Malaysian government attempts to stop Yokohama book launch

Book on Sarawak Governor Taib Mahmud leads to crisis in International Tropical Timber Organisation

(YOKOHAMA, JAPAN). Malaysia’s delegation to the International Tropical Timber Organisation, ITTO, has orders „from the highest levels of government in Kuala Lumpur“ to stop the presentation of a book by Lukas Straumann, the executive director of the Bruno Manser Fund. This was confirmed tonight to the Bruno Manser Fund, a Swiss NGO, by Rob Busink, the current chairman of the International Tropical Timber Council. The International Tropical Timber Council, ITTO’s governing body, will convene in Yokohama tomorrow in its 50th session.

Lukas Straumann’s book ”Money Logging: On the Trail of the Asian Timber Mafia“ will be internationally released tomorrow by Bergli Books, a Swiss publisher. According to Mr. Busink, the Malaysian government reacted very strongly to the Bruno Manser Fund’s plan to display the book at the conference venue and is strictly opposed to have the Bruno Manser Fund admitted as an observer to the international conference. Last week, the ITTO had already turned down the Bruno Manser Fund’s application to allow a side event for the presentation of the book during the conference.

The unrelenting position taken by the Malaysian government will likely cause a stand-off between Malaysia, the world’s leading exporter of tropical timber, and consumer countries. The situation is even more sensitive as ITTO is about to elect its new executive director next week. One of the candidates is the Malaysian timber industry’s chief lobbyist in Europe.

„The Malaysian government’s intervention is an unprecedented and unacceptable attempt of censorship which civil society cannot accept“, BMF director Lukas Straumann said. „We demand from the ITTC that the Bruno Manser Fund will be granted the observer status and that my book can be freely displayed.“

Money Logging is a meticulously researched report on corruption and the destruction of the tropical rainforests of Sarawak. It shows how the Taib family became billionaires during the 33-year tenure of their family head as Chief Minister.

Last week, Taib Mahmud's London lawyer, Mishcon de Reya, had failed in a last-minute attempt to stop the public release of Money Logging.

(2 November 2014)

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