An infrastructure company with ties to Sarawak’s chief minister has just landed a $196 million contract to build transmission lines, sparking new complaints about cronyism and corruption in the Malaysian Borneo state.
According to The Sun Daily, Sarawak Cable was recently awarded two contracts by Sarawak Energy, Sarawak’s state-owned energy company, to establish transmission lines from Mapai to Lachau and from Lachau to Tondong. Sarawak Cable is chaired by Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib, the son of Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud who has amassed billions of dollars in assets during his more than 30 years as head of state.
The new contracts mean that Sarawak Cable has now won more than $415 million in business from Sarawak Energy since 2010. The younger Taib owns a third of Sarawak Cable, according to the Bruno Manser Fund, an activist group that works on behalf of Sarawak’s forest people.
“The extent of conflict of interest in the Sarawak power sector is simply shocking”, said Bruno Manser Fund director Lukas Straumann in a statement.
The Bruno Manser Fund and its Norwegian partner, FIVAS, have filed a complaint against Sarawak Energy with Økokrim, Norway’s anti-corruption agency. The complaint targets Sarawak Energy’s CEO, Torstein Dale Sjøtveit, a Norwegian citizen who under Norway’s anti-corruption laws could be charged for his involvement in any corruption abroad.
“It is disturbing to see that ex-patriate managers working for the Sarawak government, such as Mr. Sjøtveit, are playing an active role in the Taib family’s machinations. Corruption is a crime and its responsibles must be held accountable,” said Straumann. “We ask Mr. Sjøtveit to resign immediately.”
Villagers blocking the road to Murum dam September 26, 2012. Photo courtesy of Bruno Manser Fond..
Sarawak is in the midst of a dam-building spree which the government hopes will attract energy-intensive industries to the state. NGO’s warn the dams will flood vast areas of forest and force the displacement of traditional indigenous communities.
Sarawak is also rapidly converting its rainforests and peatlands for industrial palm oil and timber production. Activists say that much of the Chief Minister’s wealth has come from ties to logging and plantation companies.