Just as Sabah’s Attorney General has moved to pull the plug on the shocking ‘Nature Conservation Agreement’ cum carbon credit deal, which threatened to become one of the most fraudulent and outrageous raids on Malaysia’s natural resources ever, it has emerged that in neighbouring Sarawak the newly empowered chief minister is embarked on a copy cat path with similar plans to monetise the remaining jungle through a private sector partnership.
Did ‘Kanga’ Jeffrey Kitingan’s attempted resource grab show him the way? On Monday, just hours after the Sabah Deputy Chief Minister went all out to defend his now collapsed plot to harvest 30% of an estimated $80 billion worth of carbon sales on the state’s remaining forests for a connected private company, Sarawak’s Abang Jo was making his own announcement.
The Sarawak Chief Minister, who has taken advantage of the recent Covid election win to also appoint himself Finance Minister and Natural Resources and Environment Minister, took to the stage to announce his own plan to exploit Sarawak’s remaining forests via the carbon credit markets as part of his ‘Post Covid-19 Development Strategy’.
His plan, naturally, was to ‘engage with the private sector’ in this regard without even acknowledging the burgeoning outrage surrounding Kintigan’s Sabah deal, which secretly committed that state to pay a politically connected private company 100 years worth of ‘loss of profits’ (worth an estimated $24 BILLION) should a future government choose to cancel the dodgy deal. This was just one of a multitude of egregious terms in a contract that had been secretly pulled together and signed with a politically connected off-shore company whose ownership remains obscure.
Following Sarawak Report’s full on attack on Tuesday – for the first time we publicised a full copy of the secret contract together with evidence of Kitingan’s signature at the bottom of it dated October 2021 – the Sabah Attorney General finally moved (on Thursday) to release a stunning announcement that effectively scotched the whole disgraceful gambit.
In a statement released to the media she called the contract incomplete and unenforceable, describing it as merely a “non-binding framework agreement”. It was the right thing to do and in keeping with the earlier reports that she had personally refused to join the CM and DCM in signing the agreement back last year.
Her grounds for declaring this signed commitment null and void were that what she described as “unfair and absurd contract terms” needed to be removed; affected native communities needed to be consulted; the relevant areas to be properly identified and that a far “more in-depth due diligence process” needed to be undertaken!
Sarawak Report could not have put it better itself. Indeed, the Attorney General has in substance confirmed every point made in the article we published. This, despite the fact that the agreement was signed by the Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister last year with provisions that stipulate that it cannot be subsequently changed or altered.
According to the Sabah AG’s bold statement none of these commitments can stand because they are in fact “unenforceable” for a host of reasons:
“The NCA is therefore not finalised nor is it binding because, among others, the designated area has not been ascertained or identified,” [State Attorney General] Nor Asiah said in a statement here today, adding that the proposed NCA is, therefore, non-binding and unenforceable. In short, the NCA in its present form is legally impotent.” [Free Malaysia Today]
This astonishing push back by Sabah’s chief law officer can only be described as a stunning vindication and victory for the whistleblowers, NGO activists and journalists who had leaked and stood up against this resource grab by powerful decision-makers.
Likewise, it is a recognition of the outrageous fraud against the people of Sabah who had stood under the terms of this agreement to be liable for tens of billions of dollars to a private company (Hoch Standard Pty Limited) secretly appointed to be the middleman.
Jeffrey Kittingen who has spearheaded and defended the deal, to the extent of threatening to sue journalists and critics, now stands abandoned by his own law officer. If he wants to take up legal cudgels it will have first to be against his own state government before he sues private individuals who pointed out the fraud.
This leaves the now all-powerful ‘Abang Jo’ with a decision about his own exact same gambit in Sarawak. Just like Kitingan, he rushed to the podium this week to announce he is planning to ‘link with the private sector’ to monetise Sarawak’s carbon credit opportunities.
In Malaysia the weary public have long come to understand what ‘linking with the public sector’ means when it comes to public contracts. If Abang Jo wishes to demonstrate otherwise, then an almost unheard of transparency needs to be introduced with a clear debate and consultation on the options followed by open tendering – he should consult the Sabah AG for the key steps required.
Meanwhile, it is surely high time that someone issues a police report against those responsible for Sabah’s attempted $80 billion dollar heist against one of the few remaining natural resources from its forests?