Toronto court pursues hearing on Taib’s finances as activists look on

The saga of indigenous people in Sarawak, Malaysia goes on in the new year – pursuing the case of Sarawak Governor Abdul Taib Mahmud to as far as Canada. Here’s an update on the long-standing case:

Taib Mahmud (second from right) greets supporters with his second wife, Ragad Taib (R) in Sarawak, Malaysia. Source: Twitter

(MONTREAL, CANADA) A civil society delegation from the Malaysian state of Sarawak is touring the Canadian East Coast this week in order to create public awareness for the struggle of Sarawak’s indigenous peoples.

The delegation led by former Baram MP and Goldman Environmental Prize winner Harrison Ngau will visit Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto where they will speak on the occasion of screenings of the documentary The Borneo Case (www.theborneocase.com). The delegates will also attend meetings with politicians and civil society representatives and hold a press conference at the Canadian Parliament on Friday 2 February.

 Early next week, the Sarawak activists will attend a precedent-setting hearing on the disclosure of financial records regarding Sakto, a $200 million Ontario real estate group controlled by the family of Sarawak Governor Abdul Taib Mahmud. The case is scheduled to be heard by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on 5 and 6 February.

Last year, an investigation by the Bruno Manser Fund had found that an approximated 70 million dollars of unexplained wealth had been channelled by the Taib family into Sakto since the early 1980s.

Subsequently, the Bruno Manser Fund filed legal action for a Norwich Pharmacal disclosure order which would force the Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto Dominion Bank, Manulife Financial and Deloitte to release their financial records on Sakto.

 Sakto is one of Ottawa’s leading real estate developers and is being directed by Jamilah Taib Murray (Abdul Taib Mahmud’s daughter) and her husband Sean Murray.

The Sarawak activists’ Canada tour has been organized by the Bruno Manser Fund and will be hosted by Canadian NGOs Inter Pares, Above Ground, Mining Watch Canada, Canadians for Tax Fairness as well as by Concordia University, Montreal, and the University of Toronto.

The name of Taib Mahmud has been defaced from Adelaide University’s court. (Photo supplied)

The Borneo Case screenings in Canada

 Montreal

Wednesday 31 January, 6:30 pm, Atrium Samuel Bronfman, Concordia University, 1590 Dr. Penfield Rd Hosted by Karl Polanyi Institute of Political Economy, First Voices, Dialog, Loyola Sustainability Research Centre (Concordia University) and Bruno Manser Fonds.

Montreal coordinator: Mutang Urud (514) 264-3164mutang808@gmail.com

Ottawa

Thursday 1st February, 6:30pm, Mayfair Theatre, 1074 Bank St  http://mayfairtheatre.ca/

Hosted by Inter Pares, Above Ground, MiningWatch Canada, Canadians for Tax Fairness.

Ottawa coordinator: Jean Symes, Inter Pares (613) 563-4801 ext. 136sgasana@interpares.ca

Toronto

Saturday 3rd February, 7 pm, Innis Town Hall, University of Toronto, 2 Sussex Ave http://townhall.innis.utoronto.ca/

Hosted by Forestry Graduate Students’ Association, Bruno Manser Fonds

Toronto coordinator: Ben Filewod (613) 581-5055filewod@gmail.com

 Prior press coverage

 

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TPP irreconcilable with UN sustainable development goals, say critics

Trade Ministers agreed on TPP. (Photo: Supplied)

Trade Ministers agreed on TPP Monday. (Photo: Supplied)

Last week, leaders from around the world announced their commitment to implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals which outlined the solutions to address global climate change, environmental degradation, poor health, and poverty. In juxtaposition to this historic announcement, trade ministers from 12 countries reached an agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Monday which sets the economic rules for 40 percent of the world economy in Atlanta, Georgia.

The historic pact was signed by Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam.

Australian Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb said in a statement that the TPP will drive Australia’s integration in a region that underpins Australia’s prosperity.  The deal cemented Australia’s successes in concluding trade agreements with China, Japan and Korea, and other partners in the region.

The TPP will eliminate over 98 percent of tariffs among signatories and removes import taxes at around AUS$9 billion of Australian trade. Robb said one third of Australia’s total goods and services exports – worth $109 billion – were sent to TPP countries last year.

However, fierce opposition against the deal is expected. Australia’s Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, for one, opposes the provisions of the pact, including TPP’s investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) systems which allows a foreign tribunal to intervene with domestic policies.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) International blasted the agreement, saying several of the UN sustainability goals are irreconcilable with the TPP. There are 17 goals and 169 specific targets.

Sam Cossar-Gilbert, FoE international economic justice coordinator, said: “This is a sad day for our planet, as the TPP favours safeguards for corporate investments over safeguards for nature.  The TPP chapters on technical barriers to trade will threaten regulators’ capacities to effectively regulate the roughly 85,000 chemicals in commerce needed to protect human health and our environment.”

Renowned scholars and economists Joseph E. Stiglitz and Adam S. Hersh warned the TPP is a charade. It is not about “free trade” but rather “an agreement to manage its members’ trade and investment relations – and to do so on behalf of each country’s most powerful business lobbies.”

Make no mistake: It is evident from the main outstanding issues, over which negotiators are still haggling, that the TPP is not about “free” trade.

The TPP is claimed to be shrouded in secrecy. They said it is protected under the ISDS systems which allow foreign investors gain new rights to sue national governments in binding private arbitration for regulations they see as diminishing the expected profitability of their investments.

Stiglitz and Hersh said that such provisions make it hard for governments to conduct their basic functions including protecting their citizens’ health and safety, ensuring economic stability, and safeguarding the environment.

In Australia, Philip Morris International is already prosecuting the government in a $50 million legal suit before a tribunal in Singapore for its plain cigarette packaging.

TPP protest in New Zealand (Photo: Wikipedia)

TPP protest in New Zealand (Photo: Wikipedia)

FoE said, “Even very simple consumer sustainability measures like efficiency rating and food labelling on imported goods could be impossible under TPP, because labelling regulation can be deemed a barrier to trade. ”

The TPP faces a number of challenges prior to its ratification as protests and rallies are expected to be held worldwide. In the U.S., it faces a hostile Congress while it is an election issue in Canada. There is also a court action in Japan and a widespread opposition in Australia .

FoE warned the TPP will threaten people and the planet, if ratified.

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