University of Adelaide should dissociate from Sarawak’s Taib Mahmud

By The Bob Brown Foundation, 24 January 2015

The University of Adelaide's Vice-Chancellor, Warren Bebbington, has recognised that there are problems with its association with Sarawak’s ruling elite.

In a letter received by the campaign group Bruno Manser Fund, Professor Bebbington acknowledged that the university is reviewing the 2008 naming of its forecourt as Taib Mahmud Court, in honour of its former student who is now a billionaire Governor and ex-Chief Minister of Sarawak, a state of Malaysia on the rainforested island of Borneo.

The Bruno Manser Fund had forwarded a copy of the book 'Money Logging' by Lukas Straumann to Vice-Chancellor Bebbington. In his response, Professor Bebbington revealed that the university had refused a request made by Taib to attend its 140th Anniversary Gala Dinner last year.

Bob Brown Foundation’s Campaign Manager and Sarawak campaigner, Jenny Weber, called for swift action from Adelaide University’s Estates Committee to abandon association with Taib Mahmud.

"Lukas Staumanns book 'Money Logging' has provided compelling evidence condemning Mahmud’s ruling elite and their corrupt behaviour. It is further proof that Mahmud is not an individual that an Australian university should associate with. The University of Adelaide should drop Taib's title from the forecourt named in his honor."

"Since Adelaide University's Vice Chancellor read Straumann’s book with alarm, so too should the Australian politicians in Federal and the Tasmanian Parliament, who are continuing to provide financial support to Ta Ann, one of the six worst logging companies named in Straumann's book" Jenny Weber said.

Jenny Weber said that Bob Brown, former leader of the Australian Greens, has written to the University of Adelaide backing the call for it to rename the forecourt and dissociate from Taib who, he says, has caused enormous misery for the indigenous people of Sarawak who try to defend their ancestral forests and valleys from Taib's ongoing land-grabs for logging, palm oil production and dam-building.

Clare Rewcastle, investigative journalist and founder of Sarawak Report, stated, "Sarawak Report are hugely encouraged that Adelaide University is now recognising the problems with this major donor and are prepared to take appropriate action. We have worked hard to bring a serious wrong-doing to public attention and sometimes it takes time to get a response, but we believe that wheels are beginning to turn and other institutions in Australia ought to follow this example.

"A priority must be the Tasmanian government, which has been prepared to do business with Taib-connected companies for far too long, both in the Tasmanian logging industry and in the Sarawak energy industry. It is time to stop turning a blind eye to the corrupt and highly damaging environmental and human rights situation in Sarawak, before Tasmania is tarnished by association"

Lizzie Taylor, campaigner for the students group Say No To Taib Court at Adelaide University said, “I am so pleased that the University is standing up and doing what is right. No learning institution should be funded in any way by the suffering of others and the destruction of the environment.”

Money Logging: On the Trail of the Asian Timber Mafia, is authored by historian and campaigner Lukas Straumann. Straumann is the executive director at the Bruno Manser Fund, a Switzerland-based advocacy group that champions the rights of Malaysia’s indigenous peoples.

“One of the book’s aims is to expose the environmental crimes committed by Abdul Taib Mahmud, the long-term chief minister and current governor of Sarawak, a Malaysian state of Borneo. The book is a wake-up call to the international community to treat the Taib family as what they are: politically-connected criminals who have stolen vast assets from the people of Sarawak in a carefully-planned effort,” Straumann said.

The book shows how Taib Mahmud managed to dominate politics in Sarawak for over three decades and how he abused his public office to exploit Sarawak’s natural resources and turn his family into billionaires.

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