Thursday, June 30, 2011

Chief Minister Taib Boldly Denies Accusations, Promises Transparency That Rewcastle Brown and Bruno Manser Fund Cannot Show

The last refuge of an electoral loser is the courts. So it is that after handily leading Sarawak’s Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition to yet another two-thirds-majority victory in the April elections here, the host of well-funded groups determined to help Sarawak’s incompetent opposition into power at the expense of the state’s development were forced to turn to foreign powers with the same fabrications on which Sarawak Report, Clare Rewcastle Brown, and their cohort had placed their electoral hopes. After enough sympathetic noise from the sorts of non-governmental organizations that believe it is better for men to die before they reach their fortieth year than that a single poisonous insect die by man’s hand, the Malaysian government and a Swiss regulatory body opened investigations into the allegations, investigations which will certainly come to no more than yet another failed attempt to overthrow Sarawak’s recent elections by other means.

Nevertheless, all of this sturm und drang has begun to interfere with the governance of Sarawak, including the Chief Minister’s succession plans — together with continued economic progress, a centerpiece of Chief Minister Taib’s electoral platform. If he had nothing to hide, his critics charged, why has the Chief Minister remained largely silent on these allegations since the election? (Obviously, his opponents ignored his answer to these challenges months ago.) Surely, if he had something to hide, Chief Minister Taib would remain silent? Or quickly name a successor, step down, and sit on the piles of ill-gotten wealth his critics allege he’s hiding?

Of course, he did nothing of the sort. Instead, he has stepped up to the plate and once again promised full disclosure. Why shouldn’t he? The accusations are beneath him, but this is clearly a man with nothing to hide.

On the general allegations against him:

Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud said he would give his full cooperation to the Swiss Federation to clear his name and that of the Sarawak government over allegations of timber corruption by the Bruno Manser Foundation (BMF).

He said his attention had been drawn to the recent allegations by BMF which claimed that the Swiss Anti-Corruption Agency might possibly investigate him and freeze assets belonging to him in Switzerland.

“Let me state categorically that I have no secret Swiss bank account nor asset or investment of any description in Swizerland. None whatsoever,” he said in his personal explanation at the State Legislative Assembly sitting in Petra Jaya, here, Wednesday.

On the source of the allegations:

He said the allegations had since been used by local politicians to advance their own political agenda against him and the state government, which had once again obtained a strong mandate from the people through the state election in April.

“The BMF has a track record of scurillous and scandalous allegations against the Sarawak government for many years, including the allegation of felling 90 per cent of our rainforest although local and international forest experts have certified that 70 per cent of the forest is still being preserved and sustainably managed.

“Therefore, BMF’s false allegations about assets held in Switzerland by me is a continuation of its malicious effort to smear the state government and leaders,” he added.

It was here that the Chief Minister once again threw down his glove, demanding some proof of wrongdoing — a classic “put up or shut up” moment.

“Indeed I have stated in clear and unequivocal terms in a letter addressed by me last month to Swiss Federation president Micheline Calmy-Rey to confirm if she had allegedly ordered any investigation into the allegations by BMF,” he said, adding that BMF was a foreign non-governmental organisation that was not at all accountable to the people of Sarawak.

Taib had also asked the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (Finma) to furnish him with a copy of the allegations to enable him to exercise his rights to seek and obtain appropriate legal redress.

In pledging his full cooperation to the Swiss Federation “to swiftly bring the truth to light so as to nail down all malicious falsehood”, he reiterated that the allegations by BMF were false and evidently, politically motivated.

It simply does not get plainer than this. His opponents claim that he owns everything from one of the FBI’s buildings to undue influence over super-financial institution Deutsche Bank, thereby making him perhaps the most powerful man on Earth. If these things are true, rather than mere libels, then the burden lies on his accusers now: Provide proof. The Chief Minister has offered complete transparency; will his opponents do the same?

The answer is self-evident: They are trying to overturn a fair and free election, not take part in transparent legal processes. When all of the investigations are through; when the Chief Minister’s pledge of openness and respect for the rule of law is once again met by the sound of silence; when governance in Sarawak once again turns to BN’s record of phenomenal development and growth — the opposition, whether the formal political parties or their online mouthpieces, will simply try another route to getting a governing result they like without the messiness of an election.

And once again, they will fail.

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