Monday, September 27, 2010

Malaysia in tepid investment - World Bank

Malaysia an ‘extreme’ example of tepid investment, says World Bank

September 28, 2010
The World Bank is supportive of the reforms Najib intends to carry out.
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 28 — Malaysia is lacking in investment in human and physical capital leading to domestic savings greatly exceeding domestic investment, said a World Bank report.

The bank noted that Malaysia, like its fellow middle-income neighbours Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines, is trying to move out of the middle-income trap but said it requires investment in infrastructure, equipment, education and skills in levels far exceeding what they are currently experiencing, which is well short of the Republic of Korea, Japan, and Singapore when they were at similar per capita income levels, when they were at the same development stage.

“The slowdown in investment does not stem from a lack of savings—indeed, in all these countries, domestic saving exceeds domestic investment, resulting in external current account surpluses,” noted the bank in its report on economic policy in the developing world titled The Day After Tomorrow.

“An extreme example is Malaysia, where the current account surplus was 17 per cent of GDP in 2008 and 2009.”

It added that rigidities in the labour market and entry barriers tend to discourage private investors in Malaysia.

The bank however commended the Najib administration’s New Economic Model (NEM) with its emphasis on private sector led growth, innovation, removal of labour market restrictions and focus on talent, saying that it is representative of reforms that the nation requires. The prime minister had also earlier managed to push through several reforms such as liberalising the financial sector and selected services sub-sectors.

Malaysia has also recently embarked on a slew of private sector driven projects under its Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) that would require private funds to the tune of USD266 billion (RM822 billion).

The ETP aims to roughly triple gross national income (GNI) in the next 10 years.

Turning around the sentiment of private investors however will be one of the biggest challenges faced by the present government.

Many investors are mindful of the constraints in Malaysia including the lack of a world class workforce and education system, policy inconsistencies, bureaucratic red tape and the widespread acknowledgement that four decades of affirmative action has affected the country’s competitiveness.

A recent report by the Economist Intelligence Unit also noted that political resistance has delayed radical reform measures required to restructure the economy to a high income one.

A recent report by CIMB citing government statistics showed that Malaysians are investing more money abroad. The flow of money heading out in the second quarter saw a sharp increase to RM6.2 billion from the first quarter of this year when RM3.8 billion was recorded as direct investment abroad.

CEO of government think tank Pemandu, Datuk Seri Idris Jala appeared to acknowledge that private investment is largely a game of confidence.

“If there is no hope in the future, there is no power in the present,” he said recently.

What will be closely watched is whether the first batch of seven ETP. projects will commence soon as that would likely have a knock-on effect on investor confidence.

Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah said last week that if the seven ETP projects which are said to have named and serious investors, could take off next year, it would “give confidence”.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Another Indigenous People Land about to Grabbed by Taib family

Raziah Grabs Multi-Million Dollar Forest for just RM 250!

Saturday, September 25th, 2010 GMT

Victims of the Land Grab - Ibans of Kampong Ensika

In an act of breathtaking meanness and greed the multi-billionaire Taib family are seeking to deprive impoverished Ibans of one of Sarawak’s last remaining hardwood forests, for a paltry compensation of just RM250 per family.

Meanwhile, Sarawak Report has received exclusive new leaks which indicate that the Chief Minister himself stands to personally profit by a million times that amount (an estimated RM250,000,00) in corrupt backhanders from the deal.

Raziah Mahmud and Quality Concrete Holdings

This latest illegal raid on Native Customary Rights Land is being carried out by Quality Concrete Holdings Berhad, a company part owned and directed by the Chief Minister’s own sister, Raziah Mahmud. The Taibs, one of the richest families in Asia, have already started harvesting the timber, which is worth millions of US dollars, even though the majority of the villagers are refusing to accept the deal.

“We have been threatened that if we oppose this claim we are going against the government and opposing development” explained one protester, “but why does the government act like a common thief in this case and how much development can we achieve for RM 250?”.

Already driving into the forest without permission

The threatened area is a small range of hills near Sebangan not far from Kuching, consisting of 3,305 hectares of forest. The surrounding region has already been devastated by state-sponsored logging promoted by the Taibs in the 80s and 90s.

However until now it was not considered economic to tackle the raised ground, which has been farmed and hunted for generations by 16 villages of Iban dwellers.

The villagers explain that the area is carpeted by hundreds of thousands of tall trees, some of it valuable primary jungle containing hardwoods that are now painfully scarce. The Secretary General of the Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA) Nicholas Mujah, who comes from the community, says that there are up to 700 tons of Belian, Meranti, Bulyan, Selangan, Kapur, Kempas, Tekam, Resak, Lon, Penyau, Ruan and Engkaban available per hectare. These all command top prices in the world market, although the logging of such rare timber is now internationally condemned.

The area is also a refuge for some of Sarawak’s remaining wildlife and birdlife, much of which has been wiped out by the Taibs over the past 30 years.

Corruption and conflict of interest

Conveniently on the Board - Raziah Mahmud, Taib's sister

The Iban owners of the forest say they are happy to conserve the wood for future generations and to conduct sustainable logging for their needs. However, the aging Chief Minister, who has already earned billions out of corrupt logging deals seems to have been unable to resist the prospect of grabbing more money by cutting it all down.

In this case, like so many others, he has used a relative, his sister Raziah Mahmud, to conduct the plunder. Raziah is a shareholder and paid Non-Executive Director of Quality Concrete Holdings, a public company largely owned by the family of Tiang Ming Sing and Tiang Ming Kok (the Chairman and Managing Director). She is therefore directly profiting from her connections with the Chief Minister, who hands out all timber licences.

The CM’s cut will be at least MR250 million - Exclusive new Revelations

However, following new leaks, Sarawak Report is now able to further reveal an even more shocking form of corruption involved in the deal. Top timber company insiders, have exclusively confided to Sarawak Report that before issuing any timber licence the Chief Minister always demands an extra secret cut, to be paid upfront into one of his offshore bank accounts.

MR250 million? Not bad, even for a multi-billionaire Chief Minister!

The insiders say that Taib traditionally demands a rate of RM 100 per ton of timber. However, in this latest case the sum is likely to be substantially larger given the value of the hardwoods at the Sebangan reserve.

According to the whistle-blowers, the Chief Minister calculates his cut by getting State Forest Department officials to assess how much timber is available in each concession.

So, if the 3,305 hectare Sebangan forest contains 700 tons of wood per hectare, this would mean that, at conservative estimates, Taib will have bagged just under 250 million ringgit from issuing the licence. That is well over $80 million dollars at current exchange rates and is almost exactly a million times the amount being offered to the Iban families who rightfully own the land!

Sarawak Report would therefore like to ask Quality Concrete to confirm if they have yet made such an up front payment or if they are paying part up front and part later, which is sometimes the arrangement, or whether they are claiming that on this occasion they have been for some reason let off the payment?

Robbing his people blind

Simple people robbed of their heritage

Such miserable deals have been the pattern by which the Chief Minister has deprived numerous communities in Sarawak of billions and billions of ringgit-worth of timber and made himself one of the richest men in Asia. Instead of going into promised development the money has gone into Taib’s foreign bank accounts, leaving the people of Sarawak among the poorest in Malaysia, despite their rich natural resources.

Strong-arm tactics – lies and thugs

In this latest case the Taibs are again attempting to abuse their control of state officials and adopting strong-arm tactics to force the unwilling villagers to hand over their forest, firstly through misrepresenting the terms of their licence.

The truth - Raziah's conditional licence expires in two months!

Quality Concrete have in truth, only been issued a conditional year-long Occupation Certificate to log the timber, for the very reason that this is Native Customary Rights (NCR) Land.

This certificate has been issued under Section B of the Forest Ordinance, which specifically means that Quality Concrete need to achieve the consent of the Iban landowners before commencing any logging.

However, Raziah and her business cronies have of course done no such thing, because they know that such consent would either be withheld or would only come at a reasonable price for the land! They have instead sought to imply that they are fully licenced to strip the forest.

No warning and no permission asked

”Nobody warned or consulted us about anything” explains Sadun Ason, the Headman of Kampong Ensika, one of the affected communities. “The first I knew of it was when a villager called me to say he had seen logging equipment being shipped up river by boat on 11th July. We then immediately called the Pengulu, who astonishingly said he knew all about it and told us that there is nothing we can do to protest as the whole matter is perfectly legal and we have no rights!”

Traditional meeting - community representatives discuss the crisis

The 16 villages involved are rightly suspicious of this Pengulu. Taib undermined democracy in when he removed the right of longhouses to elect their own headmen and Pengulus and started to appoint these ‘representatives’ himself.

He pays them a miserable monthly salary to keep them loyal, nevertheless, these characters usually still come from the local community and are accepted by the residents.

However, in this case a new Pengulu was appointed a few weeks before the issuing of Razia’s logging licence. He is a PBB member from an outside town. The headmen are naturally furious he kept them in the dark about Quality Concrete’s plans and the previous Pengulu has also testified against such behaviour and joined their protest.

“If there is anything that relates to the joint ownership of the forest the Pengulu should discuss the matter with the headmen and likewise the headmen would talk to their villagers. All these resources are shared resources and it is not right for the Pengulu to make a decision, especially such an important decision on his own”, says Ason emphatically. “Rightfully the Pengulu and headmen should be the ones to protect the forest, but we end up fighting him”.

Deceitful tactics by the loggers and their official backers

Coming down - logging of valuable wood has started

The villagers have tried to blockade the site and have demanded proper information and paper-work from Quality Concrete, but Raziah and her co-directors have been characteristically unforthcoming. Outrageously they have also started driving a road into the territory and harvesting valuable timber in the process.

At a meeting organised by the police on 2nd July, officials from the Forestry Department and Land Survey Department showed their bias by meeting first separately with the representatives of Quality Concrete and their lawyers along with the suspect Pengulu.

The officials then came out and claimed to the villagers that the land was not gazetted and claimed there was no evidence the area was NCR land. However, Sarawak Report has obtained evidence proving this claim was untrue. In fact the Land Registry’s own records show that the land has been gazetted since 1956 and is indeed Native Customary Rights Land. The licence Quality Concrete has bee given is subject to any NCR claims. Meanwhile, internal documents from the Forestry Department also show that officials have now instructed Quality Concrete not to encroach on the vast majority of the area contained in the provisional licence unless and until the dispute has been settled.

Gazetted since 1956 - this proof of NCR status came from the Land Registry!

Sarawak Report has copies of all these documents, however in typical fashion the officials on the ground, working with Raziah Taib and Quality Concrete and their lawyers have attempted to conceal these facts from the villagers.

Bullying into submission

Meanwhile the timber company and Pengulu have been working hard to browbeat and divide the community into submission. They have gone around all the longhouses offering MR25o ‘compensation payment’ to each family prepared to sign away their rights to the forest and MR800 to each headman. This may be a laughable sum, but Taib has kept his people financially poor for a very good reason – it makes them easier to rob of their natural wealth.

On 13th August a group of 11 villagers including three of the 16 headmen were transported in Quality Concrete’s own vehicles to Sibu, where they were given a reception and dinner and then asked to sign documents in the absence of any legal representative. They were not given copies of the documents to bring back, but they were told that they have now legally signed away their rights to the forest.

Dirt poor - this family took the money

These headmen have now gone round other long houses and persuaded a number of the desperately poor villagers that, since they have no choice in the matter (not true), they had better take what money is available to them.

A minority of the villagers have now been persuaded to go to the nearby town of Sebuyau and sign away their claims for a mere MR250. They had no legal representative and have been offered no copies of the documents they signed – most are illiterate.

“The worst thing about it is that it has divided the villages in such a terrible way”, says Numpang Suntai who has been helping coordinate the protests. “Some are so browbeaten and poor they feel they must accept the money, but the others know that in the long-term the consequences will be terrible for us. We look at neighbouring areas where this has happened and we know we will suffer. We won’t have any wood, our land will be taken, the wildlife will be gone, the water of the river will be affected and the fish will all die. We will be hungry. Our life is tough and we have no real income, so we depend on the forest”.

Aware of the consequences - Numpang Suntai, local campaigner

Numpang dismisses the idea that there might be jobs and development. “There will be no jobs at all, they use Indonesians to cut down the forest and Indonesians to work on the palm plantations. They only offer MR7 a day to work on palm plantations and we can’t live on that. The Indonesians find it worth it, because of the exchange rate for them”.

A fit leader for Sarawak?

Taib of course believes that he will triumph in this matter. The fight for Sebangan’s final forest has reached a critical stage, which he, his sister and their timber company collaborators have experienced many times before. They have all the finance, the official backing and of course, access to intimidation as well.

The villagers are already fearfully expecting the arrival of the notorious logging company ‘thugs’, the strongmen who so often come to intimidate local communities who hold out against them. Meanwhile, the Pengulu and the logging company legal teams are misleadingly informing the protesters that because some people have now signed it will be impossible to stop the logging.

Campaigning on landrights - PKR's office in Kuching

However, signs are that people are waking up to the Chief Minister, Abdul Taib Mahmud. It will be interesting to see whether the new information revealing the true extent of Taib’s personal profit from this raid - his MR250 million cut - will alter the dynamics of this particular forest battle.

Sarawak Report will also be forwarding the inside leaks from the Land Survey Department and Forestry Department to the protestors’ newly acquired legal team, headed by Baru Bian in Kuching.

Baru, who is Sarawak’s top human rights lawyer and the PKR leader in the state, has started to win significant court victories against Taib in the local and federal courts .

Agent for Change - Baru in campaigning dress at his desk

Taib’s last grasp?

This scandalous new case will join over 200 other native land rights cases on his desk, all of which directly challenge the Taib family’s devastating plunder of the state.

Most importantly, the Chief Minister will soon face the electorate with a record that no politician on earth would wish to have to defend.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Another Orang Asli church to be demolished

I received the following media release, background facts, copies of letters and photographs from Suaram by e-mail about an hour ago.


Media Release

The Christians in the Temiar village of Pos Pasik, about 70 km northeast of Gua Musang Kelantan, have been told by the Department of Orang Asli Affairs (JHEOA) that they have no permission to build a church on their land.

On 20 May 2010, the village head wrote to the Director-General of the JHEOA to inform him of their plan to build the church in their village, half of whom have converted to Christianity in recent years.

However, on 9 August 2010, the Deputy Director-General, writing on behalf of the D-G, replied that their “application” to build the church had been rejected and the community was asked to stop work on the building immediately.

The Orang Asli are not happy with this answer as they did not seek permission from the JHEOA. They merely exercised courtesy to inform them of their plans. The Orang Asli of Pos Pasik consider it their right to build such a structure on their land, in accordance with the Constitution.

The lawyer representing the Temiar headman has recently written to the D-G informing him that the department’s permission was not being sought. He also sought the reasons for the rejection of the church building.

If the church is demolished or stopped, it will be the second Orang Asli church in the state of Kelantan (and no less than 5 in the peninsular altogether) that have been demolished by the authorities on the basis of various excuses, including that the Orang Asli do not have rights to the land concerned.

But it is evident that the issue is religion-related as other structures, including suraus, have been build on such lands without any issue.

But as land is a state matter, the Temiars of Pos Pasik are seeking the intervention of the Menteri Besar of Kelantan in this matter.

For further details, please contact: Pastor Moses Soo – 012 3255678


Background facts

Pos Pasik is situated about 70 km northeast of Guas Musang in Kelantan. It is in forested area at the foot of the Titiwangsa Range. The post includes the villages of Kg Pasik, Kg Ayung, Kg Bayor and Kg Serai.

The Orang Asli here are of the Temiar ethnic group with a few being Jahai. It is situated on both sides of Sungei Jenera, with a population of over 600. The villagers are connected to the main road at Meranto by a logging track. Pos Pasik is only reachable in a proper 4 wheel-drive vehicle and takes about 2-3 hours of traveling time.

On 3 December 2001, 297 villagers of Pos Pasik were baptized as Christians, including the two Penghulu (headmen). A bamboo church was then built in the old village across the river (Sungei Jenera).

In the late afternoon of 19 December 2004, the Sungei Jenera overflowed its banks, rising to a height of 30 feet above the normal water level of the river. The bamboo houses of the Temiar by the river were all washed away. So too the church. By 2006, many of the villagers shifted to the current side of the river and the bamboo church was relocated there as well.

Currently, a total of 530 villagers of Pos Pasik have converted to Christianity but quite a number have left Pos Pasik to work in other areas.

In 2008, the government provided brick houses and agricultural plots for the communities there. The road has also been improved though it is almost inaccessible during the rainy season.

In late 2009, the Christians requested the pastor from the Gospel to the Poor church to help them build a brick/concrete church since most of their houses are already made of brick. This is to replace the dilapidated bamboo church.

Existing church constructed from bamboo

By April 2010, they started clearing the land of rubber trees belonging to one of the villagers. At one of their meetings, it was decided that the headman should update JHEOA of the latest development by informing them through the mail.

Work then began on the church construction. The workers were all Orang Asli volunteers with the necessary materials being raised through church donations.

The new church under construction

During this period of construction, they had a lot of uninvited visitors especially those from the religious bodies.

Posted by Haris Ibrahim
Filed in Nation in Distress

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