Another 'Trust Fund' That Sarawakians Are Asked To Trust?

Premier of Sarawak Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg has assured Sarawakians that the proposed sovereign wealth fund will be well-managed by a full team of international professionals, thus securing the future of younger Sarawakians.

“Our sovereign fund will be completely professionally managed, even the board directors will be of all international professions. We hope that will give us secure future for Sarawakians,” he said in his speech during the Development Bank of Sarawak’s (DBOS) 5th anniversary dinner here, last night.

Reiterating that a Bill to set up the sovereign wealth fund will be tabled in the State Legislative Assembly next month, Abang Johari said the fund will be managed professionally and able to generate excess funds for rainy days.

Apart from that, he said it will allow the state government to provide free and quality education and send young talents to renowned world universities to pursue knowledge and skills.

Our comment

What guarantees are written into the legislation to support these claims of good governance and where will the exact level of oversight be spelt out?

Abang Jo presides over a state government that has sought to sue the opposition leader for doing his job in pointing out that half the entire state budget had been disappearing into similar so-called ‘trust funds’ which have proven to have had zero accountability.

Rather than meet the required transparency and providing the figures to explain where the public money had gone the Sarawak state government drove the Malaysian courts to over-turn every global legal precedent to allow a public body to sue for libel.

The same regime, which Abang Jo has been part of for many years, has allowed the shameful looting of a raft of other ‘trusts’ presiding over the enforced alienation of funds from the community.

These include the shocking pillaging of the Amanah Saham Sarawak Berhad (ASSAR) fund involving over half a billion ringgit of compensation money due to thousands of landowners forcibly deprived of their heritage – a fund which was so badly and opaquely managed that instead of providing steady ‘dividends’ to its enforced ‘shareholders’ it is now worthless, the money having somehow been lost.

HSBC was the ‘trustee’ that oversaw that debacle, so much for ‘safe international management’. The decision makers were all politically connected folk from Sarawak after all.

Or how about the other native fund, the Forest Concession Area Trust Fund (LKWKKH), supposedly to compensate for rampant logging on customary lands? No surprise that this trust has also gone the same way with less than 1% being spent on the promised benefits to the supposed local beneficiaries.

Once again, lack of transparency has left the actual destination of the money something of a mystery although few were surprised to learn that the management of this cash was largely handled by companies controlled by the Taib family – of Abang Jo’s predecessor and political ally.

There has been no condemnation by Abang Jo of any of these disastrous ventures – all promised as being well-managed trusts to benefit the people. So, why should anyone trust his words this time?

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