Monday, April 18, 2011

BN Continues to Leave Dayaks Behind

Dayaks still backward with no relief in sight

More than 40 years after the NEP, Vision 2020, New Economic Model, ETP and Score the indigenous people of Sarawak still rank the lowest in terms of educational attainment, occupational hierarchy and more than 50 percent of them have either primary or no formal education.

These findings are confirmed by the 1991, 2000 Population & Housing Census and projected figures from the 2009 Labour Force Survey. The percentage share of the Dayaks in the Agriculture sector is growing in Sarawak instead of declining.

This contradicts the Vision 2020's objective that an economic sector should not be dominated by one ethnic group. This shows that there is no upward mobility for the Dayaks. The majority of the Dayaks cannot move up to the more value-added tertiary sector.

Those Dayaks in the tertiary sectors are working as elementary workers. More than 70 percent of these Dayak workers are still expected to be around after 2020 or 2030. How can they be benefited from the jobs generated by Score.

How can Score train extra 1.5 million skilled workers by 2030 when currently less than 1 percent of the enrolment in the secondary schools are in Secondary Technical and Vocational Schools?

All these show that the Dayaks are moving in the direction of economic exclusion and marginalisation. I appeal to the Dayak scholars and academicians to compile the human capital base of Sarawak by ethnicity and to simulate the scenarios by 2030 or 2050 based on the current affirmative action plans formulated by the federal or state government to integrate the Dayaks into the economic system of Malaysia.

The two ethnic groups in Sarawak which are most neglected are the Iban and "other bumiputera". They are so far behind that it takes more than a generation for them to attain educational parity with other ethnic groups.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Breaking Away

We’re all born the same, unfettered by preconceived limitations. Eventually, we submit to laws. There are those we must embrace in order to be free . . . the laws of hard work and discipline. Then there are those we must challenge for that very same freedom . . . the laws of conformity and small-mindedness. The weight of these Barisan Nasional chains can be so subtle, we forget them. This is how we are shackled, tamed. Normalcy becomes the rule and we grow comfortable with limits. Like a dog at the end of a Barisan Nasional leash, we move but never of our own will.

It is time to defy, time to rise, time to change is NOW . . .

We will test our mettle, pull hard against these restraints and together we can achieve more than what we can possibly do on our own. We will not let conventional thinking rule us. As we live here in Sarawak, the Barisan Nasional chain will bury deep into our flesh, the weight will pull us and our future generations down. But we must fight. We will defy Barisan Nasional. If we fall now, we will get right back up.

My friends, life is short and every minute that passes hurtles us closer to the end. In the time that we have, we must commit ourselves to this cause that’s far greater than ourselves and the cause bind into us – these words are the contract that bind us to our promise for the future generations . . . Upon this contract, I have signed by name in blood, sweat and tears – to unbind our future generations from the chains of Barisan Nasional.

Friday, December 10, 2010

What Works for Reforming Sarawak's Failing Education System

Education reform is a top agenda of the new Sarawak state government. We have seen that despite massive spending by the Federal government and ambitious attempts at reforms, the performance of our education system has barely improved in decades. In fact, compared to school systems in the region, ours has seen a decline.

The Malaysian Smart Schools System - developed by a consortium led by Telekom Malaysia, and a flagship application of the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) initiated by the then Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir in 1997, has failed to bear fruit despite the billions of ringgits being spent. The Federal government’s 2009 National Key Results Area (NKRA) for education has not produced any report card to convince us that the NKRA initiatives are delivering results.

Children in Sarawak cannot be allowed to fall victim to Malaysia’s failing education system. It is a priority of the new Sarawak government to immediately and quickly establish a new education system that works to raise Sarawak children to a level as those in Korea, Finland and Singapore – countries that have that world’s best performing education systems.

The Sarawak Community Action Network (SCAN) has undertaken a year-long study to understand how to develop a high performing education system for Sarawak. The result of the study is to be used by the new Sarawak state government to establish an education system that truly works for children of Sarawak. The new government cannot afford to have a single child fail and that is what today’s adult Sarawakians owe to the coming generations of Sarawakians.

The study involved an analysis of selected education systems from different countries that have improved significantly, analysis of education systems that have been maintaining top positions, interviews with some thought leaders in those education systems and an analysis of the annual OECD PISA results from 2003 to 2009. During the course of the study, elements that are specific to the individual system and those that are of universal relevance were explored in order to help Sarawak’s new educational leaders replicate the success of high performing education systems. This study is sponsored, in part, by Sarawak’s own entrepreneur, innovator and change agent, Mr Granda Aing.

This paper presents a summary of the findings of SCAN’s study.
The study began with these key questions: Why do some education systems always perform better and improve at a faster rate than others? Why do some schools consistently succeed where others do not? What do successful school systems have in common? What methods and tools do they employ to improve learning outcomes of students?

The SCAN study found three most important universal elements that work:
1. Selective hiring of the right people to be teachers,
2. Develop them into highly effective instructors, and
3. Ensure that the system is capable of delivering only the best instruction for each student.

The successful systems demonstrate that significant improvement in desired results can be achieved in a short time – 3 to 6 years. The systems also show that by applying these practices, significant improvements is achievable in failing school systems and that the practices are applicable to any system, irrespective of culture and geography.

The following commonly used approaches to improve education systems in many countries, including the US and the UK, have been shown to be least effective, in that they do not contribute significantly to student outcomes as measured by scores in mathematics, science and reading:

1. Increase in public spending per student,
2. Improvements in student-to-teacher ratio,
3. Decrease in class size,
4. Decrease in school size,
5. Structural reforms in the governance of schools, such as autonomy of schools governed by elected boards and decentralization of powers to local school districts,
6. Reforms in curriculum standards,
7. Changes in assessments and testings,
8. Funding of schools,
9. Inspection of quality, and
10. Reforming relationship of schools to communities.

The SCAN study shows unquestionable evidence: student learning cannot be improved without improving quality of instruction. It is also noted that almost every education system have undertaken the process of reducing class size. For example, most countries in OECD over the past 7 years have increased the teacher-student ratio. However, evidence shows that this effort does not significantly result in better student outcomes, except at the very early grades. More teachers translate to less money per teacher and systems cannot be selective about who could be teachers.
Evidence from the SCAN study suggests that the new Sarawak educational leaders must focus on quality of teachers as this is the main driver of the variation in student learning. The quality of any education system cannot be higher than the quality of its teachers.

For example, a seminal research in one education system shows that if 2 average 8-year-old children were taught by different teachers – one a high performing teacher and the other a low performer, the learning outcomes of the students diverge by more than 50 percentile points within 3 years. Reducing class size from 30 to 15 students improves an average student’s performance by, at most, 8 percentile points. In a study of another system, evidence shows that students in earlier years of schooling, when placed with low-performing teachers for several years consecutively, suffer from irreversible educational loss. In some systems, students who score in the top 20% on literacy and numeracy at age 7, are twice as likely to obtain a university degree as children in the bottom 20%.

Sarawak’s new educational leaders now have evidence suggesting that even in good education systems, children who do not make good progress in their early school years because they are not taught by teachers of sufficient skills and competencies, have very small chance of recovering the lost years. All top performing education systems depend ultimately on the quality of its teachers.

All top performing systems from Dallas to Seoul and from Singapore to Helsinki, dispel the common belief that it is impossible to make teaching a preferred profession for good number of high-performers and that attracting better people requires the government to pay higher salaries. These systems have shown that making teaching the career of choice does not depend on high pay, but more on small, simple policy choices such as: designing and establishing robust hiring and training processes, giving attractive starting pay, and managing the status of the profession more carefully. For Sarawak’s new educational leaders, it means legislating an entirely new policy on education so that a new education system can be implemented rapidly.

By continuing the education system of the Federal government in Sarawak, we will only fail Sarawak’s future generation.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


You want another dam????

See what the Bakun was "behind the scene".... by Malaysian Observer

The whole 15 Billion Ringgit Bakun dam project (Supposed to produce 2400 Mw) was conceived by corrupt Mahathir to steal the 10 Billion ringgit worth of Timber from the Chief Minister of Sarawak Taib Mahmud who “owns” all the Timber in Sarawak.
The timber from the forest the size of Singapore (otherwise would be extracted by the CM) is now stolen by Mahathir as Bakun is a federal project.

Mahathir asked his favorite crony Ting Pek King to extract the Timber. Ting Pek King Subcontracts the extraction to Hii Chang Pee who underreported the volume extracted thereby ‘cheating’ Ting. Mr.Hii subsequently had a high profile court case with Ting. That is another story. Hee just opened his new "Pullman Hotel", 2 years after Ting's "Four Points Sheration", both in Kuching. Ting is building another Sheraton in Miri, his 2nd hometown, after Bintangor his birthplace.

Now Bakun can provide enough electricity to supply Sarawak’s need 4 times over. Yet Taib Mahmud wants to build another dam Murun,amongst many. WHY?

His brother in law Aziz Hussein runs the company building the dams. His sister's company provides the construction work. Taib’s company CMS is producing the cement! And he also controls and profit from the steel imports!

Now Sarawak electrical company Sesco is now privatized and owned by the CM Taib and his ministers who call it Sarawak Energy Bhd. Taib does not want to buy the electricity from Bakun because of his Timber 10 billion worth was stolen by Mahathir, therefore he wanted to build another 900 M v Murun dam upstream from Bakun costing 5 billion (1/3 the size of Bakun) Now Murun is 10% completed and need more funds which international banks will not lend to Taib’s company Sarawak Energy because it is privately owned by Taib and his cabinet. So Taib now wants to reverse ‘privatize’ the Sarawak Energy company after striping the assets to the government of Sarawak and then obtain loans from foreigners.

So they say Rio Tinto an Australian co is interested to use the Bakun electricity which is not true. Then they say a Chinese co maybe keen. This is a lie as the federal groups now realize Bakun is becoming a white elephant.

Now the 600 mile cable from Bakun to west Malaysia has to pass 70% of the way near few islands owned by Indonesia and only 30% of the way is Malaysia owned. So Indonesia has not given permission and is also not keen on to buy Bakun electricity as it cannot afford. There is not a single company in the world that can make a 600 mile long cable. The electricity loss would be tremendous. (80 %?) And the earth quakes would break the cable. Sabotage and damage due to ships anchors and other passing ships have to be factored in.

I would not be surprised Bakun will produce electricity in few years time but remain a white elephant – much to the credit of the reckless and corrupt PM Mahathir with many stupid ideas and corrupted CM of Sarawak Taib Mahmud who is reputed to be one of the richest men on earth.
"A Malaysian observer

June 12, 2010 5:23 AM

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Our Real Assets

If you haven’t read, the book entitled “What Color Is Your Parachute?” is recommended reading, even if you are having a steady job and progressing in your career. A best-seller, it’s about more meaningful work, changing career and job-hunting. More so, it’s about exploring and discovering what you want out of life and who you are as a person. The book takes a relook in a different perspective at the question, “What type of work am I willing to do?”

What’s the significance of a book that talks about meaningful work?

Often, within the short time spent in a lift with office workers getting to their offices, the common conversation is about share price and stock market. All news channels in print or electronic, have something about share market performance. There’s no shortage of stock market news on the Internet. Company board meetings certainly touch on boosting share price.

Is the stock we own our most valuable asset?

An employee share option scheme left a number of a company’s employees in debt and their savings nowhere to be seen following the drop in share price that came in tandem with the recent financial crisis. The hope and expectation of making some money from exercising the ESOS turned tragic.

A Nobel Prize-winning economist, Gary Becker, said that in modern economy, up to 80% of a person’s economic output comes from human capital, against land, machinery and others. Many people are mesmerized by how rich they can be with the portfolios of stocks and properties they own, but do not see the crucial asset they have in their earning power. Our education and training are worth a lot. We can get value not just from shares, but from ourselves and the mechanism of getting the value is a job. Our salary is the dividend on our human wealth.

Those of us who’ve been affected by economic recessions and financial crisis or those of us who’ve lost our jobs may already relearn how to create wealth as we relook at our jobs differently. Especially so if that thing we do in the office every day is our sole financial lifeline. Those who have not been affected would not know the true value of what we have until it’s gone.

These days, a predictable salary seems more appealing than big bonuses and ESOS. Government jobs, one of the last bastions of security, is definitely getting even more appealing. A better option now is to use whatever money we have to take a class, instead of spending on shares, unit trusts or properties. Perhaps, soon we’ll find ourselves perusing a list of the best-paying, fastest-growing professions as we visualize ourselves as a network engineer or wellness therapist.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Sarawak's Growth Agent

One of the objectives of Sarawak's several huge dams is to generate economic activities. But there are more pragmatic, easily executable alternative actions that have been proven to achieve that objective.

More than 70% of all businesses have less than 6 employees. This demonstrates that thriving small businesses generate the most jobs and economic activities. Microenterprises created 37% of all new jobs between 2001 and 2007. For Malaysia, small and medium-sized enterprises account for over 75% of all enterprises and are responsible for more than 60% of private sector employment and 55% private sector turnover. Massive hydro-power dams or huge aluminium smelting plants do not create the kind of employment opportunites that small enterprises do. Find out more at,!/notes/sarawak-community-action-network/sarawaks-growth-agent/429969021553

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Institute for Indoctrination

Again, another Barisan Nasional's denial.

The lies, cover-ups and spins. Finally, a 360 roundabout turn. This is the Barisan Nasional's deep-rooted culture of propagating racism and hoodwinking the people until some people brings it into the open. Thanks to Pakatan Rakyat.

Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz insisted today (1st Dec 2009) that the Cabinet wants to overhaul the Biro Tata Negara (BTN), while also admitting the programme had been used to promote certain government leaders.

Nazri revealed that the Cabinet conceded that BTN’s courses were racially divisive. Earlier, a fellow Umno government leader defended the civics course and insisted it would be “upgraded” instead of “revamped.”

Datuk Ahmad Masalan, who is Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, came out defending BTN against allegations by the Pakatan Rakyat that its courses were teaching racial hatred.

Nazri said there was no use in Ahmad or other government ministers denying the Cabinet decision.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yasin, was the first UMNO leader to take a defensive stand and publicly stated his views on the issue just hours after Nazri made the disclosure. Ahmad was the second Umno minister to come out in defence of BTN despite the revelation by Nazri. Nazri also said that BTN was also used as a programme to “instill confidence among the Malays” in the early days of its establishment but stressed that times have changed and “so must BTN”.

Ahmad said the allegations of racist teaching might have come from a mere “minor slip-up” by BTN lecturers. “Out of the 1,000 lectures given, maybe only one minute the lecturer had a slip-up so it is unfair that you portray BTN as racist just for that,” he said, adding that the allegation is a mere attempt by the Pakatan Rakyat to exploit the issue.

Pakatan Rakyat claims that testimonials by former BTN participants show the course instils ideas like Malay supremacy. Ahmadresponded saying, “They (participants) are taught about the Federal Constitution, the social contract, the position of the Malays in this country and 60 per cent of the population are the bumiputras. Are they racists? These are facts, so are they racists?”

Ahmad also said the government’s decision to “upgrade” BTN is not linked to the Pakatan Rakyat-led Selangor government’s move to ban its civil servants and students within its state-run educational institution from attending BTN courses.

Tell more lies.

Began with a denial and lies.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Billions Misappropriated and George Chan Must Resign

For the billions of taxpayer money siphoned off, Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan can only have himself to blame, take full responsibility and resign immediately. Who else is responsible for the misappropriation of more than 60 percent of Government allocations for vital infrastructure projects between 2002 and 2008? Any person with a gram of intelligence knows that answer.

As reported in The Star, the Deputy Minister now wants to find out who was responsible and take appropriate action against them. Dr Chan, who is also State Industrial Development Minister and State Minister for Agriculture Modernisation must own up instead of ordering another internal investigation into the findings by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC). An investigation will be another waste of taxpayer money and undermine the work and independence of the MACC.

MACC Deputy Commissioner Datuk Zakaria Jaffar had earlier issued a statement that the MACC had uncovered cases in Sarawak where up to 60 percent of Government allocations had been ''diverted'' away from the projects for which the funds were meant. Zakaria claimed that such misappropriation of funds had happened between 2002 and last year and that MACC investigations had shown that only 40 percent of the money given by the Government for the projects was spent on the projects proper while the other 60 percent were leaked to elsewhere.

No wonder Sarawak’s rural population continue to live below the poverty line.

One question we need to ask now is, why is that MACC have not prosecuted any party?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Diverted Elsewhere - 60% of Development Funds

The revelation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) that 60 percent of Government allocations for key infrastructure projects have been diverted elsewhere is most shocking.

MACC's investigation revealed that between 2002 and 2008, only 40 percent of the money given by the Government were spent on the projects proper.

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan responded by wanting MACC to give full and detailed briefing on their findings.

If we learned from what happened to the Auditor General's report on abuses on the state administration, MACC will have to retract their report or revise to a milder version.

For as long as we continue to keep Taib Mahmud, PBB and Barisan Nasional in power, we Sarawakians will continue to lose out while the powerful few will continue to amass wealth.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Bakun Mega Scandal

This article is taken from Malaysiakini, written by Dr KUA KIA SOONG, director of Suaram. He was member of parliament for Petaling Jaya from 1990 to 1995.

Nearly 50 years after independence for Sarawak, we see a comparison with the 'Highland Clearances' in Scotland during the 18th century when the highlanders were driven off their lands for capitalistic sheep farming.

The English did it with brutality and thoroughness through “butcher” Lord Cumberland and even obliterated the 'wild' Celtic mode of life.

What we have seen in Sarawak recently has the same capitalist logic, namely, to drive the indigenous peoples out of their native customary lands so that these lands can be exploited for their commercial value and the indigenous people can be “freed” to become wage labourers.

Thus, even though the accursed Bakun dam had been suspended in 1997 due to the financial crisis, the government still went ahead to displace 10,000 indigenous peoples to the Sungai Asap resettlement camp in 1998.

Well, there is a reason for this - the contract for the Sungai Asap camp had already been given out to a multinational company. After all, the whole Bakun area, which is the size of the island of Singapore and home to the indigenous peoples, had already been thoroughly logged...

All this happened while Dr Mahathir Mahathir was the prime minister. Wasn't he a liability to the BN government then?

I was part of the fact-finding mission to Sungai Asap in 1999 and even then we could see the destruction of so many unique indigenous communities and their cultures, including the Ukit tribe.

There was only one word to describe what had been done to these indigenous peoples and their centuries-old cultures... wicked!

Banned from my own country

As a result of my concern for the indigenous peoples and the natural resources of Sarawak, I was told at Kuching airport in August 2007 that I could not enter Sarawak. So much for 1Malaysia! So much for national integration! So much for nearly 50 years of independence! I was not even welcome in my own country.

But the contracts for the resettlement scheme and the logging are chicken feed compared to the mega-bucks to be reaped from the mega-dams. Even before the Bakun dam ever got started, Malaysian taxpayers had to compensate dam builder Ekran Bhd and the other “stakeholders” close to RM1 billion in 1997.

How much does it cost to pay our 'mata-mata' (police) to investigate the alleged scandalous rape of our Penan women?

The contracts from building the Bakun dam and the undersea cable run in excess of RM20 billion. Malaysian taxpayers won't know the final cost until they are told the cost overruns when the projects have been completed.

But if the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal is anything to go by, the leaks and non-accountability all along the line will result in Malaysian taxpayers paying billions for the same kind of daylight robbery.

In the early 90s, when the government was trying to assure us that there would be no irresponsible logging in Sarawak, I pointed out in Parliament that if the government could not monitor the Bukit Sungai Putih permanent forest and wildlife reserve just 10 minutes from Kuala Lumpur, how did they expect us to believe they could monitor the forests in Bakun?

Likewise today, if the government cannot monitor a project in Port Klang just half an hour from Kuala Lumpur, how can they assure us that they can monitor a project deep in upriver Sarawak and through 650km of the South China Sea?

How can we be assured that we will get to the bottom of politically-linked scandals when the Sarawak police tell us they don't have the resources to investigate the rape of Penan women and girls?

How can we be assured that the Sarawak state government cares about its indigenous peoples and its natural resources when NGO activists are banned from entering Sarawak to investigate a part of their own country?

It makes no economic sense

In 1980, the Bakun dam was proposed with a power generating capacity of 2,400MW even though the projected energy needs for the whole of Sarawak was only 200MW for 1990.

The project was thus coupled with the proposal to build the world's longest (650km) undersea cable to transmit electricity to the peninsula. An aluminum smelter at Sarawak's coastal town of Bintulu was also proposed to take up the surplus energy.

In 1986, the project was abandoned because of the economic recession although the then PM Mahathir announced just before the UN Conference on Environment and Development (Earth Summit) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil that this was “proof of Malaysia's commitment to the environment”.

So what happened to that commitment, Mahathir?

In 1993, with the upturn in the Malaysian economy, the government once again announced the revival of the Bakun dam project. To cushion the expected protests, then Energy Minister S Samy Vellu gave Parliament a poetic description of a “series of cascading dams” and not one large dam as had been originally proposed.

Before long, it was announced that the Bakun dam would be a massive 205-metre high concrete face rockfill dam - one of the highest dams of its kind in the world - and it would flood an area the size of Singapore island.

The undersea cable was again part of the project. There was also a plan for an aluminum plant, a pulp and paper plant, the world's biggest steel plant and a high-tension and high-voltage wire industry.

Have feasibility studies been done to see if there will be adequate local, regional and international demand for all these products?

Six years later, after the economy was battered by the Asian Financial Crisis, the government again announced that the project would be resumed albeit on a smaller scale of 500MW capacity.

Before long in 2001, the 2,400MW scale was once again proposed although the submarine cable had been shelved. Today we read reports about the government and companies still contemplating this hare-brained undersea scheme which is now estimated to cost a whopping RM21 billion!

More mega-dams to be built

The recent announcement that the Sarawak government intends to build two more mega-dams in Sarawak apart from the ill-fated Bakun dam is cause for grave concern.

Malaysian taxpayers, Malaysian forests and Malaysian indigenous peoples will again be the main victims of this misconceived plan. We have been told that some 1,000 more indigenous peoples will have to be displaced from their ancestral lands to make way for these two dams.

Apart from the human cost, ultimately it will be the Malaysian consumers who pay for this expensive figment of Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud's wild imagination. Indeed, enough taxpayers' money has been wasted - Sarawak Hidro has already spent some RM1.5 billion on the Bakun dam project.

Right now, the country is being fed conflicting reports about energy demand. There is supposed to be a 43 percent oversupply of electricity capacity in peninsula Malaysia. Experienced Bakun dam watchers will tell you such conflicting and mutually contradictory assertions have been used by the dam proponents to justify every flip flop of this misconceived project.

Apart from the economic cost and the wastage, how are investors supposed to plan for the long-term and medium term? What is the long-term plan for Bakun? Can Bakun compete with the rest of the world or for that matter, Indonesia?

The suggestion for aluminum smelters to take up the bulk of Bakun electricity have been mentioned ever since the conception of the Bakun dam project because they are such a voracious consumer of energy. Even so, has there ever been any proper assessment of the market viability of such a project with the cheaper operating costs in China?

Does it matter that the co-owner of one of the smelters is none other than Cahaya Mata Sarawak (CMS) Bhd Group, a conglomerate controlled by Taib's family business interest?

Sarawak's tin-pot government.

Clearly, Bakun energy and Sarawak's tin-pot governance do not give confidence to investors. First it was Alcoa, and then Rio Tinto - both giant mining multinationals - had expressed second thoughts about investing in Sarawak.

Concerned NGOs have all along called for the abandonment of this monstrous Bakun dam project because it is economically ill-conceived, socially disruptive and environmentally disastrous.

The environmental destruction is evident many miles downstream since the whole Bakun area has been logged by those who have already been paid by Sarawak Hidro.

The social atrophy among the 10,000 displaced indigenous peoples at Sungai Asap resettlement scheme remains the wicked testimony of the Mahathir/Taib era. The empty promises and damned lives of the displaced peoples as forewarned by NGOs in 1999 have now been borne out.

The economic viability of the Bakun dam project has been in doubt from the beginning and the announcement to build two more dams merely reflects a cavalier disregard for the indigenous peoples, more desecration of Sarawak's natural resources and a blatant affront to sustainable development.

When will Malaysians ever learn?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Removing The Weakest Link In The Chain

Dr Jeffrey Kitingan is like a pampered boy who sulks each time he is unhappy with his parents or does not get what he wants from his mother. Like the pampered boy, his self-centered and narrow-minded tendencies makes him the weakest link in any chain of relationship.

Dr Jeffrey quit as PKR vice-president, citing his dissatisfaction over the party’s choice of state liaison chief. Oh really? More likely he resigned because he was not made the state liaison chief. So what if someone else gets to do the job? Sulk and quit? Or has he been paid by UMNO?

“I’m quitting as I’ve lost confidence in the party’s leadership decision-making process in terms of decisions affecting Sabah,” he said. “There appears to be no seriousness on the part of the party leadership in taking the views of Sabah PKR leaders. As such, I see no reason for me to remain in the party,” he added.

Isn't he part of the party leadership? With him leaving, one weak link in the Pakatan Rakyat is removed, thus further strengthening the coalition and PKR.

Here's Dr Jeffrey's legacy - no, he did nothing to save Sabahans from the grips of corrupt UMNO.

• Dr Jeffrey quit as PKR vice-president on Tuesday citing his dissatisfaction over the party’s choice of state liaison chief.

• Quit PBS in 1994 just before the collapse of the PBS-led state government.

• Following his resignation from PBS, joined the Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah, only to leave in less than 24 hours to sign up with the now defunct Parti Akar.

• Following a leadership tussle in Akar, Dr Jeffrey rejoined PBS just before the 1999 Sabah state election and contested, and won under the party’s symbol.

• In 2000, however, he quit PBS to rejoin PBRS but left after less than two years following a leadership tussle there as well.

• He joined PKR after the 2004 general election and was appointed a vice-president.

Wishing Dr Jeffrey greater success in his future party and political career.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Sarawak Government vs Minority Natives

As reported in The Star, the stand-off between Kenyah minority natives and an oil-palm giant in the Belaga district in central Sarawak is another case of the continued discrimination against Sarawak natives by the Sarawak state government. The Sarawak police continues to show its bias by providing protection for big oil palm companies to rob the natives of their land.

The oil-palm company, a subsidiary of a Miri-based land development consortium, had allegedly bulldozed its way into a plot of land to open up an access road into areas earmarked for an oil-palm plantation.

The natives claimed that the area targeted for clearing was their native customary rights land, inherited from their ancestors.

The company claimed that it has been given the concession right by the State Land and Survey Department to develop the land.

Workers from the company had ploughed their way through a plot of farmland adjacent to the native’s longhouse despite desperate attempts by the villagers to stop them.

The natives have lodged police reports against the workers for trespassing on their farms and uprooting their fruit trees, but they claimed that the police were siding with the company and were helping to provide security escort to its workers.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Letter to Marina Undau

The plight of Marina Undau, an 18-yr-old Iban-Chinese girl who was denied a place in the matriculation programme because she was deemed a “non-Bumiputera” was highlighted by the Borneo Post (Oct 29:

“KUCHING: Getting her Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) result was the best — and the worst — thing that could happen to Marina Undau.The 18-year-old science stream student of SMK Simanggang scored 9As and 1B in the SPM examination last year. She thought she was on her way to university, especially being a Bumiputera and all, but that was not to be. Born to an Iban father and a Chinese mother, Marina’s life was turned upside down when her application to undergo a university matriculation programme was rejected by the Ministry of Education. The ministry determined that she is not a ‘Bumiputera’...

“Seated between her parents, Undau Liap and Wong Pick Sing, the disappointment in the teenager was obvious. Speaking in Iban, she said: ‘Aku amai enda puas ati nadai olih nyambung sekula ngagai universiti (I’m very sad that I can’t pursue my university education).’ With no chance of entering a university for now, Marina has started Form 6 in her old school.

“Asked what she thought of everything that was happening, she replied: ‘What worries me is that will this happen again when I pass my STPM next year? If I get good results, what’s next?’

“In Sarawak, under the federal constitution, both parents must be ‘native’ in order for the offspring to be classified as a ‘Bumiputera’.”

The official definition used by the Student Intake Management Division, Higher Learning Department and Higher Education Ministry:

You are a Bumiputera if

• Semenanjung — “Jika salah seorang ibu atau bapa calon adalah seorang Melayu yang beragama Islam/Orang Asli seperti mana yang ditakrifkan dalam Perkara 160(2) Perlembagaan Persekutuan; maka anaknya adalah dianggap seorang Bumiputera.” (If either parent of a candidate is a Malay who is a Muslim/Orang Asli as defined in Article 160 (2) of the Federal Constitution, the child is considered a Bumiputera.)

• Sabah — “Jika bapa calon adalah seorang Melayu yang beragama Islam/Peribumi Sabah seperti yang ditakrifkan dalam Perkara 161A(6)(a) Perlembagaan Persekutuan; maka anaknya adalah dianggap seorang Bumiputera.” (If the father of the candidate is a Malay who is a Muslim/native of Sabah as defined by Article 161A(6)(a) of the Federal Constitution, the child is considered a Bumiputera.)

• Sarawak — “Jika bapa dan ibu adalah seorang Peribumi Sarawak seperti mana yang ditakrifkan dalam Perkara 161A(6)(b) Perlembagaan persekutuan; maka anaknya adalah dianggap seorang Bumiputera.” (If the father and mother is a native of Sarawak as defined under Article 161A(6)(b) of the Federal Constitution, the child is considered a Bumiputera.)

To Marina, it may be God's wish that you do your STPM, achieve oustanding results and get admitted into one of the world's top universities somewhere.

Matriculation is, after all, much easier than STPM. There's nothing more valuable than going through the challenge of STPM - challenges helps people mature with greater wisdom. You'll be a greater person.

May be you may not even want to consider those local private universities. The universities will make you pass your exams without having to work hard.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Ongoing Robbing of Land From Sarawak Natives

We all know the ongoing land grab by the Sarawak state government from the natives. More and more natives will be landless and become illegal settlers on the land that they have been toiling for centuries.

All that, while the few will get more land and more timber and amass more wealth.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The long road to Sarawak's independence

"A few things I also learned were that, when you want to help our own people to defend or protect our land or rights, you will be demonised, ostracised, branded a traitor to our country, being anti-govt or anti development or tools of foreign NGOs jealous of our country etc. etc in the local newspapers, in the radio and TV by those having vested interests or those who are after our land and resources. Some of our own political leaders who are “apple polishers” will be their local agents to mount all these accusations against you and I. Their strategy is to frightens our own people from supporting our cause so that we are weakened and left alone in our fight to defend and protect our lands and our resources." Harrison Ngau Liang

Read more here...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

New accurate measure of the global markets

For years, economists, along with everyone else, thought of palm oil as exactly what it looked like: a pinkish, sludgy irrelevance. People knew that it was used to make food and soap but everything else about it, including its origins, seemed slightly distasteful.

In 2009 palm oil has not changed its colour or texture, but as an economic indicator it is unrecognisable. In a world of food and energy crises, of credit implosions, green politics and the rise of Asia, it has become the gauge that straddles them all — the ultimate global speedometer.

Through its price fluctuations and ever-changing trade destinations, palm oil has become an accurate measurement of hundreds of global markets.

Its versatility is the key, which is the main reason why the world consumes 42 million tonnes a year — twice as much as it did a decade ago. For all of the criticism that palm oil plantations attract for destroying the rainforest and endangering wildlife, the demand is a reading of a global population trying to feed and power itself under challenging circumstances.

The growth of palm oil has tracked the rising wealth of the middle classes in China and India, which buy up a quarter of all global supplies every year. Those who can afford to fry more of their food, and when other edible oil stocks can not keep up, or when prices rise too far, palm oil becomes the alternative.

As a biofuel feedstock, palm oil can meet a similar demand with energy, offering an alternative strategy when the markets are knocked out of kilter.

Palm prices tell us how rich the average Chinese family feels at new year, and with what sort of food the Muslim world will be breaking the fast each night of Ramadan. It tells us where London brokers think crude oil prices are heading and what Chicago futures traders think of this year’s soya bean crop and how badly El NiƱo is hurting South-East Asia this cycle.

In Malaysia and Indonesia, which between them meet about 87 per cent of the global demand, palm oil price movements dictate government policy, shape economic prospects and draw billions of dollars of direct investment.

For Malaysia, palm oil competes with tourism and manufacturing as the three biggest sources of economic growth. A couple of years ago, a bumper haul and dazzling prices allowed the Government in Kuala Lumpur to give a bonus to every civil servant in the country.

In Indonesia palm oil plays an even more central role in the country’s economic future. One popular view is that Indonesia belongs in three of the world’s most promising and exciting, emerging markets. The theory is backed by the idea that an industry that already employs two million people has the scope to double its output by 2014.

Perhaps most critically of all, palm oil is the canary in the mine for biofuel policy-making around the world. Setting stomachs and cars against each other in direct competition for calories is a finely balanced game, more likely to go wrong than right.

A poorly calculated subsidy in one country can cause dangerous price rises in a food commodity on another continent. In almost all cases, the price of palm oil is where the folly emerged.

Source: The Times Online, by Leo Lewis

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Getting Rich in Sarawak MEANS Dayaks Lose Homes

Aug. 25 (Bloomberg) -- After a stomach-churning takeoff from a 550-meter runway at Long Banga airstrip on the Malaysian side of the island of Borneo, the 19-seat plane soars over a green tropical wilderness. This is one of the world’s last remaining virgin rain forests.

About 30 minutes into the flight to the bustling oil town of Miri, the lush landscape changes, and neatly terraced fields of oil palms take the place of jungle. Twenty years ago, this was forestland. Now, those forests are lost forever.

The shift from rain forest to oil palm cultivation in Malaysia’s Sarawak state highlights the struggle taking place between forces favoring economic development, led by Sarawak state’s chief minister, Abdul Taib Mahmud, and those who want to conserve the rain forest and the ways of life it supports.

During Taib’s 28-year rule, his government has handed out concessions for logging and supported the federal government’s megaprojects, including the largest hydropower site in the country and, most recently, oil palm plantations. The projects are rolling back the frontiers of Borneo’s rain forest, home to nomadic people and rare wildlife such as orangutans and proboscis monkeys.

At least four prominent Sarawak companies that have received contracts or concessions have ties to Taib or his family.

Transforming Malaysia

The government of Malaysia plans to transform the country into a developed nation by 2020 through a series of projects covering everything from electric power generation to education. The country’s gross domestic product, which has been growing at an average 6.7 percent annual pace since 1970, shrank 6.2 percent in the first quarter.

In Sarawak, Taib’s government is following its own development plans that call for doubling the state’s GDP to 150 billion ringgit ($42 billion) by 2020. Sarawak Energy Bhd., which is 65 percent owned by the state government, said in July 2007 it plans to build six power plants, including hydropower and coal-fired generators.

The state government also wants to expand the acreage in Sarawak devoted to oil palms to 1 million hectares (2.5 million acres) by 2010, from 744,000 at the end of 2008, according to Sarawak’s Ministry of Land Development. Companies that formerly chopped down hardwood trees and exported the timber are now moving into palm plantations.

Lawsuits Filed

Meanwhile, many of the ethnic groups who have traditionally lived from the land in Sarawak -- known as Dayaks -- have filed lawsuits that aim to block some projects and seek better compensation.

Sarawak’s ambitions could be hindered by a lack of good governance, which would shut out overseas investors, says Steve Waygood, head of sustainable and responsible investment research at Aviva Investors in London, which manages more than $3 billion in sustainable assets.

“Even just the perception of corruption can lead to restricted inflows of capital from the global investment community into emerging markets such as Sarawak,” says Waygood, who wrote about reputational risk in a 2006 book, “Capital Market Campaigning” (Risk Books).

“The largest and most responsible financial institutions are very careful to avoid funding unsustainable developments,” he says.

Unilever, which buys 1.5 million tons of palm oil a year -- 4 percent of the world’s supply -- for use in products such as Dove soap and Flora margarine, announced in May that it would buy only from sustainable sources.

No Direct Purchases

“Unilever does not source any palm oil directly from Sarawak,” says Jan Kees Vis, Unilever’s director of sustainable agriculture. “We buy from plantation companies and traders located elsewhere.”

He says Unilever has committed by 2015 to buy all of its palm oil from sources certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, a group representing palm oil producers, consumers and nongovernmental organizations that seeks to establish standards for sustainably produced palm oil. The Malaysian Palm Oil Association, a government-supported group of Malaysian plantation companies, is a member of the RSPO.

About 35 percent of the world’s cooking oil comes from palm -- more than any other plant, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And 90 percent of the world’s palm oil comes from Malaysia and Indonesia.

Skittles and Soap

The oil is an ingredient used in everything from Skittles candy to Palmolive soap to some kinds of biodiesel fuel. Palm oil futures have climbed 45 percent this year as of Aug. 24 on concern that dry weather caused by El Nino may reduce output. Crude oil prices rose to a 10-month high of $74.24 a barrel, spurring demand for biodiesel.

Malaysia lost 6.6 percent of its forest cover from 1990 to 2005, or 1.49 million hectares, the most-recent data available from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization show. That’s an area equivalent to the state of Connecticut.

Neighboring Indonesia lost forestland at the fastest annual rate among the world’s 44 forest nations from 2000 to 2005, Amsterdam-based Greenpeace says.

“Palm oil is the new green gold after timber,” says Mark Bujang, executive director of the Borneo Resources Institute in Miri, a city of about 230,000 people in Sarawak. “It has become the most destructive force after three decades of unsustainable logging.”

While Malaysia’s palm oil exports have more than doubled to a record 46 billion ringgit in 2008 from 2006, according to the country’s central bank, the gain has come at a price.

Displaced People

Development projects and palm plantations have displaced thousands of people, some of whom have lived for centuries by fishing, hunting and farming in the jungle. Almost 200 lawsuits are pending in the Sarawak courts relating to claims by Dayak people on lands being used for oil palms and logging, according to Baru Bian, a land rights lawyer representing many of the claimants.

A handful of activists have been found dead under mysterious circumstances or disappeared, including Swiss environmental activist Bruno Manser, who vanished in the jungle in 2000.

Cutting down rain forests to cultivate palms in Sarawak has consequences far beyond Malaysia, says Janet Larsen, director of research at the Washington-based Earth Policy Institute.

The forests that are being destroyed help modulate the climate because they remove vast stores of carbon from the atmosphere. Chopping down the trees ends up releasing greenhouse gases.

‘Lungs of the Planet’

“These last remaining forests are the lungs of the planet,” Larsen says. “It affects us all.”

Chief Minister Taib, 73, has multiple roles in Sarawak. He’s also the state’s finance minister and its planning and resources management minister -- a role that gives him the power to dispense land, forestry and palm oil concessions as well as the power to approve infrastructure projects.

Until last year, Taib held the additional role of chairman of the Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corp., which fosters wood-based industries in the state.

Anwar Ibrahim, the former Malaysian finance minister who’s the head of the country’s opposition alliance, sees parallels between Taib’s rule and those of other long-standing leaders in Southeast Asia, such as former Indonesian President Suharto and former Philippine leader Ferdinand Marcos.

“It’s an authoritarian style of governance to protect their turf and their families,” says Anwar, who was fired as deputy prime minister by then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in 1998 and jailed on charges of having homosexual sex and abusing power. The sodomy conviction was overturned in 2004.

‘Driven by Greed’

Sim Kwang Yang, an opposition member of parliament for Sarawak’s capital city of Kuching from 1982 to 1995, agrees with Anwar’s assessment. “It is crony capitalism driven by greed without any regard for the people,” he says.

Taib’s adult children and his late wife, Lejla, together owned more than 29.3 percent of Cahya Mata Sarawak Bhd., the state’s largest industrial group, with 40 companies involved in construction, property development, road maintenance, trading and financial services, according to the company’s 2008 annual report.

Local residents jokingly say that the company’s initials, CMS, stand for “Chief Minister and Sons.”

In total, CMS has won about 1.3 billion ringgit worth of projects from the state and the federal government since the beginning of 2005, according to the firm’s stock exchange filings.

Taib declined to comment for this article. In an interview he gave to Malaysia’s state news agency, Bernama, on Jan. 13, 2001, Taib said CMS’s ties to him had nothing to do with its winning government jobs.

‘Not Involved’ in Contracts

“I am not involved in the award of contracts,” he said. “No politician in Sarawak is involved in the award of contracts.”

He told Bernama he doesn’t ask for special treatment of his sons. “I never ask anybody to do any favors,” he said.

Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib, the elder of Taib’s two sons, is CMS’s deputy chairman and owns 8.92 percent of the firm, according to the annual report. Sulaiman Abdul Rahman Taib, the younger son and CMS’s chairman until 2008, holds an 8.94 percent stake.

Taib’s two daughters and his son-in-law are also listed in the annual report as “substantial shareholders.”

Taib’s History

Taib, a Muslim who belongs to the Melanau group -- one of about 27 different ethnic groups in Sarawak -- entered politics at the age of 27 after graduating from the University of Adelaide in Australia with a law degree in 1960.

He held various ministerial positions in Sarawak and Malaysia before taking over in 1981 as the chief minister from his uncle, Abdul Rahman Yaakub. Rahman, now 81, ruled Sarawak for 11 years.

Taib, who has silver hair, appears almost daily on the front pages of Sarawak newspapers, sometimes sporting a goatee and a pair of rimless glasses, at the opening of new development projects or local events.

He lives in Sarawak’s capital city of Kuching, an urban area of about 600,000 people on the Sarawak River. Its picturesque waterfront is dotted with colonial buildings, the legacy of British adventurer James Brooke, who founded the Kingdom of Sarawak in 1841 and became known as the White Rajah. Brooke’s heirs ruled the kingdom until 1946, when Charles Vyner Brooke ceded his rights to the U.K. Sarawak joined the Federation of Malaysia on Sept. 16, 1963, along with other former British colonies.

Cousin’s Role

At Taib’s mansion, which overlooks the river, he receives guests in a living room decorated with gilt-edged European-style sofa sets, according to photos in the July to December 2006 newsletter of Naim Cendera Holdings Bhd., which changed its name to Naim Holdings Bhd. in March.

Naim is a property developer and contractor whose chairman is Taib’s cousin, Abdul Hamed Sepawi. He is also chairman of state power company Sarawak Energy and timber company Ta Ann Holdings Bhd., and is on the board of Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corp. and Sarawak Plantation Bhd.

Naim and CMS jointly built Kuching’s iconic waterfront building, the umbrella-roofed, nine-story Sarawak State Legislative Assembly complex. Naim has won more than 3.3 billion ringgit worth of contracts from the state and the federation since 2005, its stock exchange filings show.

Companies Respond

Ricky Kho, a spokesman for Naim, said the company declined to comment for this article. Naim’s deputy managing director, Sharifuddin Wahab, said in an interview with Bloomberg News in July 2007 that the chairman’s family ties weren’t why the company won government contracts.

“We have been able to execute our projects on time, we stick to the budget and the quality of what we hand over to the government is up to their expectations, if not more,” he said.

“Our teams have always acted professionally” when working with the government, whether on large or small projects, CMS’s group managing director, Richard Curtis, said in an e-mail. “CMS is governed by the strict listing regulations of the Malaysian stock exchange,” he said, adding that the chairman and the group managing director are both independent.

“The large projects carry with them an equally large risk, including a huge reputational risk, particularly for crucial projects by the government,” he said. “It is the government’s prerogative and discretion to award projects using a variety of approaches that includes open and closed tenders as well as directly negotiated processes, to the contractors and developers they feel will deliver the project as promised.”

Malaysia’s reputation as a place to conduct business has deteriorated in recent years, according to Transparency International, the Berlin-based advocacy group that publishes an annual Corruption Perceptions Index.

‘Monument of Corruption’

Transparency ranked the country 47th out of 180 in 2008, down from 43rd in 2007. Transparency also has singled out the Bakun Hydroelectric Dam, under construction on the Balui River in Sarawak, as a “monument of corruption.”

The index lacks fairness, says Ahmad Said Hamdan, chief commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, because it doesn’t take into consideration the size of the population of the countries in the ranking, for example.

“I’ve seen a lot of improvement in civil service in the past 10 years,” he says.

Dead Fish

Early this year, hundreds of dead fish started floating on the muddy river near the Bakun dam site. The fish were killed by siltation, which was triggered by uncontrolled logging upstream, Sarawak’s assistant minister of environment and public health, Abang Abdul Rauf Abang Zen, says. He says the Bakun dam has very strict environmental assessments and isn’t to blame for the siltation.

In January, Tenaga Nasional Bhd., Malaysia’s state- controlled power utility, and Sarawak Energy said they won approval from the national government to take over the operation of the hydropower project through a leasing agreement. Sarawak Energy also won preliminary approval to export about 1,600 megawatts of electricity from the 2,400-megawatt Bakun project, once it begins operating, to Peninsular Malaysia. The remaining power will go to Sarawak.

Taib announced a plan called New Concept in 1994. The aim was to bring together local people, with their customary rights to the land, and private shareholders, who would provide capital and expertise to create plantations. The plan called for companies to hold a 60 percent stake in the joint ventures, the state to own 10 percent and the remaining 30 percent to go to local communities in return for a 60-year lease on their land.

‘Emotional’ Disputes

That time period equals about two complete cycles of oil palm development. An oil palm typically matures in 3 years, reaches peak production from 5 to 7 years and continues to produce for about 25 years, says Nirgunan Tiruchelvam, a commodities analyst at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc in Singapore.

The policy has led to some disagreements. In his interview with Bernama in 2001, Taib said land acquisitions by the state have led to “emotional” disputes because some people seek too much compensation.

“We are not allowed to pay more than market value,” he told Bernama. He said people need to prove that they have traditionally lived in an area -- for example, by providing an aerial photograph -- in order for the state to grant them title to the land.

“If there are disputes, they go to the court,” Taib told Bernama.

Some local people say they received no compensation at all for their land. In Kampung Lebor, a village about a two-hour drive from Kuching, 160 families, members of the Iban group that was formerly headhunters, live in longhouses and survive by fishing and some farming. The Iban are Sarawak’s largest single group of Dayaks, who make up about half of the state’s 2.3 million population.

Land Overlap

In mid-1996, the state handed out parcels of land that overlapped with the community’s customary hunting and fishing areas to the Land Custody and Development Authority and Nirwana Muhibbah Bhd., a palm oil company in Kuching.

In mid-1997, the authority and the company cleared the land with bulldozers and planted oil palm seedlings, according to a copy of Kampung Lebor’s writ of summons filed to the High Court in Kuching.

Government ‘Cruel’

“The government is cruel,” says Jengga Jeli, 54, a father of five in Lebor. “Fruit trees have been cut down. It’s become harder to hunt and fish. Now we are forced to get meat and vegetables from the bazaar, and we are very poor.” Jengga’s village filed a lawsuit in 1998 against Nirwana, LCDA and the state government in a bid to get compensation.

The case was finally heard in 2006 and is now awaiting judgment, according to Baru Bian, who is representing the Iban in Kampung Lebor. Reginal Kevin Akeu, a lawyer at Abdul Rahim Sarkawi Razak Tready Fadillah & Co. Advocates, which is representing Nirwana and LCDA, declined to comment.

The cases show that the development projects, including plantations and dams, haven’t helped poverty among the local people, many of whom live without adequate electricity or schools, says Richard Leete, who served as the resident representative of the United Nations Development Program for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei from 2003 to 2008.

Poverty Remains

“This is the paradox of Sarawak -- the great wealth it has, the natural resources in such abundance, and yet such an impoverishment and the real hardship these communities are suffering,” says Leete, who chronicled Malaysia’s progress since its independence from Britain in his book “Malaysia: From Kampung to Twin Towers” (Oxford Fajar, 2007). “There has no doubt been a lot of money politics,” he says.

In the rugged hills about 150 kilometers (93 miles) south of Kuching, some 160 Bidayuh families, known as the Land Dayaks, are clinging to their traditional habitat, while a dam is under construction nearby. They live by farming and fishing.

With only a primary school in the village, children have to go to boarding schools outside the jungle to get further education, crossing seven handmade bamboo bridges and trekking two hours over the hills when they return home.

The state has offered the Bidayuhs 7,500 ringgit per hectare, 80 ringgit per rubber tree and 60 ringgit per durian fruit tree in compensation for their native land, says Simo ak Sekam, 48, a resident of Kampung Rejoi, one of four villages in the area. In Rejoi, about half of 39 families have refused.

Bamboo Bridges

“We don’t want to move because we are happy here,” Simo says. “We feel very sad because our land will be covered with water. The young generations won’t know this land. They won’t see the bamboo bridges.”

The builder of the local reservoir is Naim Holdings -- the company headed by Chief Minister Taib’s cousin. The government awarded Naim the 310.7 million-ringgit contract without putting it out for bids. Naim’s statement announcing the deal in July 2007 said it won the job on a “negotiated basis.”

One of the most threatened groups is the Penan, nomadic people who live deep in the jungle on the upper reaches of the Baram River. On a steamy equatorial morning in late October 2007, Long Kerong village leader Kelesau Naan and his wife, Uding Lidem, walked two hours to their rice-storing hut. Kelesau, who was in his late 70s and who had protested logging activity in their area, told Uding he’d go check on an animal trap he had set nearby. He never came back.

Skull and Bones Found

Two months later, his skull and several pieces of his bones, along with his necklace made of red, yellow and white beads, surfaced on the banks of the Segita River. Inspector Sumarno Lamundi at the regional police station says the investigation is ongoing.

It was just the latest tragedy among activists working for the Penan since the early 1990s, when rampant logging took place. At least two other Penan were found dead, including Abung Ipui, a pastor and an advocate for land rights for his village. His body was found in October 1994 with his stomach cut open.

Manser, the Swiss activist for the rights of the Penan, vanished without a trace from the Borneo rain forests in May 2000 and was officially declared missing in March 2005.

Kelesau’s death has made the Penan willing to stand up for their survival.

“We are scared of something terrible happening to us if we don’t resist,” says grim-faced Bilong Oyoi, 48, headman of Long Sait, a Penan settlement close to Long Kerong.

Penans’ Resistance

Bilong, who wears a traditional rattan hat decorated with hornbill feathers, says his group is setting up blockades to resist logging activities. They are also working with NGOs to get attention for their plight and filing lawsuits.

With the help of the Basel, Switzerland-based Bruno Manser Fund, an NGO set up by the late activist, Bilong and 76 other Penan sent a letter -- which some signed using only thumb prints -- to Gilles Pelisson, the chief executive officer of French hotel chain Accor SA.

The letter urged Accor to think twice about partnering with logging company Interhill Logging Sdn. to build a 388-room Novotel Interhill in Kuching. The Penan community says Interhill’s operations in Sarawak have a devastating effect on them. Accor responded by sending a fact-finding mission to Sarawak to investigate Interhill’s logging activities.

“If the worst-case scenario occurs and if no action plan is implemented, we will not continue with our partnership,” Helene Roques, Accor’s director for sustainable development in Paris, said in June. In mid-August, she said she expects “good results” by the end of September.

Rio Tinto Venture

No foreign investor has made a larger bet on Taib’s development plans than Rio Tinto Alcan, a unit of London-based mining company Rio Tinto Plc. A joint venture between Rio Tinto and CMS for a $2 billion aluminum smelter has been negotiating power purchase agreements with Sarawak Energy for more than 12 months, according to Julia Wilkins, a Rio Tinto Alcan spokeswoman in Brisbane, Australia.

CMS meets Rio Tinto’s requirements as a joint-venture partner, she says. “CMS is a main-board-listed company with its own board of directors,” she says. “It has a free float of shares in excess of the minimum market requirement. The chairman and the group managing director are both independent.”

Malaysia grants special economic advantages to the country’s Malay majority and the local people of Sabah and Sarawak states on Borneo, collectively referred to as Bumiputra -- literally, sons of the soil.

Still, the country is leaving behind many of its ethnic minorities, says Colin Nicholas, a Malaysian activist of Eurasian descent who has written a book about the mainland’s oldest community, “The Orang Asli and the Contest for Resources” (IWGIA, 2000).

‘Completely Powerless’

One person trying to help the Dayaks is See Chee How, 45, a land rights lawyer who became an activist after meeting Sim, the former opposition member of parliament in Kuching.

In 1994, See witnessed an attack on Penan demonstrators who’d erected a roadblock to prevent logging trucks from driving through their land. A 6-year-old boy died after security forces used tear gas on the demonstrators, he says.

“They were completely powerless,” recalls the soft-spoken, crew-cut See, sporting a white T-shirt and a pair of jeans, in his office above a bustling market in Kuching. “They were depending on logging trucks to move around because their passageways had been destroyed by logging trails.” See now works with Baru Bian, 51, one of the first land rights lawyers representing the Dayaks in Sarawak.

Lawsuits and Votes

Nicholas says Sarawak’s people have to fight for their rights not only through lawsuits but by voting.

“The biggest problem we have with indigenous people’s rights is that we have the federal government and state government run and dictated by people who have no respect or interest for indigenous people,” he says. “We need a change of government.”

The prime minister’s office declined to comment.

Opposition leader Anwar says change is possible. His alliance won control of an unprecedented five states in Peninsular Malaysia in a March 2008 election. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s ruling coalition has lost at least four regional polls held this year.

“I think this is a turning point,” Anwar says.

Still, Taib’s coalition won 30 of Sarawak’s 31 seats in March 2008 parliamentary elections. That helped the ruling National Front coalition led by then Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi retain a 58-seat majority, ahead of Anwar’s People’s Alliance. Sarawak is due to hold the next election by 2011.

Taib defended his government’s program to turn forestlands into oil palm plantations as a way of improving living standards for the Dayaks at a seminar on native land development in Miri on April 18, 2000.

“Land without development is a poverty trap,” he said, according to his Web site. Many Dayak people, who have seen their land transformed as a result of Taib’s policies and companies linked to him, say they are still waiting to see their share of wealth.

To contact the reporter on this story: Yoolim Lee in Singapore at

Last Updated: August 24, 2009 17:00 EDT

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Your Cell Phone Easily A Spy Phone

Your cell phone’s battery suddenly runs out faster than usual even when you have not been talking more? Your cell phone is unusually warmer even in between calls? An unusual annoying pulse buzzing while you’re on a call or between calls? You seem to have trouble shutting it off, or it stays lit up after you’ve powered down? The phone sometimes lights up when you aren’t making or receiving a call, or using any other function?

Your cell phone could be transmitting every word you say, every text message you send or receive (even if you’ve deleted them) and your exact location. Even when your cell phone is turned off, it could still be used to listen to you and what goes on around you.

Most governments get their countries’ telcos to acquire and install systems that allow them to listen to any citizen’s calls or to track their location. It would be naive to think that Malaysian government does not eavesdrop. But I believe the government does not listen to you, unless you’re a gangster boss, or someone considered a threat. Or an opposition politican???

Your cell phone connects you to the world, but it could also be giving anyone from your boss to your wife a window into your every move. The same technology that lets you stay in touch on-the-go can now let others tap into your private world — without you ever even suspecting something is awry.

You can easily, in about 10 minutes, bug someone’s cell phone, enabling you to eavesdrop on every conversation, text message, website visit, and track every where the person goes. When the cell phone is turned off, you can turn on its microphone and remotely listen to what the person is doing.

How To Spy Using Cell Phone
Do you want to secretly spy on SMS text messages, calls, GPS locations and other confidential info of your child’s, spouse’s, girlfriend’s, competitor’s, boss’ or staff’s cell phone?

Before you can spy on a cell phone you need to know the following facts.
To spy on a given cell phone you should make sure that the target cell phone is compatible with the cell phone spy software. Cell phone spy softwares are compatible with the following type of phones (operating systems).
• Symbian OS (Most Nokia Phones)
• Apple iphone
• Windows Mobile

Today most of the modern cell phones are loaded with one of the above three operating systems and hence compatibility doesn’t pose a major problem. There exists many cell phone spy softwares on the market to accomplish this job and hence people often get confused about which cell phone spy software to go for. Top rated cell phone spy software include Mobile Spy and FlexiSpy.

These are hybrid spy software/service which allows you to spy on your target cell phone in real time. This unique system records the activities of anyone who uses the cell phone. For this you need to install a small application onto the cell phone. This application starts at every boot of the phone but remains stealth and does not show up in the running process list. It runs in the background and will spy on every activity that takes place on the phone, including logging:
• Calls Log – Each incoming and outgoing number on the phone is logged along with duration and time stamp.
• Every text message/MMS is logged even if the phone’s logs are deleted. Includes full text.
• The phones’s current location is frequently logged using GPS when signal is available.
• Each address entered into Internet Explorer (or any browser) is logged.
• These cell phone spy software works in total stealth mode. The person using the phone can never come to know about the presence of this software.

Simple surveillance

You don’t have to plant a James Bond-style bug to conduct surveillance any more. A service called World Tracker (available on in UK) lets you use data from cell phone towers and GPS systems to pinpoint anyone’s exact whereabouts, any time — as long as they’ve got their phone on them.

All you have to do is log on to the web site and enter the target phone number. The site sends a single text message to the phone that requires one response for confirmation. Once the response is sent, you are locked in to their location and can track them step-by-step. The response is only required the first time the phone is contacted, so you can imagine how easily it could be handled without the phone’s owner even knowing.

Cell phone apps like Loopt and the new Google Latitude also allow you to track your friends' physical locations, and be tracked in return.

Advanced Eavesdropping
Once connected, the service shows you the exact location of the phone by the minute, conveniently pinpointed on a Google Map. The company has indicated plans to expand its service to other countries soon.

So you’ve figured out where someone is, but now you want to know what they’re actually doing. With software like FlexiSpy and Mobile Spy, you can listen in, even if they aren’t talking on their phone. Dozens of other programs are available that’ll turn any cell phone into a high-tech, long-range listening device. They run virtually undetectable to the average eye.

FlexiSpy, for example, promises to let you “catch cheating wives or cheating husbands” and even “bug meeting rooms.” Its tools use a phone’s microphone to let you hear essentially any conversations within earshot. Once the program is installed, all you have to do is dial a number to tap into the phone’s mic and hear everything going on. The phone won’t even ring, and its owner will have no idea you are virtually there at his side.

It’s Totally Illegal
You might be asking how this could possibly be legal. Turns out, it isn’t – at least, not in the ways I’ve just described. Much like those fancy smoking devices designed “for tobacco use only,” the software itself gets by because of a disclaimer saying it doesn’t endorse any illegal use.

Can the government use your cell phone records to track your physical location without first obtaining a warrant based on probable cause? My opinion on the matter is “no”. Any government applications for cell site location tracking information made without showing sufficient need for this kind of sensitive information should not be granted by authorities or the courts of law.

So, for our government to eavesdrop on us – it’s illegal.

Surveillance intensive future is inevitable.
A surveillance intensive future is inevitable. And cell phone tracking will be a common law enforcement investigative technique.

On the commercial side, the uses of location tracking are endless. And many of them may well turn out to be things people like. But a key principle of privacy, accepted around the world as part of the core fair information principles, is that information collected for one purpose shouldn’t be used for other purposes without people’s affirmative permission. If someone wants to sign up for a friend-finding service and understands fully what this means for their privacy (and hopefully has the ability to turn it on and off), that’s one thing. But people who are just using their mobile phones for texting and calling friends and family do not expect that companies will exploit the side effects of how cell phones work for other, unrelated purposes that invade their privacy.

Protecting Your Cell Phone
Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to safeguard your cell phone just yet. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time until we see Kaspersky or McAfee-style programs to firewall your phone and keep intruders out. For now, though, the only sure-fire form of protection is to keep a close guard on your phone. Don’t accept Bluetooth connections unless you know what they are. Most important, make sure no one has access to install something when you aren’t watching. Otherwise, they may soon be watching you when you least expect it.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Gross National Happiness - New Measure of Development

The new Sarawak state government, as a mainstream policy-making body, can be more sensitive to alternative approaches and start to measure Gross National Happiness and translate the indicators and data into public policy. If Sarawak’s new policymakers measure what really matters to people—health care, safety, a clean environment, and other indicators of well-being; economic policy would naturally shift towards sustainability and real progress for all Sarawakians. Here's why:

1. Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert says our beliefs about what will make us happy are often wrong -- a premise he supports with intriguing research, and explains in his accessible and unexpectedly funny book, Stumbling on Happiness. Dan Gilbert believes that, in our ardent, lifelong pursuit of happiness, most of us have the wrong map. In the same way that optical illusions fool our eyes -- and fool everyone’s eyes in the same way -- Gilbert argues that our brains systematically misjudge what will make us happy. And these quirks in our cognition make humans very poor predictors of our own bliss.

2. Jack Welch, who is regarded as the father of the “shareholder value” movement that has dominated the corporate world for more than 20 years, has said it was “a dumb idea” for executives to focus so heavily on quarterly profits and share price gains. Jack Welch, whose record at GE encouraged other executives to replicate its consistent returns, said that managers and investors should not set share price increases as their overarching goal. His comments, made in an interview for the FT’s series on the future of capitalism, come as the economic crisis has caused a radical rethinking by many leading executives and policymakers.

3. “Gross National Product counts air pollution, and cigarette advertising and . . . the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play . . . the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life wothwhile.” Robert Kennedy, 1968.

The above three topics may seem totally unrelated. However, upon putting my radical rethinking hat while considering Prime Minister Najib’s key result areas and gov’t KPIs in relation to measures of progress of Sarawak people, these three subjects are indeed, totally related. Governments, businesses and citizens must focus on what really make us happy.

Sarawakians must now set out a radical proposal to the new state government to guide the direction of modern Sarawak and the lives of people who live in them. In contrast to the conventional narrow focus on economic indicators, we must call on the new state government to directly and regularly measure people’s subjective well-being: their experiences, feelings and perceptions of how their lives are going, as a new way of assessing societal progress.

Some 40 years ago, in my kampong, my parents and siblings lived better, healthier and happier lives, despite no electricity, no roads and none of today’s modern necessities. We cooked over wood fire, got our water from the cool mountain stream and plenty of harvests from the farms.

Today, the rivers and streams have fewer fishes, we use too much pesticides in the farms, we live too much on credit with our education, house and car loans and we have to work harder to pay many bills and to cope with higher and higher costs of living. In all, I’m more miserable than I was 40 years ago.

The roads and electricity supply in the modern kampong today are not making our planet any better. In fact, these modern amenities only serve to increase our carbon footprint. We’ll be leaving to the future generations, a planet that’s degenerated and too costly to clean up.

The world is facing a breakdown of communities, environmental degradation, global warming, continuing poverty, and climbing rates of hunger. It is the perfect opportunity to reconsider development, progress, and purpose in terms of what is truly most important in life. Development is under scrutiny as a cycle of more production for more consumption to boost gross national product. There is an urgency to reconsider development in a broader, holistic manner and reclaim the concept of progress as genuine desirable change.

Economists, policymakers, reporters, and the public rely on the GDP as a shorthand indicator of progress; but the GDP is merely a sum of national spending with no distinctions between transactions that add to well-being and those that diminish it.
Mike Pennock from Genuine Progress Indicators (GPI) Atlantic argued that measures such as Gross National Happiness provide a guideline for developing a framework of national accounting where suitable monetary value can be placed on assets such as the environment and voluntary work. Thus costs and benefits can be calculated and accounted for in a balance sheet, and policymakers in turn cannot overlook vital aspects of human, social, and natural capital.

Some pioneering visions of alternative progress have emerged in Asia, chief among them the concept of Gross National Happiness as coined by Former King of Bhutan Jigme Wangchuck. Gross National Happiness has four pillars: the promotion of equitable and sustainable socioeconomic development; preservation and promotion of cultural values; conservation of the natural environment; and establishment of good governance. Gross National Happiness values are measured by tracking wellness in seven domains: economic, environmental, physical, mental, workplace, social, and political.

Currently there are two parallel global movements. The first can be characterized by the World Economic Forum, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund, supporting traditional notions of development. The second is the World Social Forum, Gross National Happiness, and allied movements that seek to redefine progress.

Measuring well-being would shift the goalposts for what nations regard as success. The aim is to bring about change in how societies shape the lives of their citizens. If they are to be effective, measures of well-being therefore need to influence the design of policy made by international, national and local governments.