Briefing Document / April 19, 2013

Open Letter to Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud accepting offer of debate on land and forest use

Dear Chief Minister Taib,

In an interview with the Let’s Talk programme on The Malaysian Observer, you challenged Global Witness to a debate on the allegations of corruption, land grabbing and tax evasion shown in the film Inside Malaysia’s Shadow State. We are writing to accept your invitation.  We would also like to take this opportunity to respond to various comments you have made about the accuracy of our research.

Appended to this letter is a short briefing outlining statements by you and Second Minister of Resource Planning & Environment Awang Tengah that seek to portray Sarawak’s timber and plantation industries as sustainable, and Global Witness’ responses to these claims.

As you will see, our sources include analysis of the latest satellite imagery, publicly available information from the Sarawak Forest Department, environmental impact assessments completed for Sarawak forestry companies and the International Tropical Timber Organisation, which you yourself regularly cite.

Global Witness insists on the following conditions to enable an open and transparent debate:

1) A guarantee from the Sarawak and Malaysian government that Global Witness staff can safely and freely enter and exit the country and state of Sarawak, that the debate is broadcast live on the internet and is moderated by an independent professional, and that it take place in front of an impartial public audience, including any members of Malaysian civil society who wish to attend;

2) That you provide full disclosure of any directorial or shareholder interests that you or members of your family hold - including through nominees - in companies holding timber and plantation licences, and land titles in Sarawak. This should include specifying the circumstances by which the Ministry of Resource Planning & Environment arrived at the decision to direct Sarawak Forest Department and/or Sarawak Land & Surveys to issue the said licences and land titles;

3) That you provide full disclosure of assets in offshore jurisdictions of which you and/or your family are beneficial owners;

4) That you provide full disclosure of any legal cases or financial dealings that have involved the lawyer Alvin Chong acting on behalf of you or the Sarawak Government’s interests.

We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Yours Sincerely,

Global Witness