Foong Li Mei brings you another edition of REFSA Rojak – a weekly take on the goings-on in Malaysia by Research for Social Advancement (REFSA). REFSA Rojak – “trawl the newsflow, cut to the core and focus on the really pertinent. Full of flavour, lots of crunch, this is the concise snapshot to help Malaysians keep abreast of the issues of the day.”

Light shed on shady dealings of Sarawak land-‘lords’

International NGO Global Witness zoomed its camera in on the blatant plundering of Sarawak’s natural resources, and opened a repulsive can of leeches. The explosive video, secretly recorded by its undercover investigators, unearthed the goings-on in Sarawak’s land grab which implicated chief minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud and his family. Taib’s family members spilled the beans on how they made lucrative profits at the expense of the indigenous poor – and got away by cunningly skirting the law.

The Global Witness exposé showed two of Taib’s cousins and their lawyer smugly explaining the mechanism for exploiting the system and the natives’ ignorance to enrich themselves. The 16-minute film notes the elite family’s misplaced sense of entitlement to the land, when in fact logging licenses issued by Taib encroached upon the ancestral territory of the indigenous people. The chief minister, naturally, dismissed the video as an attempt to “frame” him, but Global Witness stood by the veracity of their film.

Backroom deals cannot hide the fact that whole forests are being razed to the ground. Global Witness reported that under Taib’s rule, less than 5 percent of Sarawak’s forest is left standing. Apparently, Sarawak is churning out more tropical logs for export than South America and Africa combined. The NGO also charged that HSBC, which has clients closely linked to Taib’s family, finances logging companies in Malaysia and in the process, violates the bank’s own sustainability policies.

It comes as no surprise that the fire of blame has spread quickly to Putrajaya. BN has been accused of being bedmates with Taib in exploiting Sarawak’s resources. According to Foreign Policy, critics of the chief minister alleged that he had a deal with the country’s leaders to ensure him a relatively free hand in Sarawak. In return, Taib will save them a generous piece of the state’s rich oil reserves pie and guarantee reliable political support.

All eyes are now on the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) which has previously cited lack of proof for not hauling up Taib. Now that an NGO has done the evidence-collecting job for the government agency, will MACC still be dragging its feet in probing the Sarawak land-‘lords’, waiting for the state to go completely bald before it takes action?

Sign this petition to urge the Prime Minister to launch a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) into the plundering that is going on in Sarawak.

Shahrizat’s ‘fearsome’ defiance

Logic, like remorse, does not appear to be a prominent feature of our ruling coalition. Wanita UMNO chief Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil who is linked to the National Feedlot Center (NFC) scandal, carries this fine torch of BN tradition by repeatedly dismissing critics with convoluted reasoning. This time, she claimed that PKR leader Rafizi Ramli chastised her family’s publicly-funded project because politically, “he’s afraid of the strength of Wanita BN”.

The Malaysian Insider rebutted that politics or not, abusing public funds is a crime and “someone has to be accountable, no matter if they hold high positions or their movements are feared by many.”

Shahrizat may think that Wanita BN is a force to be reckoned with, but women rights activist Marina Mahathir is less than impressed about the weight they carry in federal decisions. Marina pointed out that while political parties have a large female membership, “the numbers of women who were nominated to stand and have been elected into office has been pitiful.” Of the 30 ministers in the Cabinet, only one is a woman. This falls very short of the 30% required by the United Nations. This disparity means that it is difficult to enact women-friendly legislation in Parliament, says Marina.

Will this predicament reach the ears of our current Women minister, who is none other than our Prime Minister? Judging by the female company that Dato’ Sri Najib keeps (one of whom has just published a ‘book of denials’), we can only wonder what inspiring insights he will receive from them.

PEMANDU playing the numbers game, again

Is it bad math or a blatant bluff from Pemandu? PKR vice president N Surendran seems to think it’s the latter. The agency’s government transformation report extols the reduction of poverty rate to about 2 percent, but Surendran reveals that the real number is in fact closer to 20 percent. PKR claims to have calculated the poverty rate using an internationally-accepted methodology based on the Department of Statistics’ own 2009 Household Income and Basic Amenities Survey Report.

The Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) Annual Report 2012 also contains math that don’t add up, along with perception manipulation. Read REFSA’s analysis on how the ETP has once again failed to meet its targets.

No RIP for the murdered

With Qing Ming (a traditional Chinese festival to honour one’s ancestors) just around the corner, the ghost of murdered Mongolian translator Altantunya has been resurrected – with a startling confession by senior lawyer Cecil Abraham. He purportedly admitted to following PM Najib’s instructions in preparing the much-disputed second statutory declaration (SD) of private investigator P Balasubramaniam, whose first SD implicated the prime minister in Altantuya’s murder. Incidentally, Bala passed away last Friday.

This explosive revelation only adds more muck to an already murky case. Bar Council chairperson Christopher Leong noted that the two convicted policemen, who were also Najib’s personal bodyguards, had no apparent motive for blowing up Altantunya with military-grade explosives.

There was no happy ending for Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth, whose guilt would not allow the blood (of the murdered king) on her hands to be washed off. With BN’s alleged link to the case, will the ‘blood’ of the murdered Mongolian be the stubborn “damned spot” that brings the ruling coalition to its knees eventually?


Why ‘Rojak’? Disparate flavours and textures come together in a harmonious mix to make this delicious but underrated concoction. Our Rojak weekly is much like this mix, making sense of the noise of daily newsflow and politicking.

It is also our ultimate dream that our multi-ethnic melange of communities can be made richer within the unique ‘sauce’ that is Malaysia. Let’s take pride in the ‘rojakness’ of our nation!

[Image source: hand- OCAL/]

Click here for previous issues of REFSA Rojak

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REFSA is an independent, not-for-profit research institute providing relevant and reliable information on social, economic and political issues affecting Malaysians with the aim of promoting open and constructive...