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The fight for Sarawak. -

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A London-based duo are leading a global campaign against one of Asia's longest serving and most
controversial leaders.

Transcript

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: This weekend one of Asia's longest-serving and most controversial
politicians is seeking re-election. 74-year-old Abdul Taib Mahmud has ruled the Malaysian state of
Sarawak for 30 years, turning it into an industrialised economy, mostly by exporting timber and
palm oil. But that's come at the expense of the country's fabled rainforests, attracting
international condemnation. Even though Taib Mahmud is almost sure to be returned to office, an
unlikely duo's leading a growing global campaign against him. Mike Sexton reports.

MIKE SEXTON, REPORTER: Every day in a flat in the heart of London an unlikely duo broadcasts to an
audience on the other side of the world. Behind the microphone is Peter John Jaban, the grandson of
a head-hunter from the jungles of Borneo and behind the scenes is British investigative reporter
Clare Rewcastle-Brown, sister-in-law of former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

CLARE REWCASTLE-BROWN, RADIO FREE SARAWAK: We make a very good pair. We care about the same things.

MIKE SEXTON: Together they run Radio Free Sarawak, a tiny operation campaigning against one of
Asia's most successful politicians, the Chief Minister of Sarawak, Taib Mahmud, whose business
empire reportedly stretches across the globe, including Australia.

CLARE REWCASTLE-BROWN: I would describe him as a dictator in all but name. He utterly controls
Sarawak. He and his family own anything that's worth owning in Sarawak. They first brought
everything into government monopoly and then privatised it into their own possession.

MIKE SEXTON: Sarawak lies on the island of Borneo and is the largest state in Malaysia. Before
independence in 1963, it was a British colony and among the expats living there was the Rewcastle
family.

CLARE REWCASTLE-BROWN: I was born in Sarawak and grew up there, spent my early childhood there and
so I have very happy memories. And I remember a beautiful jungle that was my home and wonderful
people that were my first friends.

MIKE SEXTON: Sarawak is blessed with national resources, including stunning tropical rainforests,
but during the 30-year reign of Taib Mahmud, much of the forest has been cleared for logging and
replaced with palm oil plantations. The deforestation has marginalised wildlife, most notably the
orangutan, which is now an endangered species and it's destroyed the lifestyle of the indigenous
people who traditionally live in communal homes known as long houses.

As a result of a deforestation, tens of thousands of indigenous people have been displaced.

PETER JOHN JABAN, RADIO FREE SARAWAK: He wants the native who own the land to stay in the sky, in
the river? No way! We have to fight.

MIKE SEXTON: Peter John Jaban first became alarmed while working for the Sawarak Government's land
and survey department. He saw what he believes were illegal land deals, funnelling billions of
dollars into companies owned by the Chief Minister and his family.

PETER JOHN JABAN: They kept the secret in the strongroom, and I'm one of them who has the access to
the strongroom.

MIKE SEXTON: When Peter John Jaban began publicly questioning the Government, he was arrested and
eventually fled to London to set up Radio Free Sarawak.

PETER JOHN JABAN: We share the secrets, you see, that we found to the people, especially those in
the long house who doesn't know anything, because most of the radio, the TV, belongs to him.

MIKE SEXTON: The Sarawak Government strenuously disputes the claims made by the radio station,
arguing it has a sustainable forestry industry that has delivered wealth and advancement such as
hydroelectric schemes. The Home Minister says a police investigation has begun into what he calls
the broadcast of malicious lies.

But the campaign against Taib Mahmud is going beyond the airwaves.

CLARE REWCASTLE-BROWN: The building behind the demonstrators here is the headquarters of his
property empire here in London, one of the sister firms for the various property empires that we
know he controls.

MIKE SEXTON: Clare Rewcastle-Brown says Taib Mahmud and his family have invested hundreds of
millions of dollars in real estate around the world, including the Valentine on George Hotel in
Sydney, where demonstrators gathered.

This innocent building here is actually owned by the Taib family.

MIKE SEXTON: Protestors have released a list of international companies associated with the Chief
Minister, nine of which are registered in Australia, including one that operates the Adelaide
Hilton Hotel.

CLARE REWCASTLE-BROWN: He has an official salary of 20,000 ringgit a month, which is about $10,000
Australian a month. So it's very hard to gauge his wealth because there is obviously a much larger
unofficial income that he is receiving.

MIKE SEXTON: But the money goes to other places too. Taib Mahmud's relationship with Australia
began in the late 1950s when he was part of the Colombo Plan that brought gifted Asian students to
study here. He completed a law degree at Adelaide University before returning to Sarawak. But the
relationship continues. He's given generously to his alma mater. The courtyard outside the law
school is named after him and he has been awarded an honorary degree. The university declined to be
interviewed by 7.30, instead saying, "The University receives donations from many individuals and
organisations across the globe. Taib Mahmud is a distinguished member of the University's alum knee
community and a past supporter of the University of Adelaide."

MIKE SEXTON: Adelaide University is not alone. Two other Australian universities, Curtin and
Swinburne, have campuses in Sarawak, and late last year the Chief Minister was an honoured guest at
Oxford.

ANDREW HAMILTON, UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD (July 2010): It's my great privilege to present the first of
those, the Right Honourable Patinggi Tan Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud, the Chief Minister of Sarawak.

MIKE SEXTON: Clare Rewcastle-Brown argues the universities, particularly Adelaide, is compromised
by the relationship.

CLARE REWCASTLE-BROWN: If it feels that Taib Mahmud is a figure who fits in with its ethical codes
and that it's acceptable to receive money from a poorly paid public servant of Malaysia who happens
to be incredibly rich, then they should get up and be proud to say it.

MIKE SEXTON: Taib Mahmud has just celebrated 30 years as Chief Minister, but the 74-year-old is
seeking re-election. Peter John Jaban says because the media in Sarawak is controlled by Taib
Mahmud, he'll continue his pilot broadcasts with the hope one day of returning to the country he
loves.

PETER JOHN JABAN: It's my land, my people, my family. I miss my home so much, and of course I want
to go back.

LEIGH SALES: That report from Mike Sexton.