Sarawak Governor's son linked to Mulu oil palm disaster

Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib controlled Radiant Lagoon until recently

(MULU, SARAWAK / MALAYSIA) A Malaysian oil palm company involved in the destructive logging of tropical rainforest near the UNESCO-protected Gunung Mulu National Park in Malaysian Borneo is linked to the son of a leading Malaysian politician.

Research by the Bruno Manser Fund shows that Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib was until recently the controlling shareholder of Radiant Lagoon Sdn Bhd, a Malaysian company that has drawn heavy criticism for destroying the livelihood of native communities in the rainforests of Borneo. Mahmud Abu Bekir is the older son of Taib Mahmud, the current Governor and former Chief Minister of Sarawak, a state in Malaysian Borneo.

Radiant Lagoon obtained two leases over a total of 4440 hectares of “Mixed Zone Land” in the Tutoh Apoh river region from the Sarawak State Government in December 2008. At the time, Taib Mahmud was still Chief Minister and Minister of Resource Planning in charge of land matters.

Both leases were granted to Radiant Lagoon at extraordinarily favourable conditions. For the first lease on “Lot 2 Tutoh Land District” over an area of 3,017 hectares, Radiant Lagoon pays an annual rent of MYR 7,543 (=US$ 1,850) to the Sarawak State Government. For the second lease on “Lot 3 Apoh Land District” over an area of 1,423 hectares, Radiant Lagoon pays an annual rent of MYR 3,558 (=US$ 872).

This means that Radiant Lagoon pays the Sarawak government an average of merely MYR 2.5 (=US$ 0.60) per hectare in annual rent. The leases were granted for 99 years without due consultation of the affected Berawan and Penan communities who claim Native Customary Rights over the land.

Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib first became a director of Radiant Lagoon in February 2008. Conspicuously, he resigned after two months and was reappointed in December 2009 after the company had been granted the two land leases and had been given a special 15-year deadline to complete the planting of the area.

99 out of 100 shares were held by Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib

According to Radiant Lagoon’s 2017 Financial Report, Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib held 99 out of 100 company shares as of 31st December 2017. Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib resigned as a director of Radiant Lagoon in April 2018, one month before Malaysia’s last General Election.

Current company records are showing that Radiant Lagoon is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Onlyee Plantations, a Miri-based Investment Holding controlled by Sarawak tycoon Yee Ming Seng. Yee Ming Seng is the owner of Double Dynasty, a Malaysian oil palm group.

“The involvement of Taib’s son in Radiant Lagoon smacks of favouritism”, the Swiss NGO, the Bruno Manser Fund, stated in a press release. “This looks like the kind of deal that Global Witness exposed in its famous 2011 video on Taib land grabs and corruption. We call on the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission to immediately open an investigation into Radiant Lagoon.”