Taib Mahmud has complained that Sarawak is in the ‘media spotlight’ after years of ‘obscurity’.
But, thanks to that obscurity and his own media blackout, gangsterism has been allowed to flourish unreported against the native people of the state.
For years these organised thugs have waged systematic violence against rural communities, in order to enforce the timber and plantation concessions handed out by this Chief Minister.
And the fact that few in the outside world knew what was happening has clearly suited Taib Mahmud just fine.
Cache of arms
So, we suggest that it is in fact high time that a media searchlight was beamed right into the regions where these atrocities are taking place, like Melikin in Serian, where for the past year locals contesting a major land grab have been victimised and terrorised by Sibu gangsters.
After all, the Chief Minister alleges that he wants “the truth” to be reported.
It is also high time that the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission investigated the link between the companies who hire these vicious gangs and key political figures in the state, who are involved in this land grabbing – the close allies of Taib himself.
For, it is an open secret that the main reason why police have for so long proved reluctant to investigate and prosecute this gangster problem, is because the owners of most of these timber and plantation concessions are politically connected at the highest level.
Time and again the police have preferred to arrest and charge the victims instead, based on false accusations brought by these companies against local protestors.
Spotlight on Melikin
This is changing precisely because of the new ‘media spotlight’ identified and complained about by Taib.
Following considerable publicity over the appalling attack on Surik Anak Muntai, a local protestor against logging, by gangsters in Melikin, Serian, the police have been undertaking investigations into the problem in that area.
They have so far refused to charge the logging camp manager, who was identified by the badly beaten victim as having lead the brutal five man attack in broad daylight.
However, last weekend senior officers took the unusual and highly praiseworthy step of publicly announcing the discovery of a shocking haul of weaponry in the plantation camps around Melikin.
Their statement amply demonstrates why all in Sarawak live in fear of the menacingly tatood, notorious gangs of Sibu gangsters, who have been visible around the logging and plantation concessions across the state.
The cache of arms discovered is sufficient to make the blood run cold. They include knives, guns, explosives and martial arts weapons. And the haul matches a number of other similar discoveries of illegal weaponry at the bases of such thug enforcers, who also appear to be under the influence of illegal drugs.
“The police last week uncovered a stash of weapons including a Cannon 737 calibre 77 air rifle, a homemade shot gun, two kwan dao (Chinese pole weapons), eight boxes of air rifle ammunition, a 12-gauge shotgun shell, a flare and several drug paraphernalia, a 27 Kal 7.65mm pistol loaded with three bullets, a box containing 20 mirage shotgun shells, a tin containing six 7.65mm bullets and two .38mm bullets, and another tin containing 10.22 bullets and two 9mm bullets. The discovery was announced by state head of CID Zulkifli Hassan at a media conference in Kuching yesterday” [Malaysiakini]
Yet this unusual step of making a police announcement on such a sensational matter has drawn little further investigation by the mainstream media.
If Taib is calling for the “truth” to be printed about the management of logging in Sarawak, why are such stories not properly followed up by his own controlled press?
And what ‘positive’ stories has the Chief Minister in mind to ‘counter’ such ‘negative’ images, if action is still not being taken to arrest and prosecute these gangsters and any company bosses who hire them?
It is therefore time to shine a powerful media torch onto those behind the logging companies combatting NCR protests in Melikin.
From official sources Sarawak Report has already identified the two main companies involved in destroying the NCR lands in this area and the people who own them. They are United Teamtrade Sdn Bhd and Memaju Jaya Sdn Bhd.
Both companies are lined to senior political figures.
United Teamtrade Sdn Bhd’s main shareholders are two Sibu businessmen, the Kong brothers, who own WFM Development Sdn Bhd, along with their business partner Awang Matusin Bin Awang Drahman, who is none other than the personal assistant of Planning Minister Awang Tengah.
Given Awang Drahman’s apparent wealth as a plantation owner, we ask how come he is also employed as Tengah’s assistant?
Or is it that Drahman merely a proxy for this influential Minster for Planning?
Could this blatant political connection be what is protecting the gangsters who have been terrorising the locals of Melikin from a more active attempt at prosecution? Is this why the Taib controlled press are reluctant to follow up the story?
Meanwhile, the other major plantation company in the area, Memaju Jaya Sdn Bhd, has a major shareholder in Frederik Bayoi anak Manggie YB. Bayoi is a former local assemblyman, who was allegedly handed the concession as an incentive to stand down.
It is of course for police to determine whether the gangsters are being hired from Sibu by these operators or whether the thugs are intimidating the native people for some other mysterious reason?
But the reality for the local people is that their lives are being destroyed by a land grab that is benefitting a handful of politicians and businessmen and their legitimate protests are being met with extreme violence and intimidation.
This is the truth and Taib Mahmud seems anxious it should not be broadcast.
Planned alienation of Native Customary Lands?
The company history of United Teamtrade shows an interesting pattern. The major shareholder is another company, WFM Development Sdn Bhd, which is owned by two Sibu businessmen, the brothers Kong Goon Siong and Kong Goon Khiing.
Our research shows that the Kongs have a long-standing relationship with one Loi Siu Hoi, who acts as secretary to a number of their companies. Loi became a Director of United Teamtrade Sdn Bhd, shortly after its registration, on 12th April 2007.
This was the same date as Awang Tenggah’s two local men Awang Matusin Bin Awang Drahman and Awang Mulanna Bin Awang Mohamad also joined the company.
A year later on 14th March 2008 the concession in Melikin was awarded to United Teamtrade, in a deal organised (according to the Land & Survey Department records) by Tengah’s assistant, the shareholder Awang Matusin Bin Awang Drahman (see record above).
Conveniently, the payment of the RM5.4million ringgit tariff was permitted to be paid over a period of 5 years, according to a note in the Land & Survey Department records.
It was the following 2nd November 2011, that the Kong brothers directly joined United Teamtrade as Directors and their company WFM Development became the major shareholder, with the two Awangs retaining a third share.
One week after that the Land & Survey Department printed out a provisional title to the land.
To all appearances, therefore, the politicians and the businessmen worked together over a number of years to secure this native land and keep it in their own hands.
It is a well known practice in Sarawak that a politician often secures a contract or land title, working in partnership with a businessmen, who puts up the money and gives the politician a share in the company. So, can Awang Tengah provide another explanation for this venture under United Teamtrade?
Likewise, can he and YB Bayoi throw some light on who has been paying the gangsters who have been viciously attacking the leaders of the local groups protesting against the alienation of their land?
Naroden Majais’s involvement with WFM Plantation Sdn Bhd
Sarawak Report would now like to extend its searchlight further into the Kong brothers’ profitable political connections, concerning another of Taib’s key political allies.
In a separate case involving the Kongs’ WFM group of companies, two huge areas of Native Customary Rights land were alienated by Naroden Majais, the Minister for Entrepreneur Development, into the hands of two companies Hydroflow Sdn Bhd and Indranika Jaya Sdn Bhd, (see Sarawak Report).
The major shareholder of both these companies (before they recently sold out for a multi-million dollar profit) WFM Plantation Sdn Bhd, also owned by the Sibu-based Kong brothers.
It is clear from Land and Survey Department records for 2007/8 that the Naroden Majais organised this particular land grab.
This ex-school teacher, who is known to be extremely close to Taib, has also separately managed to personally acquire a lion’s share of a huge timber concession (Peninsular Rise) and a number of other major oil palm concessions that have caused problems for native customary land owners.
In fact, one of his private companies (Nirwana Muhibbah Sdn Bhd) was recently defeated in court, after landowners challenged the illegal land snatch. However, instead of accepting guilt Majais is appealing against the ruling, causing more poverty and misery for the community, who have lost their timber and their land.
Our study of the records relating to Hydroflow Sdn Bhd and Indranika Jaya Sdn Bhd show that the Kongs appear to have worked with this minister Naroden Majais in much the same way as they later worked with Awang Tengah through United Teamtrade.
Indranika Jaya Sdn Bhd – all in the family!
Company papers reveal that Indranika Jaya Sdn Bhd was registered 26th October 1991, just one month after Naroden Majais was elected to the State Assembly. One Iskandar Bin Jahiddin is the longest standing current Director, having been appointed in 1997.
It is notable that Mr Bin Jahiddin’s wife is the sister of Narodin Majais’s wife. We therefore assume that he is Majais’s nominee or else a highly inappropriate person for this Minister to be injecting into a state directed land deal managed by himself.
Then, according to the records, in 2002 the Kong brothers also became directors of Indranika Jaya.
Between 2003 and 2007 numerous concessions were next granted to this company in the Gedong district.
Finally, in 2009, Naroden Majais was replaced as the contact for this enterprise in the Sarawak Land & Survey Dept records by the Kong brothers themselves (although they are still registered at the same address as Naroden’s own group of land grab companies in Jalan Rubber).
By this point the share ownership of the company had changed with the setting up of a so-called joint venture between the Kong’s WFM Plantation Sdn Bhd (owning 70%) and a company that is supposed to represent the native landowners Sadong Wibawa Bhd (owning 30%).
The Sarawak State Government had driven this ‘joint venture’ as part of the proclaimed ‘entrepreneur development’ being structured by Naroden Majais.
However, it is noticeable that the original Indranika Director and shareholder, Naroden’s own relative Iskandar Bin Jahidin, remained by far the largest shareholder in the company that is supposed to represent the interests of the actual land owners in this supposed ‘Joint Venture’.
Of the 10,894 shares issued in Sadong Wibawa Sdn Bhd Mr Bin Jahidin retains 5,000 for himself and another individual, Awla Bin Dris, retains another 5,000 shares, leaving all the original native landowners with just 894 shares – one each. Some joint venture!
Sarawak Report previously calculated after much public fanfare was made by the Sarawak Government over a seemingly large share dividend to Sadong Wibawa, all each individual NCR landowner received was a pathetic RM200 each for their individual share!
This is an appalling repayment for the loss of their lands in a scheme driven through by the state, by any measure.
However, if you times that by 5,000, it made for a very nice windfall of RM1million for the two major shareholders, that is the relative of Naroden Majais!
Hydroflow was a mirror company
And our investigations show that a virtually parallel process took place with the company Hydroflow Sdn Bhd, which was established in 1992 with the earliest current Director being Japar Bin Mustapa.
Japar Bin Mustapa is a cousin of Naroden Majais, their mothers being sisters.
We therefore assume that he is Majais’s nominee or else a highly inappropriate person for this Minister to be injecting into a state directed land deal managed by himself.
The Kongs became directors of this company also in 2003 and Naroden Majais organised for a series of major plots to be allocated to the company between 2004 and 2007.
In 2009 Hydroflow was likewise divided into a ‘joint venture’ between the Kong’s own WFM Plantations (owning 70%) and a local “NCR landowner” company called Punggor Wibawa Bhd (owning 30%).
However, once again, the major shareholder of the NCR company remained Japar Bin Mustapa and another new Director, Shara Bin Enai. These two owned 5,000 shares, while the remaining landowners had just one share each of the remaining 740 shares issued!
So what profits have been involved in these transactions over alienated native lands?
Records show that the Kongs rapidly sold their 70% share in Hydroflow’s 5,562 hectares (through another of their companies Sawit Green Plantation Sdn Bhd) to TF Plantations Berhad for a hefty RM72.5million last year.
TH Plantations commented in its Annual Report that it had done a very good deal paying RM18,700/hectare for the Hydroflow land.
However, a note in the Land & Survey Department records show that Naroden Majais had originally acquired this land from the state for just RM500 a hectare as late as 2006!
The total price they had paid therefore was RM2.8million, resulting in a profit of over RM70million ringgit….money that has not gone to the State of Sarawak, let alone the rightful NCR landowners of Gedong, but to a couple of politically connected businessmen working with the architect of the entire land grab scheme, Naroden Majais.
We ask, therefore, what use is this Minister for ‘Entrepreneur Development’ to the people of Sarawak, when it seems that all his entrepreneurial skill has been directed at enriching himself and his business cronies and not others?
And how dare the Chief Minister Taib Mahmud allow this pillaging of the state to be enforced by vicious gangsters who are beating up the rightful native landowners?