The International Hydropower Association (IHA), an industry body that claims to promote the ‘sustainable’ use of hydroenergy, has come under fire over organizing its upcoming World Congress in Sarawak. The Malaysian state of Sarawak is infamous for corruption and the disfranchisement of its indigenous peoples.
Hydropower is a particularly hot issue in Sarawak at the moment due to the state government’s plans to displace thousands of indigenous people to make way for twelve new dams in the Borneo rainforest. In a letter to IHA director Richard Taylor, Sarawak’s SAVE Rivers Network, together with NGOs from Switzerland and the US, criticize the industry body for banning the people of Sarawak who are affected by the dam from the World Congress by levying prohibitive admission fees. Admission to the Congress, which will be discussing issues of the utmost importance for the future of Sarawak’s native communities threatened by the dams, costs 1950 US dollars.
“By pricing low-income communities out of your conference, you are complicit in denying affected communities a voice,” the NGOs write. “We, the affected communities and the undersigned supporting NGOs therefore demand that IHA give free access to the congress to at least 20 affected people and an opportunity to talk.” Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud is currently under investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC). He is known to have abused his political position to grant timber and plantation concessions to members of his family. Consequently, his family has amassed stakes in over 300 Malaysian companies during his thirty years in power. Companies owned by the Taib family have also profited from state contracts granted by Sarawak’s state-owned power supplier and dam-implementer, Sarawak Energy.
Aware of these allegations of corruption against Sarawak Chief Minister Taib, the signatories of the letter criticize IHA for holding their World Congress at the Borneo Convention Centre, a building complex constructed and run by the family of Sarawak Chief Minister, Taib Mahmud. While Taib’s sister Raziah Mahmud Geneid is the chairperson of the centre, Taib’s son Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib is one of its directors. “It is an absolute scandal that the IHA has chosen the Taib family’s Borneo Convention Centre for their congress,” said Bruno Manser Fund director, Lukas Straumann. “The congress centre’s operators are the very same people who are the main beneficiaries of Sarawak’s corruption-driven dam plans. We demand that the IHA immediately change the conference venue. Otherwise, the IHA will lose all credibility in addressing corruption in the hydropower sector.”
The International Hydropower Association’s World Congress is taking place from 21 to 24 May 2013 in Kuching, Malaysia. It is expected to attract more than 500 hydropower experts from around the globe.
Source: Bruno Manser Fund
Web source: http://indigenouspeoplesissues.com