To date, the Malaysian government has done nothing to assist in the investigation.
Alongside its investigation into the practice of illegal logging, the Bruno Manser Fund has also drawn attention to Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud from the neighboring state of Sarawak. Another staunch supporter of Prime Minister Najib, Taib’s family has an estimated net worth of U.S. $21 billion.
Companies linked to Taib’s clan have been tied to the construction of the massive Bakun Dam – a project that has been called a “monument to corruption” by Transparency International. Under Taib’s watch, there are plans to build up to 12 dams by 2020. If completed, they would displace thousands of native residents.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
Switzerland has said that it will push for a freeze on the Taib family’s Swiss-held assets, and have declared his family a criminal organization.
“Monkeys or Gold”
Rainforests are often referred to as the lungs of the Earth, given their role in filtering greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. As scientific research has shown, with less forest cover more carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere, heating Earth’s atmosphere in turn.
Alongside its wealth of green, East Malaysia’s rainforests are also home to a staggering range of rare birds and animals, including orangutans, clouded leopards, pygmy elephants, sun bears and the nearly extinct Javan rhinoceros.
Yet despite this wealth of biodiversity, politicians, businessmen and local tribes – particularly in Borneo – eagerly cut swathes of Malaysia's primary forests in the 1970s and 1980s. At the time, they justified the mass clearing as part of the nation’s quest to become a developed country by 2020.
Despite this, Borneo's rainforest remains one of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth. On Peninsular Malaysia, however, there is little left of the forests and wildlife that once dominated the land.
A former federal minister for mines and primary industries once angered environmentalists when he asked: “What do you want: monkeys or gold?” The loaded question appeared to sum up the prevailing attitude of Malaysia’s political establishment.
Today, the decrease in primary forest cover has become increasingly evident in Sabah, where scientists believe a spike in annual average temperatures has led to a change in local weather patterns. This includes increased storm activity and erratic seasonal changes.