own Wikipedia sites, while placing unpleasant attacks on Wikipedia sites set up about the authors of Sarawak Report.
Both these sets of attackers were exposed. FBC Media was closed down and Wikipedia banned Bell Pottinger’s ‘sock-puppets’.
So, Taib then hired yet another UK PR company, Hills Balfour, to do another positive PR blitz working ‘new media’ to try and create a positive tourism image for Sarawak.
Hills Balfour engaged the popular TV adventurer Ben Fogle, who promoted Sarawak as an ‘eco-tourism’ destination.
After we exposed the reality behind Ben’s ‘jungle adventures’, Fogle pulled out, said he was sorry and gave money to a rainforest charity.
Next, things got even nastier. Sarawak Report and Radio Free Sarawak had already experienced expensive DDOS attacks and radio jamming, financed by Malaysian Government sources, but then someone turned to robbery and hacking.
Just before GE13 the mobile phone of Sarawak Report’s editor was robbed and within a few minutes it was used to hack their gmail account.
Within days distorted versions of some of those gmails were put up on a website in Malaysia (Malay Messenger, now defunct) to give the impression that the Editor of Sarawak Report was executing a grand plan to steal Sarawak’s oil reserves!
This scenario fitted in closely with Taib Mahmud’s earlier accusation to the State Assembly that the Editor of Sarawak Report was engaged in a bizarre plan to re-colonise Sarawak for the British.
Interestingly it was the Taib family owned newspaper, New Sarawak Tribune, which first drew public attention to this Malay Messenger website. Was this a coincidence?
Meanwhile, a covert campaign was simultaneously taking place back in the UK, where the robbery had originally been carried out.
A local crime reporter attempted to pass around a story to various top London newspapers, based on these false hacked gmails and also hacked skype messages.
The UK news outlets were directed to read the Malay Messenger and given false information that Sarawak Report had paid discredited private investigators in the United States to hack the bank accounts of the Mahmud family.
Sarawak Report now has a copy of the document sent to these newspapers.
Who could possibly have approached that crime reporter and hired those operatives, who stole and hacked the phone in the first place?
Even though the reporter concerned was working to defame Taib’s critics, he gave an accurate assessment of the Malaysian state of Sarawak, calling it “naturally, very corrupt”. No UK newspaper took up the story.
So, what will come next as Taib seeks ‘envoys’ to secure his reputation as Governor?
Clearly money can buy PR people, reputation managers and bloggers. It can buy people who jam and hack and burgle and steal. Money could even buy someone to push an inconvenient person under a train perhaps or arrange a ‘suicide’?
But, the only way money can buy a back a good reputation is if you give it all away.