TI-M urges graft probe on Taib

By Boo Su-Lyn, The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, March 18 — Transparency-International Malaysia (TI-M) today called for the country’s graft-busters to investigate claims of corruption against Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, saying Malaysia’s global standing was now at stake

The anti-graft watchdog urged the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) today to take immediate action as complaints of corruption against Taib have surfaced in the foreign media.

“Transparency-International is concerned for (the) credibility of the country and also our image if no investigations are carried out,” TI-M president Datuk Paul Low told reporters today.

“The allegations we’re concerned about is (the) massive amount of wealth that’s been gained by people close to him (Taib), (his) family, relatives, friends.

“So I think it’s only proper that investigations should be carried out to clear the air on how wealth was amassed,” he added.

Writing recently in British daily The Independent, former British prime minister Gordon Brown had expressed support for his sister-in-law Clare Rewcastle-Brown’s media campaign against what she deems exploitation of Sarawak’s people and forests by Taib.

The former British PM had described the deforestation of Sarawak as “probably the biggest environmental crime of our times”.

Environmental watchdog Wetlands International also reported last month that Sarawak’s rapid expansion of oil palm plantations may result in its unique peat forests being wiped out by the end of the decade.

Today, Low pointed out today that Rewcastle-Brown, who previously operated the Sarawak Report blog anonymously, had stepped into the open to make her allegations against Taib.

“(It’s) very hard to make a stand when people don’t disclose who they are. (But) the people behind… Sarawak Report have come out and said they are the ones,” said Low.

Brown’s sister-in-law, who is also behind Radio Free Sarawak, has been highly critical of Taib’s 30-year-old administration, accusing it of widespread corruption and illegal political practices.

She began operations of the two media outlets behind a veil last year, before choosing to reveal herself ahead of Sarawak elections are expected to be called next month.

Low said today that anti-graft investigations were crucial to restore investor confidence and improve Malaysia’s worsening rank in TI-M’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI).

“It’ll improve our credibility and give (the) message to foreign investors and (the) public that we’re serious in combating corruption,” said Low.

“The corruption index is a reflection of perception of investors and the public,” he added.

Malaysia’s corruption index score dropped from 4.5 to 4.4 out of 10 last year, with 10 being the least corrupt.

The country’s 2010 ranking remained the same as 2009, at 56 out of 178 countries, putting it on par with Namibia and Turkey.

Malaysia’s previous worst scores below 5 were 4.8 in 2000, 4.9 in 2002 and 4.5 in 2009.