Yes, Taib Mahmud is genuinely outraged that the Penan want to secure their future with a proper compensation for the destruction of their homes and livelihoods.
He has ripped out their forests and flooded their villages and put them in a barren, abandoned plantation, miles and miles and miles from anywhere …. and he is outraged they are complaining.
This he made clear last week in a public speech in the DUN Assembly, stating the State Government will not pay the Penan a sen more than the compensation already now given for their loss of their homes and territories.
After all, who do they think they are?
The factor that has outraged him most, according to his speech, is the Penan request for RM500,000 per family in full and final settlement for their forced relocation.
This sum illustrates their notion of their worth in comparison to his own worth and he clearly thinks the cheeky people are well above themselves.
After all, RM500,000 is almost a third of what Taib himself earns a year in his official salary (a fraction of his unofficial earnings, of course).
Clearly, a Penan family who have lost their lands and livelihood should not expect so much over their lifetime and beyond!
Instead, belatedly (after their houses have been bulldozed and the waters lap over them) Taib has finally arrived at his own sum of what he thinks the Penan should get.
And he says that now he has decided it they will not get a sen more.
This is how a chap like him ‘negotiates’.
The amount is RM15,000 per family, in full and final settlement for all time.
So, what proportion of Taib’s own salary does this far lower sum represent?
Well it is a little less than a quarter of what he gets a month. And it is around 0.01% of what this Chief Minister officially earns in a year!
Now that is clearly more like where a Penan family stands in relation to his own importance and worth in the Chief Minister’s mind!
How dare they think they should be entitled in a lifetime to a third of what he, Abdul Taib Mahmud, publicly earns in a year?
But, if we were talking about Taib’s unofficial wealth, of course, we would be forced to add several zeros to that sad inequality between Taib’s own worth and what he thinks the Penan are worth.
RM50billion is widely considered to be a very modest assessment of Taib’s actual worldly wealth.
In which case his offer of RM15,000 to the Penan amounts to a mere 0.0000003% of his own assets, all made out of illegally exploiting the native resources of Sarawak!
Yet he clearly thinks this RM15,000 is already granting the natives far too much, considering their comparative value with himself.
After all, he and his ministers have publicly complained that the cost of moving the Penan has been RM1.2million per family.
Included in such assessments, of course, is the money that the state owned Sarawak Energy has paid to the Chief Minister’s own family construction company Naim Cendara to build the resettlement areas.
Let’s ponder this for a moment more.
Sarawak Energy, which commissioned the resettlement areas, is chaired by Taib’s own cousin and business nominee, Hamed Sepawi.
And Naim Cendara, which won the expensive contract to build the resettlement areas, is also chaired and largely owned by Hamed Sepawi!
So, while Taib and his ministers are complaining at the cost to the state of moving the Penan (as opposed perhaps to just poisoning or shooting them), we need to remember that the money for this expenditure has ended up in the same place as always, with the Taib family themselves.
So of course, Taib is OUTRAGED at the rejection of his ‘generosity’ in re-housing the Penan and offering them 15,000 ringgit. This is one small sum of money that he can’t think of a way of channeling back to himself.
If we employ a technique sometimes used by economists to illustrate disparity in wealth, that of height, we can gain an insight into the mind of Taib Mahmud.
We can turn the difference we have measured in wealth between Taib and what he has offered as a lifetime compensation to the Penan into comparative height.
So if a Penan was a normal 1.6 meters high, then we can calculate that the comparative height of Taib in terms of his wealth would be 5.3million meters high – that is 1,325 times taller than Mount Kinabalu!
In effect, compared to the worth of an ordinary Penan, Taib clearly thinks his head should be sticking well into Space!
In fact, not just well into Space, but right into Outer Space. Our atmosphere ends 100 kilometres up, yet Taib would be standing taller by far, at 5,300 kilometres high in terms of his wealth, compared to what he plans to pay the Penan.
It is from just this sort of a height that Taib in his mind clearly considers he should be, when looking down upon the people of Sarawak! (*note)
But, the Chief Minister should be careful. There is not enough oxygen up there above the clouds. You get light headed and confused. You can’t see what is really going on beneath you.
Giving the game away
It was maybe due to this light-headedness that Taib in the same speech started to give the game away about his further illegal plans.
After all, the Murum Dam construction has broken every rule on every step of the way, ever since it was exposed that Taib had been secretly blasting out the mountainside in Murum back in 2008.
Social and Environmental surveys and compensation agreements should all be completed BEFORE any construction begins. As we have all seen he has done none of these at Murum until AFTER the event.
The Chief Minister has changed his justifications for the building of the dams numerous times as well since he started pushing this self-enriching programme through.
At the time Murum was started it was all about power lines to Peninsular Malaysia. Now that master vision has proved impossible he has set about turning Sarawak into the pollution industry capital of the world, under his so-called SCORE project.
According to protocols, such key matters ought of course to have been reviewed thoroughly on behalf of the people of Sarawak by independent and objective experts in advance, not by a greedy old kleptocrat who knows no science.
However, this time, we have been assured it was going to be different. The PR conscious new Chief Executive of Sarawak Energy, has made a great play about doing things ‘properly’ on future projects. Torstein Sjotveit and his team pledged only last month to the UN in Geneva that no plans would be formalised to actually go ahead with the next two Baram and Baleh dams until all correct protocols had been fulfilled.
Except, that Taib in his speech made it perfectly plain that both dams are going ahead! Thousands of people and 33 villages should prepare to be driven out by Baram alone he made clear. He let the cat right out of the bag in the full glare of publicity!
So much for Torstein’s PR efforts.
Influence of Norwegian Torstein Sjotveit
Taib also indulged in some of the rhetoric favoured by the million dollar a year SEB Chief Executive in this DUN speech.
He took up the accusation that NGOs, who have supported the protests of local people, are actually the reason why natives are not welcoming his destruction of their homes.
He alleged that the whole anti-dam campaign is a cunning ploy by foreign NGOs to raise money from supporters, which they then keep for themselves.
What an interesting insight into the thought processes of the Chief Minister and his Norwegian side-kick, who has also repeated this allegation numerous times.
Yet, the Chief Minister did give away an inkling of the real reason why Sarawakians might be so reluctant to accept his dam proposals. He admitted that things have not gone so well in the past for other resettled communities, who were likewise promised huge benefits and then did not get them.
His excuse? That in the past “we could not afford them”!
This from the man who stands with his head in outer space as one of the richest individuals on the planet, thanks to the spoils of office in Sarawak.
It is nice that the Chief Minister admits that his government CAN afford proper compensation now. So why, one must ask, is he not offering it to the Penan?
How can the treatment of the people of Murum give any confidence to the people of Baram, Baleh and beyond?
Little wonder the people of Baram and Murum and elsewhere have decided to judge their Chief Minister by his actions and not by his promises. And for this he can only blame himself.
Best in the world?
The Chief Minister capped his speech with a characteristic flourish. A sweeping statement for which he could bring no substantiating evidence.
He claimed that Sarawak’s resettlement programme was “probably among the best in the world”.
Perhaps Torstein Sjotveit should try selling his compensation package of RM15,000 and RM250 per month (4 years only) plus rice and a tacky replacement home to his Norwegian neighbours back in Oslo and see what they think of it?
Of course, Taib always claims anything he likes, because he reckons he can get away with it. He claims Sarawak is 80% forested and that much of the state is still primary jungle. He claims his family make money because they are intelligent, not because he hands them whatever they want in Sarawak.
In his speech he also claimed that his government had raised the living standards of the natives of Sarawak over the past 50 years. The very natives to whom he is now offering to give 15,000 ringgit in compensation.
Yet the very report commissioned by his own government into the situation facing the Murum Dam natives painted an exact opposite picture. That report admitted that thanks to the timber raids sponsored by Taib Mahmud the people of Murum were ill-nourised and left without a livelihood – far worse off in 2013 than they had been 50 years earlier in fact.
The report also pointed out that Taib’s government had provided NOTHING in return in terms of so-called development. Zero investment and zero financial support. Zero education and zero health.
Taib has done Zero for the natives he has robbed in Sarawak, so why does he think they are demanding something now and why does he think they don’t believe a word of his promises?
* ……. We need to calculate further to be more accurate on the wealth disparity, because the RM15,000 is what the Chief Minister wants to pay to a whole Penan family not just one person. So, if we were to take the wealth of the Chief Minister’s own immediate family into account as well, then the disparity becomes ever more shocking, since each of Taib’s children and his siblings and cousin Hamed Sepawi are worth hundreds of millions also!