Friday, December 17, 2010

SARAWAK - Taib Robbing Natives' Land

New Outrage – Taking Care of My Son By Robbing My People!

SARAWAK REPORT

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010 GMT

This post is also available in: Iban

Another chunk of Sarawak handed to the Taibs?

Sarawak Report has uncovered an explosive situation in Sri Aman, where we can reveal that the Chief Minister is in the very process of trying to sell off land which he gave free to his son, for a multi-million ringgit profit.

The 22,000 acres in question (8,800 hectares) is in Bijat Land District, Sungai Tisak. It is established Native Customary Rights Land belonging to Ibans, according to Sadia the Iban rights group. They say at least 15 communities will be affected by the acquisition of the land for oil palm plantation, however no warning has been given to these communities and no offer of compensation has been made.

Is this what the State Government means by “more aggressive conversion”

Local Iban people, who say that loggers moved into their area unannounced 4 months ago, have only just discovered the situation that is unfolding and they have reacted in fury. No one has informed them who the loggers are and they did not know about the involvement of Taib’s son in plans to convert their area to oil palm!

One resident, who contacted Sarawak Report exclaimed ”Imagine they are going to make millions of ringgit and the Dayak suffer!”.

The development comes just days after Minister James Masing on behalf of the State Government informed journalists that BN is planning a “more aggressive conversion” of Native Customary Rights Lands in Sarawak to oil palm plantation. This, despite international condemnation of the destruction of the environment and the illegal abuse of the human rights of the Dayak. If they win the next election BN plan to DOUBLE the area of oil palm to 2 million hectares by 2020.

Abu Bekir (Taib's son) is the main shareholder of Titanium Management

Clear corruption

It is clear who is going to make the money from this land deal and so-called ‘development’. It is not for nothing that the local people have been kept in the dark about the whole plan that was hatched in the Land Survey Department, which Taib Mahmud controls as Minister of Planning and Resource Management.

As long ago as December 2008 the land was officially handed to Titanium Management Sdn Bhd, a company that is mostly owned by his son and a well-known business crony of his, Chris Chung. Titanium Management has been involved in a number of high-profile scandals over its receipt of state contracts in recent years, for which there seemed no qualification beyond the son’s relationship to the father. This large area of valuable land was given to Taib’s son in returned for an unspecified “payment in kind”! Such ‘payments in kind’ are a favourite method of doing business between the Sarawak government (run by Taib) and his own family members and it means that no payment has been properly identified. Effectively this NCR land belonging to the Ibans was given for free and without compensation, unless the Taibs can come up with a convincing explanation!

Disgraceful attempts to make a fat profit

Experienced businessman? Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib

Titanium’s Manager, the above mentioned Mr Chris Chung, is now known to be attempting to hawk the land to the Malaysian Government body FELCRA. Sarawak Report would like to ask if this is what is meant by ‘applying for Federal Government assistance to develop land in Sarawak’ that BN’s James Masing also referred to in his announcement? In which case all the Federal money will go to Taib’s son and his crony alone.

Chung is believed to be asking FECRA for at least RM 3,200 per acre, but is trying to secure RM 4,200 per acre. This would make a windfall profit to Titanium Management’s shareholders of between RM 70 million and RM 93 million! All for land they were handed for free by Daddy!

This may be a case of ’Kind Papa’ looking after his kids, but it is also a case of a cruel, ruthless and greedy despot grabbing land from his people to hand to his own already wealthy family. Taib said recently “I have more money than I can ever spend, so I leave it to my children to look after”. Why must he then continue to rob his people?

This is happening all over Sarawak and BN plans to double the land it takes

The pattern of activity here, right by the town of Sri Aman, has been repeated countless times all over Sarawak. Nicholas Mujah from Sadia, when notified of this particular case by Sarawak Report confirmed that to take Native Customary Land in this way without notification is an abuse of the law.

Indeed it is only later this morning (Thursday) that 16 Headmen are due to meet officials at the District Land Office, after being summoned just two days ago by letter. The Headmen were given no inkling in their letter of what they have been summoned for but they suspect that it relates to this removal of their land. If so the notification has come more than two years AFTER the deed has officially taken place!

On the other hand, our information suggests that Taib’s son has yet to succeed in closing his deal with FELCRA, most likely because he and his business partner have been too greedy in the price they are asking. If this is the case there may still be a chance for the Ibans to frustrate what has clearly been an illegal transaction!

In similar deals, Taib’s family have been very quick to sell on their shares and take their profits along with some shares in the subsequent plantation business. On this occasion, faced with such exposure, the buyers may feel wary of proceeding.

Likelihood of a bitter battle ahead

Soon to be taken for another oil palm plantation

Certainly, there is every sign that the Ibans of Sri Aman will not take this land grab lying down. Community leaders indicated, on discovering the situation today on Radio Free Sarawak, that they will fight the development. The offices of the opposition PKR leader, the human rights lawyer Baru Bian, is already handling similar land rights cases in the Sri Aman area and this one is likely to join 200 which they are now representing through the courts. Recently decisions have been going against the Chief Minister and his Government in the wake of a key ruling in the Federal Courts that recognised the land rights of the people.

Caught red-handed and in the middle of his sneaky transaction to enrich his family, this will be a particularly difficult and embarrassing situation for the Chief Minister to attempt to argue his way out of. But the likelihood is that he will as usual react by saying nothing at all!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Selangor water protesters tear-gassed

Selangor water protesters tear-gassed

UPDATED @ 05:17:44 PM 05-12-2010
December 05, 2010
Riot police begin firing their water cannons to disperse a crowd gathered for Selangor’s water rally in KL, December 5, 2010. — Picture by Jack Ooi
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 5 — Riot police fired tear gas and used water cannons on at least 1,000 protesters near the KL Railway Station as they marched to the Istana Negara today to rally against a potential bailout of Selangor water utility companies.

Hundreds of protestors sought refuge at the Railway Station to avoid the police action after they started their march from the National Mosque.

Riot police later turned the water cannons on those who had gone back to the National Mosque despite organisers announcing an end to the rally shortly before 3pm.

The rally ended about 4pm when Pakatan Rakyat leaders appealed to the crowd at the National Mosque to disperse under the watch of phalanxes of fully-armed riot police.

Kuala Lumpur deputy police chief Senior Asst Commissioner Datuk Amar Singh promises to release those detained earlier to ensure a swift dispersal. It is understood that nearly 50 have been detained with
most of them held at the Police Field Force facility in Cheras.

“It is our guarantee that they will all be freed. So please disperse yourself.” he told the crowd.

Several policemen had earlier charged at more than 1,000 protesters, some of whom ran to seek sanctuary at the mosque. The crowd has so far remained at the vicinity of the National Mosque after failing to break through police barricades, water cannons and teargas.

The action at the National Mosque began after police had allowed a group of protesters through to deliver a memorandum the Yang di-Pertuan Agong seeking support for Selangor’s takeover of the
state’s water industry.

According to witnesses, police used tear gas and water cannons on the crowd after allowing Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim and several state exco members to proceed to the Istana Negara.

“The MB and excos are inside the Istana gates. Submitting the memorandum. Or attempting to,” tweeted Khalid’s aide Tricia Yeoh.

In a statement issued this evening, the Selangor Mentri Besar’s office said Khalid handed the memorandum containing 250,000 signatures to Istana Negara public relations officer Khairi Abdul Rahman at 2.15pm.

The five-point memorandum asked among others that water rights to be handed back to the state.

Meanwhile, Kota Damansara assemblyman Dr Nasir Hashim was escorted by the police to Selangor’s water rally at the National Mosque, shortly after being detained earlier at the KL Sentral transport hub.

Apart from the Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) chairman, two other PSM members who had been detained — Shah Alam councillor A. Sivarajan and party secretary-general S. Arulchelvam — were also escorted to the National Mosque, said Subang MP R. Sivarasa’s personal assistant, Peter Chong.

“The three were officially released and sent in a police car to the National Mosque,” Chong told The Malaysian Insider today.

The three had been held in the morning at the KL Sentral on their way to the Selangor water protest that began this morning at the National Mosque.

Witnesses said the trio were later re-arrested for being in the vicinity of the Istana Negara but police have yet to confirm.

The crowd later dispersed from the National Mosque after PAS central committee member and Kuala Selangor MP Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad pleaded with them.

“We guarantee that the last person standing will be freed. So we ask everyone to disperse,” he told the protesters, most of whom were clad in red.

More than 40 people at the rally were detained, said Chong.

“About 40 plus people were arrested. They are being taken to the Cheras police station,” Chong told The Malaysian Insider.

“Dr Nasir, Sivarajan, and Arulchelvam were rearrested, but they were just released again,” he added.

Earlier at the National Mosque at about 1.30 pm, Khalid called on the Sultan to support the Selangor government’s efforts to control the state’s water industry by upholding the Water Services Industry Act
2006.

“We humbly request the Tuanku to uphold the spirit and aim of the Water Services Industry Act 2006, which is to restructure the water services industry into one that is holistic and managed by the Selangor state government. We call upon Tuanku to remind the federal government of this,” he said in a speech at the National Mosque.

The Selangor mentri besar further accused Putrajaya of practising cronyism by backing the water concessionaires.

“It is the perception of the people that the federal government sides with the private sector, in this case a particular company, which is equivalent to cronyism,” said Khalid.

“The rakyat has to now pay high water rates and Malaysian taxpayers are forced to undertake the risk of Syabas’s business. We call upon the Tuanku to remind the federal government of their promise to end
cronyism,” he said.

Dr Dzulkefly told reporters later at the National Mosque that he would inform Parliament about the “excessive” police force used against the protestors, some of whom were women and children.

“It is excessive use of force,” said Dr Dzulkefly.

“It is unfortunate that the police used unwarranted force. We’ll raise this in Parliament,” he added.

Khalid’s administration is fighting for the rights over the water industry and promised to provide the first 20 cubic metres water for free and maintain 12 per cent increase in water tariff, compared to Syabas’ plans of a 25 per cent increase in 2012 and a 20 per cent increase in 2015.

Sources told The Malaysian Insider recently that Selangor water bondholders will urge Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to intervene directly in the state’s water restructuring deadlock in an effort to safeguard their bonds from being further downgraded.

The Malaysian Insider understands that major bondholders — including CIMB Principal Asset Management, Hong Leong Investment Bank and Great Eastern Life — have drafted a joint letter to Najib asking the federal government to bail out Syabas with a soft loan worth some RM1 billion.

In the letter, the bondholders contend that further downgrades of debt ratings will put capital markets at risk and will seriously impede the government’s effort to promote its Capital Markets Masterplan.

Putrajaya bailed out Syabas once already last year when it gave a RM320.8 million soft loan to parent company Puncak Niaga Holdings Bhd (PNHB) in December to help settle its debts to water treatment
concessionaires.

Selangor’s water players — Syabas, Puncak Niaga Sdn Bhd (PNSB), Syarikat Pengeluaran Air Sungai Selangor Sdn Bhd (Splash) and Konsortium ABASS — are at risk of debt payment default as water bonds
approach their maturity dates.

The debt service problem started when Syabas was barred from implementing a 37 per cent tariff hike agreed upon in January 2009, after the Selangor government claimed the sole water distributor had
not done enough to reduce leakages which cost the state millions.

This in turn led to payment problems between Syabas and water treatment concessionaires PNSB, Splash and Konsortium ABASS, who supply it with treated water.

Selangor water concessionaires are also already in technical default owing to the shortfall of money in the reserve account.

The Malaysian Insider understands that the reserve account, meant to hold at least six months’ worth of bond repayment money, is currently short by some RM50 million.

This shortfall may double in six months if the current water consolidation impasse remains unresolved.

The technical default triggered a downgrade of the debt issuances by Malaysian Rating Corp Bhd (MARC) and RAM Ratings Services Bhd on September 8, who warned of further multiple-notch downgrades in this quarter.

An industry source told The Malaysian Insider that bondholders suffered RM457 million in mark-to-market losses following the downgrade.

A statement by MARC at the time urged the federal and state governments to urgently interfere in the water industry’s restructuring negotiations to prevent a free fall of ratings in following months.

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