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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Anti-Taib protests spread to the US

KUALA LUMPUR: Riding on the back of two successful “Anti-Taib Mahmud” protests in London and Ottawa (Canada), human rights groups and environmentalists have announced similar demonstrations in the US.

According to Swiss-based Bruno Manser Fund (BMF), “particularly embarrassingly” would be the street protest planned in Seattle for tomorrow outside the US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) northwestern regional headquarters which is based inside Taib-owned Abraham Lincoln building.

The property is held through Wallysons Inc, which is among the 49 names on BMF’s list of Taib-linked companies in eight countries estimated to be worth hundreds of billions of US dollars.

Wallysons’ chairman is Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s son, Sulaiman Rahman, while Taib’s Canadian son-in-law, Sean Murray, is its president.

Decrying Taib’s plunder of Sarawak resources, BMF said: “What a shame that the FBI, an institution set up to uphold the fight for justice and against corruption and money-laundering, is renting its premises from a well-known Malaysian criminal kleptocrat!”

BMF has described Taib as “one of Southeast Asia’s most corrupt politicians and the chief culprit for the destructive logging of several hundred thousand hectares of Borneo rainforest”.

The group, together with an international NGO coalition against Taib timber corruption, is asking the US authorities to freeze all Taib assets in the US.

The Seattle protest will be followed by another demonstration on March 9 in San Francisco.

The San Francisco protest will be held outside the Citibank branch which is in another allegedly Taib-owned building and the “seat” of his US-operation, Sakti International Corporation.

According to BMF, Sakti used to be headed by the late Ross Boyert. After being dismissed by the Taibs, Boyert filed legal action against Sakti at a San Francisco court in early 2007.

In September 2010, Boyert was found dead in a Los Angeles hotel.

In an interview with Sarawak Report given weeks before his death, Boyert said he and his family had been harassed and terrorised by Taib agents ever since he had filed the case.

Freeze assets

The BMF yesterday also urged the US government to investigate Boyert’s allegations against the Taibs and the circumstances of his death.

The US protests followed similar campaigns in London and Ottawa on Feb 28.

The London protest was led by Radio Free Sarawak deejay, Peter John Jaban, a native Sarawakian, and Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle Brown, the sister-in-law of former British prime minister Gordon Brown.

The Ottawa protest was helmed by Mutang Urud who has been living in exile in Canada since the early 1990s after he was arrested and placed in solitary confinement by the Taib regime in February 1992 for running the Sarawak Indigenous Peoples’ Association (SIPA).

Similar to campaigns in London and Ottawa, the US protests are also expected to zero in on Taib’s land and development policies which have stripped the state’s rich rainforest and left its people landless and poor.

It is now an internationally known fact that Sarawak is the the third poorest state in Malaysia despite being a oil and gas hub.

The UK, Canada and now US protests are expected to spill over into other five countries hosting Taib-linked companies.

BMF has also called on governments in all these countries to freeze Taib’s assets.

Last week, BMF criticised the Canadian authorities for their close business ties with Taib-family companies.

No less than 11 Ontario government ministries occupy Taib-family owned Sakto’s Preston Square Tower III in Ottawa.

These include the Ministry of the Attorney General, the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration, the Ministry of Community and Social Services, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, the Ministry of Health Promotion, the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities and the Ministry of Transportation.

Another Sakto building at 2745 Iris Street is occupied by federal government of Canada offices.

No ebb

Sakto Preston Tower and a swanky shopping complex at Preston Square in Ottawa are part of the Taib family’s huge foreign property portfolio controlled in Canada by daughter Jamilah and Murray.

BMF has also slammed Canada’s Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre (Fintrac), for its inaction to investigate Taib’s assets.

According to BMF, it had lodged a detailed complaint with Fintrac director, Jeanne Flemming, in June 2010 .

“Fintrac, however, has left the complaint unanswered,” it said.

Fintrac, Canada’s financial intelligence unit, was created in 2000. Its mandate is, among others, to facilitate the detection, prevention and deterrence of money laundering.

Fleming, with over 30 years experience in the Canadian government, has also served as an executive assistant to a federal cabinet minister and as special adviser to two deputy ministers.

Meanwhile, the global momentum on “Anti-Taib” protests against the injustices meted out to the indigenous communities in Sarawak and the massive raping of the Borneo rainforest are not likely to ebb.


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