Wednesday, September 7, 2011

‘US government knew about corrupt Taib’

Corrupt Barisan Nasional l KUCHING: The US government, it appears, has been fully aware of Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s allegedly corrupt ways, according to a US diplomatic confidential cable leaked by WikiLeaks.
The cable said the US authorities have been in know “for years” about his abuses.
Most of Taib’s wealth allegedly stemmed from the destructive logging of Sarawak’s rainforests.
Disclosing the cable to the State Department in Washington dated Oct 13, 2006, the whistleblower website said the US embassy in Kuala Lumpur had noted that “Taib and his relatives are widely thought to extract a percentage from most major commercial contracts – including those for logging – awarded in the state (Sarawak)…”

It noted that the US embassy sources had uniformly characterised Taib as “highly corrupt”.
According to the cable, sources had told the US embassy that “Taib appointed compliant local leaders from various tribes into financially rewarding government positions as a means to stifle potential opposition”.
The embassy’s political section chief, Mark D Clark, had allegedly concluded after visiting Kuching that “the Sarawak state government remains highly corrupt and firmly in the hands of its chief minister”.
He noted that the US$82 million State Legislative Assembly building served as “perhaps the most obvious and extreme example of the self-enrichment of the state’s chief minister and other senior government officials”.
The content of the cable was highlighted recently by the Swiss-based Bruno Manser Fund (BMF), which has been on Taib’s tail for years.
BMF had earlier this year blacklisted 49 companies in eight countries which were allegedly linked to Taib and recipients of his corrupt dealings.
Pressure on FBI 

Last week, BMF sent a letter to pressure the US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), to cut all ties with Wallysons Inc, a property company in Seattle owned by the Taib family.
The FBI, whose mission statement is to “combat public corruption at all levels”, is renting its Seattle Division office space from Wallysons. Wallyson owns the Abraham Lincoln Building in Seattle.
In a letter to FBI director Robert Mueller, BMF and San-Francisco-based NGO, Borneo Project, also urged the FBI to investigate Taib family’s US corporations for money-laundering.
“While the fight against public corruption should be one of the FBI’s top priorities, it is renting premises from the Taib family, one of Southeast Asia’s largest corruption networks.
“We are seriously concerned that the FBI appears to be unduly backing the Taib family and its illicit foreign assets,” BMF said in a statement.
Copies of the letter to Mueller have been sent to top US politicians, including the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Attorney-General Eric Holder, and the Judiciary Committees of Congress which oversee the FBI.
The BMF in its letter also called on the US government to freeze all of Taib’s assets in the US.
Similar demands have also been made by a number of NGOs to the governments of Switzerland, Germany and Canada where Taib has business concerns.
Taib’s 14 helicopters
Meawhile, a November 2009 cable leaked by WikiLeaks noted that the US embassy in Malaysia has declared that Sarawak was secure as the “safe deposit” of ruling Barisan Nasional.
It said Taib remained unchallenged after 27 years (at the time) in office.
“His government doles out timber-cutting permits while patrolling the under-developed state using 14 helicopters, and his family’s companies control much of the economy,” the report said.
The report also noted the Sarawak government’s continued dismissal of human rights recommendations by Malaysian government-funded national human rights commission, Suhakam.
According to the cable, Suhakam commissioner for Sarawak Dr Mohammad Herman Titom Abdullah had said the state government largely ignored its recommendations “to safeguard the rights of the state’s most vulnerable citizens”.
Herman told US officials that some 15,000 Penan tribe members “lacked electricity, water treatment and schools”.
He had also apparently criticised the federal and state governments for not fulfilling their promises to provide access to primary education for all citizens.
“For many Penan children, the nearest school is more than two hours away by foot or boat,” said Herman.

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