Saturday, October 23, 2010

Taib’s Secret Bomoh – Exclusive!

Taib’s Secret Bomoh – Exclusive!

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010 GMT

By SARAWAK REPORT

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Me, Dad and Ustaz ('teacher') on Uncle Taib's private jet - Yakub Tufail reveals the Bomoh's favoured family status on facebook!

Sarawak Report can reveal that the aging Chief Minister of Sarawak, Abdul Taib Mahmud, relies on a peronal witchdoctor, or so-called Bomoh, to make all key personal and government decisions!

The extraordinary state of affairs, which has remained a carefully guarded secret among his entourage for many years, has now been explained in detail by insiders.

“He will always consult the Bomoh before he makes an important decision, like which minister to hire or fire, or which investments to make”, one senior politician has confided.

Black magic!

Another member of the inner circle, linked closely to the family, also described how one particular Bomoh (see right) had a ‘Rasputin-like’ hold over the superstitious Chief Minister for many years. This Bomoh died two years ago, shortly after the death of Taib’s wife Laila, and the 73 year old leader is said to be frantically searching for a new supernatural advisor, who he can trust to take him through the up-coming election period.

“He hired an interim Bomoh” one source explained, “but he clearly was not satisfied, as he has been going around Indonesia looking for a more powerful magician and he has just engaged a new one!”.

Bomoh’s are practitioners of ‘black magic’ and are widely condemned for exploiting simple people, who do not have access to modern science and education. Taib Mahmud’s dependence on such guidance can only be judged as unhealthy and malign.

Taib consults ‘demons’ to fight his enemies

Not so effective? Taib's new Bomohs were publicly at work praying loudly in favour of Tufail Mahmud during a court case this year.

The devotion to such a primitive cult also seriously undermines the Chief Minister’s claims to be a progressive force in Sarawak. Perhaps even more damaging is the impact on his carefully cultivated reputation as a devout Muslim. The Muslim faith strictly bans any consultation of these pre-Islamic practitioners of magic and dark arts, who are considered to be bad and dangerous. The majority Christian population of Sarawak will be equally dismayed for similar reasons.

The tradition of Bomohs derives from ancient witchdoctor cults based in the Indian sub-continent and these individuals claim to gain their ‘supernatural powers’ through doing business with ‘fallen angels’ or ‘djins’ (demons). The Islamic faith recognises the existence of such evil spirits, however it forbids attempting to make contact with them.

Indeed, Muslim teachers warn that to seek favours from Djins is to bargain with evil forces and that eventually these forces will extract a terrible price. Moreover, people who do consult such spirits are considered to be engaging them to do unacceptable harm to others and to be attempting to effectively ‘cheat in life’. Taib is believed to have sought to mobilise these forces against his political enemies and the insiders believe he is now using them in his current battle against the Malaysian PM, Najib Razak (who would dearly like the tarnished kleptocrat to step down before the next election).

Dependent on soothsaying

'Ustaz' - real identity Abdul Rahman Hazrat from Pakistan

The dismayed insiders have told Sarawak Report that they would be inclined to laugh at an old man’s obsession if the implications were not so alarming, given his position. The Bomoh who held Taib enthralled for over 30 years was always known in inner circles as ’Ustaz’ (meaning teacher). He would frequently accompany the Chief Minister, who, to conceal his real role, would refer to him publicly as ‘My Uncle’ .

Ustaz liked to boast that his black magic ‘talent’ was given from God. He claimed to be able to foresee the future, heal the sick and, crucially, make the right political and economic decisions.

“An advisor or family member might query some decision” said one of our sources, “but if Taib replied that the Bomoh had ruled on it, then they knew there could be no further argument”.

The death of Ustaz and the loss of this advice over political and economic decisions is said to have put immense pressure on the Chief Minister as he enters his 30th year in power still determined to fight another election.

Rise of a part-time shop-keeper

Ustaz, whose real name was Abdul Rahman Hazrat, never spoke fluent Malay. He arrived from Pakistan in the 1960s and according to our sources was selling rings, spectacles and Islamic items in the town of Sibu at the time that Datuk Stephen Kalong Ningkan was the first Chief Minister. Hazrat claimed to be the disciple of a 130 year old teacher, who is allegedly still residing in his home country, Pakistan.

Taib, then 28 and State Minister for Natural Resources in Nignkan’s cabinet, was apparently introduced to to the stall-holder by the late Datuk Awang Hipni, a Melanau State Minister from Matu-Daro. It was after the ambitious young minister was sacked after failing to get along with Nignkan, that he is said to have first turned to the bomoh for advice.

Key advice

Bottles of Djinn - in this black magic 'exorcism' Bomoh's were reported to have captured evil spirits and imprisoned them in jars. The Chief Minister would appear to be a believer.

Ustaz later confided that he told Taib not to confront Ningkan directly but to lobby for a ministerial post at Federal level and from there to plot the downfall of Ningkan. This he did and soon Taib was appointed by Tunku Abdul Rahman as a Deputy Minister in the Federal Cabinet.

People in the know describe how it was with the advice of Ustaz that Taib used this position to topple Ningkan and eventually to succeed him. The strategy was to first place Penghulu Tawi Sli as a puppet CM, who then passed the position to Taib’s uncle. According to Ustaz, Tun Rahman, a Melanau by race (just 4% of the population) could not succeed Ningkan directly for fear of a revolt from the Dayak community (about 50%).

The plan succeeded, according to people who have talked with Ustaz. Tun Rahman was appointed Chief Minister in 1968 and passed the post to his nephew Taib in 1981, 29 years ago. From then onwards Taib relied heavily on the Bomoh and kept him as his personal advisor.

Member of the Taib household

Grace and Favour Residence - The Bomoh's home in Sibu

Proud of being ‘personal advisor’ to the Chief Minister, Ustaz whispered to his friends in Sibu that Taib made arrangements for him to enjoy a comfortable life. To hide the relationship he continued to base the soothsayer in Sibu, where the Chief Minister’s younger brother Tufail was tasked with taking care of his needs.

The guru was bought a bungalow on Bandong Road and enjoyed an allowance of over RM 10,000 a month, courtesy of a timber company, whose main shareholder is Tufail. He was also supplied with a car and a driver, free services and a shop house at Cross Road where he was able to sell Islamic religious items.

Insiders say that if anything further was needed it was Tufail’s job to sort it out. Tufail, unlike some of Taib’s other brothers, apparently shares the Chief Minister’s interest in Black Magic.

However, whenever Taib had to decide anything of importance he would summon Ustaz to Kuching. The guru would usually make use of the Government-funded private jet, which Taib keeps for his own use and even had a special bedroom put aside for him in the ground floor of Taib’s home in Demak Jaya, right next to the Chief Minister’s office.

The Bomoh was transported in the Government Cessna jet reserved for the Chief Minister - described by his nephew Yakub (son of brother Tufail) as the fastest business jet currently flying.

The Bomoh would often stay at Demak Jaya for nights at a time, say those in the know, and when he was being consulted he would always rise early in the morning (often 3am) and start a laborious ceremony of prayer and meditation as he sought the guidance of the Djins (evil, dead spirits). Unnervingly, Ustaz was frequently considered by those around the Chief Minister to be able to provide very astute guidance.

“He was able to provide an intelligent and objective perspective of events and situations”, explains the political insider, “but I don’t call it supernatural, I call it much-needed common sense!”

Meanwhile, the Bomoh also offered the support of his magical powers around others of Taib’s inner circle. He would intercede in cases of illness to ‘discover from the spirits’ whether the sick person’s ‘time had come’. If this was the case he would under-take to ‘buy a little more time’ from the devils, so they could enjoy some more life. Unsurprisingly, family members were always grateful for this intercession at a time of need.

“He was always kind” says one beneficiary, “I don’t think it was a negative, evil influence. He just used his magic to help people”.

Bomoh used magic to help BN!

Azimat - On Taib's instructions these 'magic charms' have to be carried by all BN candidates to make voters 'warm' to them!

However, the Bomoh, with the encouragement of Taib, was not above using his magic in elections as well. All BN candidates in Sarawak were handed special amulets or ‘azimats’, designed to be carried in their pockets on the election stomp. The azimats were supposed to have the magical effect of making people who met the BN politicians warm to them and support them. However, it can be noted that Taib has never failed to take the insurance of also offering large amounts of cash to prospective voters as well.

Similar azimats were also handed to family and insiders for other occasions, such as to help pass examinations and achieve wealth and success. For those who believe in such old superstitions, such favours could be construed as attempting to gain an unfair advantage to Taib and his supporters, which was clearly Taib’s own intention.

Falling out

However, this relationship which was so close for many years did not end happily. Sarawak Report has received further fascinating inside information detailing how Taib fell out with his advisor in recent years, culminating in the old man’s return to Pakistan shortly before his death as a broken man.

The fact that insiders have been breaking ranks to inform Sarawak Report of such negative issues is being regarded by many as a sign that the Chief Minister’s grip on his party is failing. Others of a more superstitious bent may consider that he has lost his magic touch!

Taib's Daughter Cheats S'wak Natives of their Land

Raziah – Protesters Jailed!

Friday, October 22nd, 2010 GMT

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Numpang Suntai and some of the logs illegally chopped down by Quality Concrete

In a recent story Sarawak Report exposed the shocking attempt by the firm Quality Concrete to force Iban villagers to hand over their rights to 3,035 hectares of Native Customary Rights Lands in Sebangan for just MR 250 (US$ 80) per family.

The company, of which the Chief Minister’s sister Raziah is one of the Directors, is after the millions of dollars-worth of rare and valuable hardwood trees in the area. However the Ibans are refusing, saying they want to preserve their forest for future generations.

Now, the leading protesters named in that story have been thrown in jail on the pretext of a fire that broke out at Quality Concrete’s logging camp on Monday. There is no evidence about what happened, however ten local people were originally arrested and three have still not been released: these are Numpang Suntai, a retired worker for Shell; Nicholas Mujah, who runs Sadia, an NGO supporting Dayak rights and one of the local headmen, Tuai Rumah Sadon ak Ason.

There is no evidence against any of these men yet the political motives are clear. Both Suntai and Mujah have been helping the locals with their vocal campaign and they have supported villagers who carried out a blockade against illegal logging by the company in their territory. Yet neither were anywhere near the outbreak of the the fire and it is clear their arrests are purely a response to their legitimate protests on behalf of their community. The pair came to Simunjan local police station in answer to a request by the local police chief, DSP Choo Yin Kok, whose telephone number is 082 803779, Mobile : 019-8583016 and have not been released.

So who are the real criminals?

Staggering wealth - Razia and family, Tatler featured her dripping in wealth at a Monaco Party

There is no evidence that local people were behind the fire. Indeed, since Quality Concrete’s provisional licence to log the area runs out next month, the motivation on their side is arguably stronger in terms of a potential insurance pay out. Meanwhile, the logging camp itself remains illegal and Sarawak Report has documents showing that Quality Concrete has been banned by the Forest Department from carrying out further logging in the area until and unless the dispute is settled.

Therefore, Sarawak Report and several local and international NGOs are questioning on what grounds are these people being held?

Abuse of power

Behind this scandal lies the malign influence of Raziah Mahumd, one of the Directors of Quality Concrete. She is the sister of Chief Minister, Abdul Taib Mahmud, and she has like the rest of the family has built her vast fortune from exploiting her access to planning permits via her brother who controls them. The only reason for having Raziah on the board of Quality Concrete, which is otherwise owned by the Sibu-based Tiang family, is that it is through her that they will have got the permit.

Quality Concrete's Licence is due to expire November 29th!

In return Raziah and her brother Taib will get their sizeable cut of the profits. Timber industry insiders have testified to Sarawak Report in considerable detail how the system works and we estimate that the Chief Minister and his sister stand to make several hundred million ringgit out of the destruction of this area, which they are then planning to turn over to Oil Palm plantations.

Things have gone too far in Sarawak

The scandal of what is happening in Sebangan is a sign that the Mahmud family have lost all sense of reason and proportion in their continuing mismanagement and plunder of Sarawak. In this case Raziah and her brother have been caught with their fingers in the till, stealing what is not theirs. Their reaction has been to bring in the police to persecute those who are standing up to their corrupt practices.

Of course this is not the first time Sarawak’s ruling family has done any of these things, but their record is catching up with them and the glare of world publicity is on them. We are just one week after the Sibu river disaster which Taib’s own Deputy and ‘Chief Cheer-Leader’, James Masing acknowledged was a man-made catastrophe caused by illegal logging allowed by Taib’s regime – a key sign that the old man is losing his grip.

So who is acting illegally? This letter from the Director of Forests to Quality Concrete demanding they suspend activities in Sebangan until the dispute with locals is settled has been ignored by the company.

What is more, Sarawak Report’s original report on Raziah’s raid on Sebangan was networked across the globe to concerned groups and publications and received a huge response online. The issue of the Ibans of Sebangan has also sparked a campaign in the United States and their plight has become a symbol of the corruption and injustice of Taib’s government.

Tonight, a distraught Christina Suntai, Numpang’s sister in Florida, called Sarawak Report to say he and his innocent friends are still in jail. “My brother has never done anything wrong, he is totally honest, all he has ever tried to do in his life is good”, she explained. If only the same could be said for the current rulers of Sarawak!

Surely the Federal Government, which has charge of the police, must intervene in the name of good sense and prevent this abuse of power and symbolic example of rampant corruption in Sebangan? To allow innocent protesters, who are of high-standing in their communities, to remain in jail in such a public case can only reflect even more badly and counter-productively against Taib and his faltering grasp of reality.

Seven arrests in Sarawak (Malaysia) over logging dispute

By Bruno Manser Fonds

We have just received the news that the Malaysian police have arrested Nicholas Mujah, the Secretary General of the Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA) and six Iban villagers, including the headman of Kampung Bajong in Sebuyau, Sarawak.

Nicholas Mujah was assisting the native Iban community in Sebuyau in a native customary land dispute involving a company named Quality Concrete Holdings. Quality Concrete Holdings has been in the centre of the dispute after the Forest Department gave it a licence to carry out logging activities in 3,305 hectares of forests which Ibans from six longhouses claim to be their Native Customary Rights (NCR) land. Quality Concrete Holdings are linked to the family of Sarawak's extremely corrupt Chief Minister, Abdul Taib Mahmud. Taib's sister Roziah is a director and an important shareholder of Quality Concrete Holdings.

Mark Bujang, director of the Borneo Resources Institute Malaysia (BRIMAS) in Miri writes:

"When negotiations failed the Ibans have brought their case with the Police, the district and resident offices, the lands and surveys and the Forest department.

When all these failed, the natives since last Friday, 15th October have erected a blockade to stop the workers from the Royal Billion company encroaching into their native customary rights land.

They have also stopped a "tongkang" or barge from loading timber that has been extracted from the disputed area."

"Last Monday, 18th October a fire destroyed a block of two storey quarters occupied by timber workers, a store, six tractors, two logging trucks, a pick up and an excavator belonging to Royal Billion Sdn Bhd, a logging contractor contracted by Quality Concrete to extract timber in the area."

"Nicholas Mujah and 6 other villagers are currently being detained by the police at Simunjan Police Station. Last night 4 villagers were arrested which include a headman. They are Tuai Rumah Neli of Kpg. Bajong, Tinsi ak Bunda and 2 others. They are apparently being charged on allegation of mischief by fire.

A total of about 200 villagers gathered outside the police station in support of Nicholas Mujah and 6 other villagers that were arrested.

Lawyer, See Chee How is also at the police station."

The Bruno Manser Fund protests against this blatant case of non-respect of native rights by the local authorities and urges the Malaysian auithorities to release all arrested persons immediately and to stop all logging activities on the affected communities' lands.

---------------------------------------------

Please help us to campaign for the immediate release of the arrested forest campaigners in Sarawak.

According to our latest information, out of ten people arrested over a fire at a timber camp, seven have been released while three were remanded until Monday, Nicholas Mujah Ason, Numpang ak Suntai and Tuai Rumah Sadon ak Ason.

The villagers are saying that they were half way down the hill from the timber camp where the fire started; and Nicholas Mujah was in Pulau Bruit, more than 400 km away when the incident happened.

The local police chief's name is DSP Choo Yin Kok. Tel number : +6082 803779, Mobile : +6-019-8583016

International attention to this case could help raise pressure on the local authorities. If you have time, please give Mr. Choo a polite call and ask him for the immediate release of Nicholas, Numpang and Sadon.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Malaysian Plantation Robbing Natives' Land

A short-lived joy in Baram, Sarawak

IN March 2010, indigenous peoples from Long Teran Kanan, Baram in Sarawak were overjoyed when they won a 13-year legal battle against IOI Pelita Plantation. The Miri High Court recognised the Kayan and Kenyah communities’ native customary rights over the disputed land.

However, their joy was short-lived. IOI Pelita Plantation filed an appeal against the High Court ruling in April 2010. A date has yet to be fixed.

The Nut Graph visited the village in August 2010 and found that despite the ongoing legal battle, the oil palm corporation continues to encroach upon the villagers’ native customary land, threatening their livelihoods as well as their last clean water source.

IOI Pelita Plantation

IOI Pelita Plantation estate office

Embattled community

After the High Court ruling, IOI did not stop its operations on the disputed land. It explained this in its press release soon after the High Court judgment. The corporation said the court had not granted any injunctions sought by the natives to restrain the company from continuing its operations on the disputed land.

However, the villagers’ lawyer, Harrison Ngau Laing, points out that the Miri High Court had declared the two provisional leases issued by the state to the company “null and void”. This means that the disputed land still belongs to the villagers. On their lawyer’s advice, the villagers have lodged a police report against the company for continuing to trespass on their land.

“Until today, IOI (Pelita Plantation) has not applied for a stay of execution of the High Court’s decision. Note that an appeal does not operate as a stay of execution,” Harrison tells The Nut Graph during the visit.

In a response to The Nut Graph’s photo gallery piece on the land dispute, IOI Corporation Bhd justified its continued operations on the basis that the High Court had disallowed the indigenous peoples’ claim for a declaratory order to cancel the leases and for vacant possession of the lands to be returned to the natives.

IOI further stated that it was willing to compensate the villagers in accordance with the High Court’s ruling. The company said it was still waiting to for Harrison to provide them with information on the assessment of damages.

Harrison, however, believes that IOI should first stop its activities on the disputed land “if it is serious and sincere in resolving its conflict with the villagers”.

Right to livelihood violated

In the meantime, the Kayan and Kenyah peoples have to put up with their paradise lost. It’s not a question of compensation; it was never their intention to give up their ancestral land to begin with.

Villager Anyi Jau, 57, recalls the day in 1996 when the land of his ancestors was ravaged. Returning from work at a logging camp, he was shocked to find that everything on his ancestral land – crops he planted and structures he had built – was gone.

Anyi Jau (right) and couple Kalang Anyi, 53, and Payajok, 50

Anyi Jau (right) and couple Kalang Anyi, 53, and Payajok, 50

“Pokok buah-buahan, padi dan pondok-pondok [saya] semua habis ditolak. Mereka bagi saya RM400 sehektar sebagai sagu hati … Tapi jika ikut hati, saya memang tak mau jual kerana tanah tu tanah warisan,” Anyi tells The Nut Graph.

Bulldozers sent in by then Rinwood Pelita Plantation (IOI Group only took over the plantation in 2006 and inherited the court case) had destroyed everything. The villagers were outraged and many suffered significant loss of income.

Unlike Anyi, some did not receive any compensation for their lost land and destroyed crops and properties from the company. This led to the suit, filed in 1997, by four Kayans representing 92 families from Long Teran Kanan against Rinwood Pelita Plantation. Among the four is the current acting Tuai Rumah (village chief), Lah Anyie, 46.

“[Apart from each villager’s individual lands], Rinwood also destroyed our pemakai menua (communal land).

“That was [like] our mini supermarket; we could get fish, meat, vegetables, medicine, wood, rotan … everything there. Now we’ve to buy everything from outside,” Lah Anyie says.

He adds that IOI Pelita Plantation has offered to hire the villagers to work as estate labourers for RM12 to RM15 per day. But few villagers are willing due to the low pay. Even Lah Anyie pays more to villagers who work in his orchard, at RM25 to RM40 per day.

IOI, however, insists that its “wage rate is quite attractive in the industry”, a representative from its headquarters in Putrajaya tells The Nut Graph in a meeting on 4 Oct 2010. This representative has declined to be named due to company policy that only permits on-the-record statements by senior management.

Right to clean water

The representative also refutes claims by the villagers that chemicals used in the plantation have polluted one of their rivers.

Sungai Tegai, which villagers used for drinking and bathing when they were out working in their orchards, is now polluted, the villagers say. They blame company workers, whom they have seen mixing weedkiller next to the riverbank using water from the river.

“We found dead fish in the river, so we thought something must be wrong and stopped using it,” Lah Anyie claims.

Acting Tuai Rumah Lah Anyie at the dam at Sungai Nunok, explaining how plantation activities are affecting their water catchment area

Acting Tuai Rumah Lah Anyie at the dam at Sungai Nunok, explaining how plantation activities are affecting their water catchment area

The IOI representative says water samples are collected from rivers in the estate every three months, and the results so far show no contamination. But on the ground, plantation assistant manager Ellevenson William Dueed does not appear surprised when The Nut Graph inquires about the contamination. “[Workers] may have cut corners [in this case]; I will need to check,” he says.

Another river, Sungai Tinjar, is located just beside the village but has been contaminated due to logging activities upstream. The last available water source for Long Teran Kanan villagers is also threatened by plantation activities.

“Our pipes are often blocked because of the gravel and sand that has entered and contaminated the river. It’s revolting because we use this water to cook and drink,” Lah Anyie says.

The community raised the matter with IOI Pelita Plantation in a November 2009 meeting. However, the company has not halted its activities at the river’s water catchment area.

Wrong development concept?

Rinwood Pelita Plantation was a joint-venture company set up in 1996 between Rinwood and Sarawak’s Land Custody and Development Authority (Pelita). In 2006, IOI acquired 70% of Rinwood’s shares, while Pelita held the remaining 30%.

Despite the fact that the Kayan and Kenyah community settled there in the 1960s, Pelita considered their land state land. Pelita issued two provisional leases to Rinwood to develop the areas into oil palm plantation without consulting the community.

Harrison points out that the state has been arbitrary in recognising native customary rights over land. “When Petronas wanted to build a pipeline across this same land, the community was compensated accordingly. So why the double standard?” he asks.

Additionally, Long Teran Kanan’s case bears many resemblances to other land conflicts that have arisen out of Konsep Baru. Introduced by the state in the 1990s, Konsep Baru was supposed to promote commercial development of “idle” native customary lands. Under this scheme, companies would engage in joint ventures with native landowners and the state.

However, in practice, native landowners are rarely consulted or informed before the state leases out their native customary land to the companies. Hence, most native landowners only find out when the bulldozers roll in.

Longhouse in Long Teran Kanan

Longhouse in Long Teran Kanan

For the native landowners, the only recourse for justice is the courts, as many feel it is pointless to turn to politicians or government agencies for help. “We have complained to our YBs and [they] would say, ‘Okay, I’ll do something’, but nothing [ever] happens,” Lah Anyie says.

Stalemate

IOI is distancing itself from any past violations by Rinwood. As far as the corporation is concerned, it has adhered to the principles and criteria of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to respect native customary rights and acquire land only with “free, prior and informed consent of local communities”.

The IOI representative from Putrajaya tells The Nut Graph that they have always left alone the land already cultivated by the community. Many of the alleged violations, including the bulldozing of crops and structures belonging to the Kayan and Kenyah peoples, may have been committed by IOI’s predecessor, the representative claims.

But this difference may mean little to the people of Long Teran Kanan, whose lives are tied to their land – the loss of which is irreplaceable.

Disclosure: Gan Pei Ling visited Long Teran Kanan from 21 to 24 Aug 2010 with representatives from the Palm Oil Monitoring Initiative, which includes Tenaganita, Grassroots Consulting, the Sarawak Indigenous Lawyers’ Alliance, and the Sarawak Dayak Iban Association. Trip expenses were borne by The Nut Graph in the interest of editorial independence.

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