Logging roads and damaged forest in Sarawak compared with the largely intact forest of Brunei. In 2011, former chief minister Taib Mahmud famously claimed that 70 percent of Sarawak’s forests were ‘intact’. He was quickly refuted, leading to embarrassment for Sarawak’s forestry department. Photo courtesy of Google Earth.
Cahya Mata Sarawak, a publicly-listed infrastructure company run by relatives of Sarawak’s former chief minister and current governor, has received over $1.4 billion in state contracts over the past 20 years, alleges an investigative report released by the Bruno Manser Fund.
The report, titled Corruption Management Sarawak – Cahya Mata Sarawak and Malaysia’s Taib family, looked into CMS’s activities since it was privatized by former Sarawak chief minister Abdul Taib Mahmud and taken over by his family in the early 1990s. It finds that CMS “has become Sarawak’s single largest recipient of public contracts”, enriching the Taib family.
“This report investigates the economic legacy of the Taib era and, in particular, two crimes: Firstly, it examines how Taib’s closest family members took control of Cahya
Mata Sarawak (CMS), a formerly state-owned company, and established a series of extremely lucrative monopolies in Sarawak – inter alia on cement and steel production,” states the report. “Secondly, it shows how the Taib government generated massive profits for CMS by the awarding of state contracts, making the former Chief Minister’s family the single
largest [beneficiary] of public contracts in Sarawak.”
The report goes on to note that CMS is poised to benefit from the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) program, a series of hydroelectric, mining, and other infrastructure projects which civil society groups say endangers forests and traditional forest peoples.
“CMS has benefitted from state projects in three SCORE areas: Tanjung Manis, Mukah, and Baram. Among the projects are the Tanjung Manis Water Supply for MYR 81 million (awarded in 2013), the access road to the proposed Baram dam for MYR 101 million (2010 – 2013), and the Mukah Coal-Fired Power Station, 2. Plant Zone for MYR 127 million (completed in 2009).”
Alleging that the Taib family has benefitted directly from Taib’s role as head of state, the report concludes by calling for an official investigation of CMS’s privatization and seizure of CMS shares held by Taib family members.
“The Taib family’s appropriation of and control over state-linked Cahya Mata Sarawak amounts undoubtedly to a major case of economic crime. If Malaysian authorities and the new Chief Minister wish to seriously tackle corruption in Sarawak, dealing with the CMS anomaly will be one of the most important tasks,” the report states.
CMS may only represent a small fraction of the malfeasance attributed to the Taib family by environmentalists. Money Logging, a book recently published Lukas Straumann, the head of the Bruno Manser Fund, asserts that Taib and his family may have upwards of $15 billion in mostly ill-gotten assets.
Taib has been under investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) since 2011.