Reporting on the latest round of pillage and civic unrest provoked in Baram by loggers, Sarawak Report referred in an earlier article to the understanding by angry locals that the company GT Interhill is co-owned by the Hii family’s Interhill Group and also the Lau Family’s GT Plywood.
Today, we received an anonymously written email purporting to be from GT Plywood angrily refuting that the activities in Baram described in the article were linked either to that company or to the wider group controlled by the KTS Lau family.
We are happy to acknowledge that denial and to publish their complaint (see beneath).
However, the situation perfectly describes the problems faced by communities in Sarawak faced with logging intruders. There is no doubt that illegal Belian wood has been scythed down in the Ba Abang area and also that the company GT Interhill is brandishing a licence to log for other trees in the same area.
Yet no one knows who is ultimately responsible for either or whether the activities are (as suspected) connected. As a spokesman for the NGO Bruno Manser Fund, which supports local communities against logging, explains “One of the big problems is that the communities often have no clue over who is really operating on their lands. This in itself is a major FPIC violation”.
However, as usual over the decades of control by the same political clique, the Sarawak state authorities are doing nothing about the situation. A police report has been issued against the illegal logging, but no action has been taken.
Protestors have asked to meet with the local GPS YB, Dennis Ngau to ask him to investigate what is going on and why he appears to have supported the removal of the former Headman who objected to the logging to be replaced by a young arrival who has welcomed the loggers.
However, Ngau first told the community to ask to speak to the DO instead. Apparently, he knew nothing, was too busy or didn’t care? What people do know is that he found time to attend and be photographed at the ceremony in the DO’s office where the new Headman was appointed, without the community being aware.
Over the past hours there has been a change of heart. Maybe the publicity helped?
The YB has now notified the protestors they should jump-to and make themselves available at the DO’s office for a meeting in two days time, which he will attend after all.
For the locals who lack transport of their own it is an arduous four hour journey that they are expected to make at the drop of a hat without assistance from the authorities who clearly favour the new headman who in turn favours the mystery logging company.
None of the above comes under the requirements of consultation or indeed any due process in the issuing of licences, let alone the implementation of the law. So, no wonder KTS wishes to be distanced if they are not involved in this matter.
The anonymously authored letter purporting to be from KTS threatened legal action against Sarawak Report if we did not print that denial in full (see below).
It also complained that Sarawak Report did not fulfil its apparent journalistic duties in tracking down the elusive company before reporting that locals had concluded it was involved.
On this front SR would like to remind the company that back in 2008 when the editor of this website reported on another logging protest, this time at a KTS operation, together with journalists from APP, the Borneo Post published a front page attack describing the journalists as “foreign agitators” and falsely accusing them of having orchestrated the blockade they had come to report on.
The Borneo Post is owned by KTS. The journalists had been confronted and harassed at the blockade by KTS personnel. No one from the Borneo Post had approached the journalists to gain their response in advance of the outrageous and untrue allegation that they were ‘foreign agitators’, made by that newspaper for plainly malicious and highly motivated reasons.
The complaint, therefore, appears to be that the highest standards apply to others but not to KTS when it comes to full disclosure and transparency, and indeed to rectification.
Sarawak Report therefore duly publishes the alleged KTS denial (in full below in accordance with the threat of legal action).
However, we have also taken the opportunity of this unprecedented, if anonymous and therefore unverified, communication from KTS to ask the company if it will put forward a senior spokesman for a full wide-ranging interview with Sarawak Report about its logging and other operations in the state from which it has clearly made hundreds of millions of ringgit.
In the name of transparency we would like to know the full list of its licences and full report of the group’s true profits over the years. We would like to see the EIA reports and to gain its statement on the problems locals face trying to work out which company is on their native lands, what their legality is and why they get so little compensation for the damage done?
KTS is one of the so-called ‘Big Six’ companies that has turned a once pristine gem of nature and the home of the Dayak people into an eco-disaster. What have the Lau family to say to this?
We have yet to gain a response from the anonymous ‘representative’ from GT Plywood to our own request for rectification and for a full-ranging interview with their bosses at KTS.
However, their complaint can be seen in full below and we will keep readers updated should we ever receive a reply.
We wish to address the inaccuracies presented in a Sarawak Report article published on 8th March 2023 entitled, “Stop The Criminals Behind The Illegal Looting Of Sarawak’s Last Remaining Forests NOW”.
1. Our company GT Plywood Industries Sdn Bhd and the KTS Group are not in any way linked or related to the company GT Interhill nor the Interhill Group of Companies.
2. GT Plywood Industries Sdn Bhd and KTS Group HAVE NO presence whatsoever in the Ba Abang area to which the article refers.
Unfortunately it appears that Sarawak Report has been misinformed and/or misled on the subject matter of the said article, and without seeking our verification or comment, has reported erroneously and made incorrect and untruthful allegations regarding our company and the KTS Group.
We therefore demand that Sarawak Report immediately issue a written apology and retract its wrongful statements about our company and the KTS Group and to clarify our non-involvement in any of the matters and conduct referred to in the article. We further ask that this statement be published on your website in its entirety.We trust that these are not unreasonable requests, however if they are not complied with, we may have no choice but to seek the necessary avenue of recourse.Our company takes any allegations of illegal logging activity with the utmost severity and advocates for peaceful consultation with the Local Community at any and every opportunity.Regards.