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It’s time for the Sarawak Government’s Reign of Plunder to End

by on April 5, 2011
 

Ever since the chainsaws arrived on the shores of Borneo, in 1946, the island’s ancient rainforest, home to more than 40 distinct Indigenous Peoples, has been routinely burned down, clear cut, and replaced with monoculture tree plantations, agricultural land, vast crops of oil palm and hydro developments.

Sufficed to say, the island has been extensively denuded. According to the World Catastrophe Map, “Today, only half of Borneo’s forest cover remains, down from 75 per cent in the mid 1980s.” And “With a current deforestation rate of 1.3 million hectares per year – an area equivalent to about one third of the size of Switzerland – only peat and mountain forests would survive in the coming years.” That is, unless something changes in the region.

The deforestation rate in Sarawak, which joined the Federation of Malaysia in 1963, far surpasses that of the rest of Borneo–and for that matter, all of Asia combined. A new study by SarVision (PDF) shows that Sarawak’s rainforest is being destroyed more than three times faster than all of Asia. In the last five years alone, the rate of deforestation reached “a staggering 10 percent, compared to 2.8 percent for the rest of Asia,” notes Universiti Kuala Lumpur. According to some estimates, Sarawak has little more than 5 percent of its forest cover left.

It’s as if the Malaysian government–or more specifically, the Sarawak government under the leadership of Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud–is trying to get as much out of the rainforest as it can before there’s nothing left to take.

It gives a whole new meaning to the term “fire sale”, especially in light of the upcoming elections on April 16 and the ever-growing campaign that seeks to end Taib’s 30-year reign of plunder in Sarawak: from the relentless destruction of the rainforest to the illegal land grabs to the casual marginalization of Dayak Peoples and the suppression of their Indigenous Rights.

Mapping Taib’s Land Grabs. See the interactive map at http://map.sarawakreport.org

Up to this point, these pressing concerns have been largely ignored by the international community, particularly when it comes to Indigenous Peoples like the Iban and the Penan (who, in the last 30 years, have organized more blockades than any other Indigenous population in the world).

Thankfully, that’s changing now. The Switzerland-based NGO Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) is leading a campaign against the “Taib Rainforest Mafia” and their alleged criminal activities in several different countries including Canada and the United States. You can find BMF’s campaign website at Stop Timber Corruption!

A veritable information war is also being led against the “Rainforest Mafia” with the help of an Iban activist known as Papa Orang Utan and Clare Rewcastle Brown, sister-in-law of former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Both individuals are playing key roles in Sarawak Report and Radio Free Sarawak, two independent media outlets that are very critical of Minister Taib.

As Mongabay recently noted, “both outlets have come under heavy pressure from the government of Sarawak, which, together with logging companies which own publications like the Borneo Post, control much of the state’s print media. Accordingly, Sarawak media has lately become very critical of the former British Prime Minister, who recently described the deforestation of Sarawak as ‘probably the biggest environmental crime of our times’”.

In addition to these three online efforts, a series of international protests were just carried out to mark Taib’s 30th Anniversary in office, which fell on March 26. Some of the messages sent out during the protests included “Freeze Taib’s Assets Now”, “Respect Native Rights”, “Save the Borneo Jungle”, and “Stop Illegal Logging on Native Lands” to name a few.

With the Sarawak rainforest nearly depleted, BMF’s campaign comes none too soon. And thanks to Sarawak Report and Radio Free Sarawak, the overall situation in the Malaysian state is finally getting the attention it deserves.

All that’s left, at least for time being, is for the people of Sawarak to get rid of Minister Taib.

Keep an eye on the upcoming elections at election.sarawakreport.org
Follow the Sarawak Report on Twitter twitter.com/sarawak_report
Sign BMF’s petition: Stop Sarawak Timber Corruption! stop-timber-corruption.org/petition

 
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  • S.D.Nambiar
    April 16, 2011 at 12:47 am

    The Ibans’ only music over the years is the noice of the chainsaw. There need to preserve our rainforest and its’ diversity will rest with the government of the day. Why not change the government to the one that will preserve our rainforest. It is a gift that we will be handing down to our future generations. The rainforest belongs to the Gods.

    Reply

  • Watch Dog
    April 30, 2011 at 11:23 am

    No,Sarawak Government’s reign of plunder will NOT end until Sarawak has been fully raped what GOD has given.The only way the world communities to help Sarawak is to STOP buying tropical timber from Sarawak or Malaysia as timber extracted are by violence means using gangsters to intimidate the people and right now an illegal logging is ongoing in KPG TRINGUS, BAU and gangsters are involved on the pretext of using Senator Idris Buang’s license.There are NO more timber in his designated license but they illegally extracting timber form the old communal graves and mountains.
    Please help before it is TOO late..STOP buying Malaysian timber.

    Reply

  • Watch Dog
    May 14, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    ANOTHER ILLEGAL LOGGING IN TEBEDU,SARAWAK.
    THE GREEDY CHINESE TIMBER TOWKAY LOGGED THE AREA OUTSIDE THE LICENSE AREA ,ANGERING THE VILLAGERS. SO MORE THAN 500 VILLAGERS ARMED WITH PARANGS,SHOT GUNS AND MACHETTE WENT TO THE TIMBER CAMP,DESTROYING THE BRIDGE,HEAVY MACHINERIES,BUILDINGS AND OTHERT EQUIPMENTS.THESE WERE TORCHED BUT THE ILLEGAL WORKERS RAN AWAY OTHERWISE THE CONSEQUENCES WILL BE REAL BAD.
    THE TIMBER CONTRACTOR MUST BE CHARGED FOR EMPLOYING ILLEGALS FROM PHILIPPINES AND INDONESIA FOR HUMAN TRAFFICKING.
    THEREFORE, I APPEAL TO THE WORLD TIMBER COMMUNITY NOT TO BUY SARAWAK TIMBER AS IT IS BEING EXTRACTED WITH VIOLENCE AND DO NOT CARE ABOUT THE ENVIROMENT.

    Reply

  • Alan Newman. NZ
    September 4, 2011 at 9:45 am

    Idris Buang! You should be buang to the crocodiles. Every time you praised Taib Mahmud, I vomited. Am speaking from NZ – a country ranked top 3 globally for non-corruption and full democracy.

    Am telling you straight in your face, don’t ever show your idiotic face again or utter another nauseating word. You have lowered yourself to the lowest pits, and become a disgrace to all of mankind.

    Soros: “In China people have been shot for embezzling one thousand dollars. With 8 billion you have stolen, therefore you would be shot 80 thousand times.”

    http://www.sarawakreport.org/2011/08/taib-highly-corrupt-secret-us-documents-put-pressure-on-fbi/

    TAIB “HIGHLY CORRUPT” – SECRET US DOCUMENTS PUT PRESSURE ON FBI!

    http://malaysiadigest.blogspot.com/2010/01/corruption-of-mahathir-by-george-soros.html

    “Look at the Sarawak Chief Minister selling billions worth of timber concessions under the table; selling every piece of state land to businessmen without tender; using his own companies to obtain lucrative government contracts; selling approval signatures for a fee ‘you pay I approve’. He has 8 billion US stashed overseas. Thousands of acres of land are given to one or two companies while thousands of poor people still live in cardboard makeshift homes; have no
    water and shit into the river.”

    God’s retribution is on its way to you, like Tunisia, Egypt & Libya.

    Alan Newman

    Reply

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