In the league table of corrupt countries robbed by greedy rulers, Sarawak’s name must come very near the top in terms of the sheer magnitude of theft. For over thirty years the reason has lain with one man, the billionaire Chief Minister, Abdul Taib Mahmud.
As the Mahmud family and their associates bask in extraordinary riches, with assets and properties strewn across the world, the ordinary people of Sarawak, Malaysia’s richest state, remain amongst its poorest inhabitants. The profits from timber, oil and now oil palm (much of it grown on land illegally sequestered from the indigenous communities) have gone straight into the pockets of the state government cronies, who have run the country like a personal business and plundered it indiscriminately for the past four decades of continuous rule.
The once unparalleled tropical rainforests have been denuded – scarcely 3% remain uncut – and the tribal peoples who depended on the forests for their food are now deprived of their means of subsistence and starving.
In Taib’s Sarawak there is no platform allowed for those who wish to bring this corruption to light and no voice given to the opposition parties, who are denied access to the state-controlled media. Sarawak Report exists to provide that platform and to offer an alternative vision of justice, transparency and a fairer future in Sarawak.
Sarawak Report and its sister organisation Radio Free Sarawak were founded by investigative journalist Clare Rewcastle-Brown in 2010. Radio Free Sarawak has gone on to win the IPI International Press Institute’s Free Media Pioneers Award 2013. Sarawak Report has been heralded for its “impact on the political debate” in Sarawak, with the New York Times calling Rewcastle-Brown “one of the most effective voices calling attention to deforestation in Malaysia”.