Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Chapter 4 : Unofficial Timber Rent Appropriation in Sarawak (Part 5 - Ibans, divide and conquer)

Chief Minister Taib also uses his timber concessions to buy the loyalty of the leaders of the largest ethnic group in Sarawak, the Iban, who comprise about 30 percent of the population. Taib and his predecessor both belong to the Melanau, a small coastal group. The Melanau, to ensure their political ascendancy, bind themselves to the state's Malay population, and play a delicate game of divide and rule with the rest of the state’s large groups (see Table 4.7 below). A newsmagazine interviewed a Sarawak Malay politician who described the political arithmetic that makes the Iban a threat to the Melanau.

‘Let's face it. One day they will rule the state. They have the numbers,’ a Sarawak Malay politician said. To date, Sarawak's 20% Malays and 5% Melanau have only held power by banding together, while the Iban have scattered their support across three parties (FEER 1989b).

A substantial group of the timber concessions widely regarded as belonging to Taib have been awarded by him to selected Iban leaders, who in turn have been pivotal to Taib's strategy of keeping the Iban from putting together an electoral majority to defeat him.

Table 4.7 Sarawak’s population, broken down by ethnic groups, as of 1980


Ethnic Group                                   Population                               Percentage
Non Islamic Natives

Iban                                                 367,508                                  29.82
Bidayuh                                           104,914                                    8.49
Orang Ulu                                         67,152                                     5.43

Islamic natives

Malay                                              248,757                                    20.13
Melanau                                            69,813                                      5.65
Chinese                                           360,553                                    29.18
Other                                               15,856                                       1.27

Total 1,234,553 100.00
Source: FEER 1985f



Taib must buy the support of the sons of two famous Iban leaders. Their fathers, now dead, led the Iban during most of the twentieth century. The sons are highly visible board members and shareholders in Taib family timber concessions. The most important Iban leader during much of the pre- and post-World War II period was Temonggong Koh who died in the 1940s. His son, Kenneth Kanyan, is a senator in the upper house of the Sarawak State Assembly (27 May 1997 interview with a reliable and informed academic).
After Temonggong Koh’s death, the successor to the position of traditional head of the Iban was Temonggong Jugah. Although he died in the 1970s, Temonggong Jugah’s son Leonard Linggi is now the powerful second-in-command of the Christian wing of the PBB party. The importance of this position is that for all PBB Christians who wish to run as state or federal candidates, including Iban, Bidayuh, and the dozens of groups who make up the Orang Ulu, Leonard Linggi "decides whether you can run or not" (4 June 1997 interview with State Assemblyman Aidan Wing). Linggi is also the General Secretary of the PBB party (26 May 1997 interview with a well-place and knowledgeable source in Sarawak).

Also of political significance is the fact that during the Ming Court affair, the two still-living Iban mentioned above, Kenneth Kanyan, the son of Temonggong Koh and Leonard Linggi, the son of Temonggong Jugah, stood by Chief Minister Taib Mahmud in his hour of need.

Although Sarawakians do not know the specifics about the timber concession holdings of various Iban leaders, they have a general idea of who has come out on top. For example, State

Assemblyman Aidan Wing described Leonard Linggi as "the richest Iban" in Sarawak with "a half million hectares in timber concessions" (4 June 1997 interview).

I asked Wing when he would be awarded a timber concession. He answered, "Perhaps in my second term.  Timber concessions are rarely given out to first term state assemblymen.  They are not awarded until state assemblymen have proved their political loyalty and staying power” (4 June 1997 interview).


In exchange for directorships and equity positions in timber concessions, Iban leaders bring in the vote of their community at election time. Other than election time bribes, timber rent is not redistributed to the larger Iban community (27 May 1997 interview with a reliable and informed academic).

The lack of distribution of timber benefits to the grassroots by senior Iban political figures was confirmed by a well-placed and knowledgeable source in Sarawak, who told me that Linggi rarely, if ever, shares timber rent with other Iban (26 May 1997 interview).

A point worth re-emphasizing is that, with one exception (That exception is Garu, a timber concession is licensed to the Rimbunan Hijau conglomerate.), all timber concessions in which Iban leaders hold managerial or equity positions are those said to be licensed to Chief Minister Taib himself. These concessions are listed in Table 4.8.




Table 4.8            Taib family timber concessions in which Iban political leaders are board members or shareholders

Name of Taib family timber concession
Name of Iban board member or shareholder
Position in or percentage of shares held in company
Leadership position within the Iban community, source(s) of information

Balleh Sawmill, 24,673 hectares.

Jugah Anak Bareng
11 percent shareholder
This is Temonggong Jugah, the now-deceased but once-supreme leader of the Iban (4 June 1997 interview with a Sarawak state assemblyman).

Balleh Sawmill, 24,673 hectares

Tiong Anak Anding
11 percent shareholder
Wife of the late Temonggong Jugah (4 June 1997 interview with a Sarawak  state assemblyman).
Bumi Hijau,
26,000 hectares;
Garu,
44,847 hectares;
Kerasa,
49,996 hectares;  Rajang Wood, 309,575 hectares; Raplex, 72,251 hectares.
Kenneth Kanyan ak Koh
Director; Director & 42 percent shareholder;
Director;
Director;
Director

Son of Temonggong Koh, the most important Iban leader in the pre- and post-World War II period.   Kenneth Kanyan is now a Senator in the Sarawak State Assembly.  He was a strong loyalist to Taib in the 1987 Ming Court affair.
Bumi Hijau,
26,000 hectares; Sarako, 36,000 hectares
Richard Mullok, nephew to, and proxy for, Alfred Jabu (6 June 1997 interview with State Assemblyman Aidan Wing)
Director; Director, 42 percent shareholder
Alfred Jabu is the Deputy Chief Minister, and as such is “the highest ranking non-Malay in Sarawak” (27 May 1997 interview with a reliable and informed academic).  He was one of two men to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Chief Minister Taib during the critical 10 March 1987 press conference during the Ming Court affair (Ritchie 1987: 22).  He is a PBB nominee (12 August 1997 interview with James Chin)
Garu, 44,847 hectares
Temonggong Jinggut Ak Attan

Director and 39 percent shareholder
Traditional head of all Iban in the 7th and 3rd divisions of the Rejang River basin.  This is a position that would have otherwise have fallen to Leonard Linggi, except that Linggi spends all his time in Kuching now, and is seldom on the ground in the Rejang River basin, as would befit a Temonggong (7 June 1997 interview with Joseph Jinggut). 
Garu, 44,847 hectares
Robert Jarraw Ak Kana
Director, and nine percent shareholder
Son-in-law of Temonggong Jinggut ak Attan, traditional head of all Iban in the 7th and 3rd divisions of the Rejang River basin (6 June 1997 interview with State Assemblyman Aidan Wing).


Table 4.8 (continued)    Taib family timber concessions in which Iban political leaders are board members or shareholders


Name of Taib family timber concession
Name of Iban board member or shareholder
Position in or percentage of shares held in company
Leadership position within the Iban community, source(s) of information
Garu, 44,847 hectares
Joseph Jinggut
Director
Holds position of Wakil Kota (head of the local council) in the city of Kapit (7 June 1997 interview with Joseph Jinggut).  He and his brother Justine Jinggut were two of four persons placed into leadership positions in the SNAP party in 1987 to replace those sacked or suspended as a result of their disloyalty to Chief Minister Taib during the Ming Court affair (Ritchie 1987: 34).  Joseph's brother Justine is now Secretary General of SNAP (29 May 1997 interview with Dominique Ng).  Joseph says his brother Justine was elevated to the position of Secretary General of SNAP because "in the present political climate, the important thing is for SNAP to reach some political accommodation with the PBB, not to be a thorn in their side.  My brother has accomplished this" (7 June 1997 interview).
Keresa Timber,
49,996 hectares; Rajang Wood, 309,575 hectares;
Raplex, 72,251 hectares.

Leonard Linggi ak Jugah, son of Temonggong Jugah, traditional head of the Iban from the 1940s to 1970s.
Director, 50 percent shareholder; Director, 50.2 percent of shares through Limar Management Services, Rajang Resources (13 June 1997 interview with well-placed and knowledgeable source in Sarawak), and Silver Wood Company (12 August 1997 interview with James Chin); Director
Leonard Linggi holds no elected position, but is second in command of the “Christian wing” of the PBB party.  The importance of Linggi’s position is that for all Iban, Bidayuh, Orang Ulu, or Christian  who wish to run as a state or federal candidates representing the PBB, Leonard Linggi "decides whether you can run or not" (6 June 1997 interview with State Assemblyman Aidan Wing).  Linggi is also General Secretary of PBB (26 May 1997 interview with well-placed and knowledgeable source in Sarawak).  Linggi is described as a PBB "money man," meaning the PBB comes to him for funds at campaign time (29 May 1997 interview with Dominique Ng).
Keresa Timber,
49,996
hectares
Edmund Erong ak Jugah
Director
Adopted brother of Leonard Linggi (4 June 1997 interview with a Sarawak state assemblyman).  Edmund is mentally challenged (12 August 1997 interview with James Chin).


Table 4.8 (continued)    Taib family timber concessions in which Iban political leaders are board members or shareholders


Name of Taib family timber concession
Name of Iban board member or shareholder
Position in or percentage of shares held in company
Leadership position within the Iban community, source(s) of information
Keresa Timber,
49,996
hectares
Datuk Temonggong Bayang Janting
Director
Father-in-law of Leonard Linggi (4 June 1997 interview with a Sarawak state assemblyman).
Rajang Wood, 309,575 hectares

Douglas Ugah Embas
Director, holder of a single share.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Rural Development (6 June 1997 interview with State Assemblyman Aidan Wing).  Member of federal parliament representing Betong district (9 June 1997 interview with former federal parliamentarian Sim Kwang Yang).
Sarimas, 30,000 hectares
Datin Empian Jabu, proxy for and wife to Alfred Jabu
Director
Alfred Jabu is the Deputy Chief Minister, and as such is “the highest ranking non-Malay in Sarawak” (27 May 1997 interview with a reliable and informed academic).  He was one of two men to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Chief Minister Taib during the critical 10 March 1987 press conference during the Ming Court affair (Ritchie 1987: 22). PBB nominee (12 August 1997 interview with James Chin)
Sarimas, 30,000 hectares
James Jimbun Ak Pungga is a member of the federal parliament from Kapit (9 June 1997 interview with former federal parliamentarian Sim Kwang Yang).
Director
A US-educated former teacher and district officer, he was asked by the PBB to stand for election, and is a loyal PBB member.  Federal parliamentarian Chiew Chin Sing reflected aloud about his colleague, "He is very quiet in parliament.  He never speaks on the problems of his constituency, the Iban people from rural areas that still lack even the most basic amenities.  The PBB must have bought his silence with this timber concession" (19 July 1997 interview).

A final, poignant comment, on the group of Iban compradors in Table 4.8 above, came as I reviewed these names with a Sarawak state assemblyman.  Surprised to see the names of Iban leaders from three prominent families appearing over and over again – Jinggut, Linggi, and Kanyan -   and himself representing a district that is heavily logged, the assemblyman told me that he had approached all three of these prominent Iban families for campaign contributions when he had run for office.  All refused to help and instead supported his opponent.  Looking back he said, "No wonder they would not help me.  They were already paid off by the government."  He added, "These people take money and resources coming from the lands belonging to the people of my district.  Then when I run for office to try to help the people of my district, these downriver Iban use that money, which belongs to the people of my district, against them” (4 June 1997 interview).


The Taib family group of timber companies has provided funds for the chief minister to become vastly wealthy and to reward or buy political loyalty, including that of Iban leaders.  However, the sum total of the Taib family’s personal wealth seeking and patronage activities goes far beyond the timber sector.  The family runs a well-diversified financial empire with interests in building materials, construction and finance.  While timber holdings are important, it is in the context of their allowing the Taib family to multiply its wealth and satisfy patronage objectives that the family's control of  20 timber concessions should be understood.  Detailing the Taib family’s non-timber economic activities is an important undertaking because it demonstrates the extent to which rent from Sarawak’s forests is recycled to meet the financial and political objectives of the Taib clan, rather than being formally captured by the government.

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