Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Huon MLC Paul Harriss - Rogue Politician?

"‘Questionable’ is the word, you are right. That is what they do. So then they (conservationists) say that, by connection, Ta Ann’s operations in Tasmania are also questionable. They then say the chief minister in Sarawak is corrupt. Well, there are elections over there, I do not see any uprising to get the bloke out of the place. I have never met him but these are the allegations". (Huon MLC Paul Harriss, Legislative Council Hansard, 14-3-2012)

MLC Paul Harriss' offhand dismissal of allegations of corruption against the Sarawak Chief Minister (CM) is the most significant aspect of the Huon MLC's recent coward's castle rant

Mr Harriss' comments should be of concern to every Tasmanian - including those in his electorate  - who care about democracy, justice and human rights. Paul Harriss’ put him at odds with many of Australia's closest allies and the wider global community on the issue of corruption and the Sarawak Chief Minister.

In 2010 Malaysia (of which Sarawak is the largest state) scored its lowest ever score in Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index. Malaysia plunged to a 'serious corruption' rating with an index score of 4.4/10, with 0 being highly corrupt and 10 being very clean.

Leaked U.S cables (wikileaks) show that the U.S govt regard the Sarawak Chief Minister as 'highly corrupt' and the Sarawak state govt as "highly corrupt in the hands of the Chief Minister".  Wikileaks also showed the U.S govt recognises that Chief Minister Taib and his relatives are widely thought to extract a percentage from most major commercial contracts - including those for logging - awarded in Sarawak.

On human rights Wikileaks showed that......The US embassy also informed itself on the plight of Sarawak’s indigenous people. It was told by commissioners of Malaysia’s government-funded national human rights commission, SUHAKAM, that the government largely ignores SUHAKAM’s recommendations ‘to safeguard the rights of the state’s most vulnerable citizens’.

Then there is Mr Harriss's quip that Sarawak citizens use elections or an 'uprising' to deal with the allegedly corrupt Chief Minister and his powerful regime.

Mr Harriss’ blissfully - and dare I say wilfully naïve riposte rolls of the tongue from the relative safety of Tasmania. Yet when we look at the political climate in Malaysia and the actual culture and practices of election campaigns in Sarawak it exposes the perversity & stupidity of the Huon MLC's comments.

The recent 2011 Sarawak election (as with previous Sarawak elections) was widely regarded as a giant exercise in pork barrelling. The Malaysian Government (the same political party as Chief Minister Taib's Sarawak state govt) poured millions into Sarawak as a form of ‘gratitude’ to Chief Minister Taib’s Sarawak state government for delivering the seats to secure the ruling party a majority at the Federal level.

Chief Minister Taib's government spent nearly $2Bn Ringgit Malaysia (RM) in Sarawak leading up to the last election and also blatantly exceeded election campaign spending regulations. Leading up the 2011 election it was revealed some Sarawak village heads received RM6,000 while the villagers were given RM2,000. The ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) routinely sent its cronies to villages and door by door handed out cash for votes.
The amounts handed out were aften the equivalent of a months wages. 
In Sarawak rural communities are cleverly controlled by community leaders. The appointed community leaders do the bidding of the Chief Minister's ruling BN party as they recieve their allowance of RM800 from BN. Any community leaders found supporting the political opposition are inevitably sacked and material government assistance in the form of fertiliser, seedling and herbicide is withdrawn.

World renowned pro-democracy activist/politician Anwar Ibrahim who has been jailed & tortured for leading an 'uprising' against the powerful Malaysian ruling elite claimed the 2011 Sarawak election saw electoral fraud with pro-democracy activists stopped from entering Sarawak to observe the elections. But what would this globally recognised and decorated defender of justice and human rights in Malaysia know……right Mr Harriss?

Perhaps Mr Harriss could call in on Anwar Ibrahim during his next Malaysian fact finding mission and get some facts from an insider on how business is done in Sarawak? Mr Harriss might then travel to Sarawak to exhort disgruntled locals to exercise the vote and lecture them on how to initiate an uprising.

Or perhaps Mr Harriss who has used the Tasmanian Parliament to record his indifference to one of the worlds most corrupt regimes, could  simply tell us at the next sitting of cowards castle why Anwar Ibrahim, the U.S govt and wider global community are wrong about the Chief Minister of Sarawak?

Anyone reading Mr Harriss's easy dismissal of allegations of corruption against the Sarawak Chief Minister would be justified in wondering if there is any allegation, anything which reflects poorly on the Tasmanian logging industry that Mr Harriss is not prepared to overlook?

The word rogue has been bandied about a lot lately in relation to the Tasanian logging industry.

There is no doubt that the logging industry globally, including Malaysia's is widely regarded as one of the most corrupt industries on our planet. Such a claim can be supported by decades of evidence.

To my mind the Huon MLC's off hand dismissal of allegations of corruption against the Sarawak Chief Minister is rogue behaviour and places Paul Harriss out on the fringes in terms of global opinion of Sarawak's Taib regime. But ask any Tasmanian and they will tell you in an instant, rogue politicians and rogue behaviour are nothing new in Tasmanian Politics.

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