Notorious Malaysian Company Surfaces in Liberia
A comprehensive investigation by this paper has unearthed that a notorious Malaysian logging company (Samling) has surfaced in Liberia as a business partner to a Liberian logging company Atlantic Resources.Atlantic Resources is owned by Mr. John Gbessay, a long time business partner of former Liberian President Charles Taylor who has been convicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Our investigation further revealed that Mr. Gbessay was one of those behind the notorious Oriental Timber Company (OTC) investment in Liberia that destroyed the Liberian forest and squandered the country's natural resources. OTC is noted for committing gross human rights and environmental abuses in Liberia, Arms trafficking and illegal trade in the sub-region.
Our investigation gathered that Samling Logging Company is destroying forests belonging to the Penan tribe in Sarawak, in the Malaysian part of Borneo. Samling has been operating on Penan land for many years, without the tribe's consent. The Penans have repeatedly mounted blockades to try to keep the company out. Many Penans have been arrested and imprisoned for their opposition to the company's activities; that's why they are now fighting to stop Samling Logging from devastating their last remaining areas of intact forest.
Several Penan villages have filed land rights claims in the Malaysian courts for areas over which Samling holds logging concessions. One of these cases has been pending in the courts since 1998.
The company claims on its website that it operates within the confines of the law which the government prescribes, and that in the legal disputes in which it is involved, the real issue concerns the government and the local communities.
However, Samling executive James Ho in an interview on Swiss television in 2007 said, "the Penans have no rights to the forest."
A report released in September 2009 by the Malaysian Ministry for Women, Family and Community Development verified allegations that Penan women and girls had been raped by logging company workers and Samling workers were among those whom the Penans had also accused of abuse.
The Penan suspect that community leader Kelesau Naan, who disappeared in October 2007 and was later found dead, may have been killed due to his opposition to Samling's logging activities. The company also has operations in Peninsular Malaysia, China, New Zealand, Australia and Guyana.
One of the world's largest institutional investors, the Norwegian Government Pension Fund, has sold all its 16 million shares of Malaysian timber giant Samling Global, worth 1.2 million US $, as a consequence of a groundbreaking decision announced today by the Norwegian Ministry of Finance.
The decision to exclude Samling Global from the Norwegian Government Pension Fund was made after a probe on Samling's logging operations found the corporation responsible for systematic illegal logging in the East Malaysian state of Sarawak on Borneo.
The probe was conducted by the Government Pension Fund's Council on Ethics and documented "extensive and repeated breaches of the license requirements, regulations and other directives in all of the six concession areas that have been examined. Some of the violations constitute very serious transgressions, such as logging outside the concession area, logging in a protected area that was excluded from the concession by the authorities in order to be integrated into an existing national park, and re-entry logging without Environmental Impact Assessments."
The Norwegian Minister of Finance, Sigbjorn Johnsen, said that Samling's forest operations in the rainforests of Sarawak and Guyana contribute to illegal logging and severe environmental damage and he had therefore chosen to exclude the company from the government's investment portfolio.
The Norwegian decision is a further blow for Sarawak's controversial Chief Minister, Abdul Taib Mahmud. Taib is suspected to accept kickbacks from Samling in return for closing an eye on their illegal logging operations. It has recently become known that Taib secretly controls properties worth several hundred million US dollars in countries such as Canada, Australia, the UK and the US.
The Bruno Manser Fund welcomes the decision by the Norwegian Government and calls on investors, finance institutions and timber traders worldwide to follow the Norwegian example and cut their business ties with Samling Global.
Samling is one of the companies that is responsible for the large-scale logging of Sarawak's primary rainforests and for the destruction of the livelihood of the Penans and other indigenous communities.
Many believe that similar abuses by Samling Logging Company that took place in Malaysian and other countries could occur in Liberia if the company continues its operation in Liberia.