Home Civil Society Voices 2011 Civil Society Voices Wikileaks: US government well-informed on Taib corruption, abuse of power

Wikileaks: US government well-informed on Taib corruption, abuse of power

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A number of newly-released confidential US embassy cables are highlighting Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud’s deep corruption, reports the Bruno Manser Fund. The FBI have been asked to act on the Taib family’s US assets now.

Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud

Kuala Lumpur/Washington DC/Basel — Only days after Western NGOs launched a campaign to pressure the US government’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to cut ties with the Malaysian Taib family, whistleblower website Wikileaks confirms the US government has been aware of Taib corruption for years.

In a confidential cable to the State Department Washington dated 13 October 2006, the US embassy in Malaysia 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)“. (…) “Embassy sources outside the government uniformly characterize him (Taib) as highly corrupt.“

A source 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 US embassy’s Political Section Chief, Mark D Clark, concluded after a visit to Sarawak’s state capital, Kuching that “the Sarawak state government remains highly corrupt and firmly in the hands of its chief minister. The $82 million state assembly building now under construction serves as perhaps the most obvious and extreme example of the self-enrichment of the state’s chief minister and other senior government officials”.

Sarawak government ignores human rights recommendations

The US embassy also informed itself on the plight of Sarawak’s indigenous people. It was told by commissioners of Malaysia’s government-funded national human rights commission, Suhakam, that “the government largely ignores Suhakam’s recommendations“ to safeguard the rights of the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

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Dr Mohammad Herman Titom Abdullah, Suhakam Commissioner for Sarawak, had told US officials “that approximately 15000 Penan tribe members (…) lack electricity, water treatment and schools“.
According to Wikileaks, the Suhakam commissioner “criticized the federal and state governments for not fulfilling their promises to provide access to primary education for all citizens. For many Penan children, Abdullah said the nearest school is more than two hours away by foot or boat.“

Taib patrols the state with 14 helicopters

In November 2009, the US embassy reported to Washington that Sarawak seemed to remain secure as the “safe deposit“ of Barisan Nasional (BN), the country’s ruling coalition: “Chief Minister Taib Mahmud remains unchallenged after 27 years 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.”

US embassy officials were received by then Deputy Chief Minister George Chan “at his newly built mansion next to Kuching’s most exclusive golf course“. Chan told them that the Federal Government had been “pouring millions of ringgit“ for development into Sarawak. He described the allocation as a form of ‘gratitude’ to the Sarawak state government for “delivering the seats to secure the BN’s majority at the Federal level”.

Sarawak opposition politicians Baru Bian and Baharuddin Moksin, however, explained to the US embassy that the people were “fed up“ with Taib’s administration, “seen as only enriching his family and a small coterie of cronies“.

“Baharuddin explained that in Sarawak only three companies, Cahaya Mata Sarawak (which locals jokingly claim stands for ‘Chief Minister,s Sons’), Naim Cendera Holdings and Titanium Management Berhad, all associated with the Chief Minister’s family, are the only ‘big players in the state’. All major contracts and a significant portion of land to be converted to palm oil plantations (…) are given to these three companies.“

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Embassy cables put the FBI in an uncomfortable position

The US embassy cables are showing clearly that the US government has for years been well and accurately informed on the Taib family’s corruption and abuse of power. The latest Wikileaks exposures are thus putting the American federal police, the FBI, in an uncomfortable position. The FBI, which is supposed to “combat public corruption at all levels“, is renting its Seattle Division office from Wallysons Inc., a property company owned by the Malaysian Taib family.

In a letter to FBI director Robert Mueller, the Swiss Bruno Manser Fund and San-Francisco-based Borneo Project had last week asked the FBI to cut ties with the Taibs, to investigate the Taibs’ US corporations for money-laundering and to freeze all Taib assets in the United States. Similar demands have been made by a number of NGOs to the governments of Switzerland, Germany and Canada.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
  1. Tegakkan maruah serta kualiti kehidupan rakyat
  2. Galakkan pembangunan saksama, lestari serta tangani krisis alam sekitar
  3. Raikan kerencaman dan keterangkuman
  4. Selamatkan demokrasi dan angkatkan keluhuran undang-undang
  5. Lawan rasuah dan kronisme
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Alan Newman. NZ
Alan Newman. NZ
4 Sep 2011 11.16pm

PM Najib, Home Minister Hishamuddin, Sarawak’s Taib Mahmud are all experts in deception & twisting of facts.. … when we have peaceful rally they say we want to cause chaos, and tarnish Malaysia’s image. Image was tarnished long ago by those politicians walking in Putrajaya and Kuching…. They spend all their time politicking, back-stabbing…. They are not leading, progressing (like Singapore) and not doing Malaysia any good at all. They excel in purchases & projects running in billions…. The French military/submarine deal (which Malaysia needs the least) paid over RM300million in (“commission”) … The undisclosed outflow of funds from Malaysia in 8 years was RM880 billion (not million). Since the days of Taib’s Uncle Yakub, tens of millions of acres of forest/logging concessions have been awarded to … cronies, without open transparent public tenders to return wealth to the poor people. Sarawak’s total value of logs & timber products hovered around RM6 to10 billion annually. Oil Palm is surpassing that mark now. It’s not just timber & oil palm in Sarawak, almost everything under the sun….too many to mention.. This is Hell of a plunder, and… Read more »

4 Sep 2011 4.33pm

this is a widely spoken secret among Malaysians all the while.

2 Sep 2011 9.37am

Its been a private Club Since 1963.
1.The federal govt supports Taibs initiative starting from M…
2.To instill religious values the natives (allegedly forcefully?)
3.The Chinese are equally to blame and are cronies of TAIB.
4.They take advantage of the sincerety … of the natives.
5.(Security personnel) can been called in incase of reprisals.
6.Taib knows that he answer lies with the native heads and they are given a special attention and money in loads for their land and culture.
7.almost every teacher remotely is a Muslim.
8.The 20 point agreement is nowhere to be witnessed.
8.The current coalitions heads who are natives (appear to be) readily selling their rights away….

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