Once again Taib’s dirty tricks against Sarawak Report and Radio Free Sarawak have spectacularly backfired!
In the past few hours it has emerged that the Chief Minister, along with his son-in-law, Sean Murray, was one of the clients who hired Bell Pottinger to alter Wikipedia entries about themselves, their companies, Sarawak… and, of course,Sarawak Report/Radio Free Sarawak!
Bell Pottinger is the UK PR giant that has been at the centre of a scandal that has been gripping the UK since Tuesday. The company, which first achieved fame as Margaret Thatcher’s favourite agency, has developed a reputation for professional ruthlessness and a willingness to do business with unpleasant clients.
Earlier this week they were caught out in a sting by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, posing as representatives of Uzbekistan, which has been condemned for promoting the slave labour of children in the cotton industry.
Bell Pottinger staff were caught on camera saying they would be willing to work on improving the country’s image, even though reform might be minimal. They would charge a million pounds a year (RM5million) or a hundred thousand a month.
At the same time the company was exposed for bragging that it had special access to UK Prime Minister David Cameron for clients wishing to lobby the British Government, which has been hugely embarrassing for the Conservative Party.
Taib was a client!
Now the scandal has rolled into its 3rd day with further exposes about Bell Pottinger’s willingness to engage in ‘Dark Arts’, such as the secretive alteration of people’s Wikipedia entries. The story is splashing around UK newspapers, but is being led by The Independent and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
After the details of ten pseudonyms used by Bell Pottinger to alter information about their clients were released by Wikipedia a few hours ago, it emerged that one of the key users of this service was none other than Taib Mahmud and his son-in-law Sean Murray!
The list of Wikipedia entries altered by the Bell Pottinger pseudonym ‘Biggleswick’ includes Abdul Taib Mahmud, Sean Murray, Ridgeford Properties (the Taib family company in the UK), Christopher Murray (Sean’s cousin and the Director of Ridgeford Properties), Sakto (the Taib family company in Canada), Sarawak (which Taib largely owns in Malaysia) and… Clare Rewcastle Brown, the Editor of this blog and the Radio Station Radio Free Sarawak!
Radio Free Sarawak is Smeared!
The UK press have noted that while Taib, Sean Murray, Chris Murray and their companies have received positive changes thanks to ‘Biggleswick’, the alterations on Clare Rewcastle Brown’s Wikipedia entry consisted of negative information about Radio Free Sarawak.
The alterations sought to emphasise the ‘illegality’ of Radio Free Sarawak, the Iban-speaking Radio Station, which has campaigned for the past year to bring information to ordinary folk in Sarawak about land rights and rural problems.
“Threat to Taib”
Radio Free Sarawak was set up to enable native people in Sarawak to receive news that is suppressed by Taib-controlled state broadcasters. It focuses on rural problems, land grabs for logging and plantations, the lack of development and health. It also provides the only platform where opposition politicians can speak out and inform their voters about alternatives to BN policies.
Because of this, the two hour daily programme is clearly hated by Taib Mahmud. During the last state election Taib spokesmen, such as Karim Hamza, went on record to say that the programme makers should be hunted down and arrested. The original DJay Peter John Jaban (known as Papa Orang Utan) is now currently hiding from the Sarawak authorities in exile, having suspended his Sunday Show.
Today the opposition PKR leader of Sarawak, Baru Bian, explained that Taib Mahmud sees the Radio Station as a threat to his control over communications in the rural areas, which are vital to his retaining control in the state:
“Radio Free Sarawak is a threat to BN, because it gives a voice to those people who have been cheated by BN policies and has raised the issue of landgrabs to a centre stage. The station has reached out to the rural folk and allowed them to share their stories with each other and it has raised the issue of corruption and poor governance under the last 30 years of Taib’s rule” ,
Baru Bian told the Radio Station today.
The programme has been flourishing with a daily show, broadcast via shortwave out of London, and it will be continuing its broadcasts over the Christmas and New Year period, with daily interviews with local Sarawak people about their problems and interests.
DJay, Michael Ngau and his team have announced that they will also be joined by a new celebrity Iban broadcaster when the programme ‘re-vamps’ in the New Year.
The changes that Bell Pottinger made to Wikipedia included the following excerpts from a pro-BN Malaysian publication:
“On 25 February 2011, the Malaysian Deputy Information Communication and Culture Minister Datuk Joseph Salang announced that Radio Free Sarawak [founded by Rewcastle Brown] was not licensed by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, and was therefore operating illegally. At the same time, RFS was accused of inciting racial hatred in Sarawak through its daily broadcasts.” [politics scrapbook]
The Bell Pottinger campaign, which has exposed the sort of tactics that Radio Free Sarawak and other campaigners for freedom and democracy in Malaysia face every day, is just the latest in a series of PR ‘dirty tricks campaigns’ against Sarawak Report and Radio Free Sarawak.
Earlier in the summer we exposed how Taib hired the discredited FBC Media to provide him with illegal PR on global news shows.
Following that expose FBC Media was axed by the BBC and CNBC and subsequently went into administration in the UK. We have also revealed how FBC, like Bell Pottinger, was also involved in taking work from another infamous regime, Uzbekistan.
Sean Murray and Taib
The unfolding Bell Pottinger affair has also highlighted the close working relationship between Taib Mahmud and his family abroad, headed by his key helper, son-in-law Sean Murray.
Sean (Hisham) Murray is married to Taib’s daughter Jamilah and lives in Ottawa, Canada. However, he is the director of numerous Taib-linked property companies, including Sakto (Canada), Sakti (USA), Sitehost (Australia) and Ridgeford Properties, based in the UK and run by Murray’s cousin, Chris Murray.
Sean has denied that he has any business links with Taib or interests in Sarawak. However, he is presently a Director of the company Premier Cottage, which has been given the driving role in the latest Kuching Isthmus development project. Murray was also the key figure behind the so-called Kuching Tower project, which has been planned as Sarawak’s tallest building.
It can now be seen that it was Sean Murray’s Ridgeford Properties that in fact sealed the retainer with Bell Pottinger earlier this year that then led to all the changes on not only Ridgeford’s wikipedia entry, but also Taib Mahmud’s, Sean Murray’s, Sakto’s, Chris Murray’s, Sarawak’s and also Clare Rewcastle Brown’s websites.
We therefore once again challenge Sean Murray over his claims that he does not involve himself in Taib Mahmud’s business matters and suggest that he is in fact a key agent for the Chief Minister in the management of his property interests worldwide.
When, we ask, is Malaysia’s BN party going to stop hiring expensive image consultants and start addressing the real issues that are tarnishing their reputations at home and internationally?