The passion with which the Deputy Chief Minister, Jeffrey Kitingan, is pursuing his fond project for a ‘Nature Conservation Agreement’ has been matched only by his dogged reticence over the details.
Top of the list of unanswered questions is who owns the mysterious BVI shell company, Lionsgate, that was appointed without any tendering exercise to manage this ‘carbon trading’ venture for a staggering 30% of the profits raised – which he has claimed would be in the region of $800 million a year?
What we do know is that his close business partner, Stan Golokin, who has a chequered past in Sabah, is the man running the subsidiary put in charge of the operation, Hock Standard Pte in Singapore.
Experts have dismissed Kitingan’s anticipated profits as wildly optimistic, but the politician has continued to attempt to drum up support by trying to convince local people that this particular raid on Sabah’s resources (unlike all the others he and his cronies have participated in over the years) will hugely benefit them…. not just the mystery company he has appointed.
In recent statements he has advertised the plan, which involves ring-fencing two million hectares of Sabah’s NCR forest lands for a hundred years (the exact areas as yet unspecified), as gaining ‘revenue from nothing’ and ‘billions out of zero’.
For example in a recent interview for Sabah Way Forward he put it thus:
“We want to create revenue. From nothing. It’s like nothing to something. From nothing, zero, we get two or three billion, maybe five billion. That’s something everybody should be happy about, and supporting about. So that we can address the poverty problem. Housing problem. Raise our income.
“Therefore we want everyone to support this, because we have a lot to gain, nothing to lose. This is creating value. If we go through this, this scientific way, climate change related, the world wants it too, increase our income and at the same time address the needs of the local population.
This is the message with which he clearly hopes to persuade native customary land owners to support his project, which the state attorney general earlier described as improperly executed and unlawful when he tried to thrust it into being without the requisite approvals late last year.
Folk can just put their feet up, he claims, and the money will pour into their pockets. Except it did not during the era of logging (in which he was deeply involved) nor oil palm nor any other venture spearheaded by governments all to often involving Mr Kitingan over the years.
Despite their wealth of resources the actual people of Sabah remain dirt poor.
DCM Kitingan went further in this show, as the eagle eyed REDD Monitor website has pointed out (REDD Monitor calls out dodgy carbon trading ventures that have abused the efforts of the United Nations to encourage re-forestation and indigenous rights to enrich greedy capitalists instead).
To give credence to his half-baked proposals Kitingan proceeded to wave an illegible letter from a known carbon trading consultancy based in Switzerland named ALLCOT Group, which has managed accredited schemes in other parts of the world. This is what he said, according to REDD Monitor’s transcript of the interview:
“Like in Columbia. ALLCOT Group, we are engaged with ALLCOT Group. They organise all the local landowners, and here we can do that too, and then create a project for them like NCA. So that they can get the money directly paid to them. And hopefully this will come after we’ve seen the success of this NCA….
… so one year, once this is implemented, we will prove to everybody including the critics, that this is the right thing to do for Sabah.”
REDD Monitor contacted ALLCOT Group to enquire about this so-called engagement with Sabah’s notorious party hopping power broker, ‘Kanga’ Kitingan and the contents of the letter they had allegedly sent to him about this NCA.
The answer was revealing. ALLCOT say they have no knowledge or details about the NCA and no formal relationship of any kind with Mr Kitingan. In short:
“….. there is no real engagement nor a legally binding agreement between the parties. ALLCOT sent a letter expressing its interest in exploring the possibility of implementing a carbon project. However, no acceptance or posterior agreement was ever made. ALLCOT doesn’t have any information or knowledge of the current state of the project or have any communication, business or agreements with any public or private party concerning the above-mentioned project.
ALLCOT has now sent a copy of the previously illegible letter that Mr Kitingan was waving in his show to REDD Monitor, which makes clear that the group was merely responding to an invitation by Kitingan himself to travel to Sabah review and assess what he had plainly described to them as a non-controversial and highly laudable reforestation and carbon trading project.
The response naively begins:
“Dear Dr Jeffrey Kitingan,
Congratulations to you for your leadership in Sabah to protect the tropical rainforest of Sabah, Malaysia.
Your leadership has resulted in the signing of a Nature Conservation Agreement (NCA) between the Sabah Government and Hoch Standard Pte Ltd (HS) on 28thOctober 2021 which incorporates the conservation and preservation of 2 million hectares of tropical rainforest for at least 100 years……”
It also ends “We look forward to travel to Sabah to meet you and discuss with how we can work together for the betterment of mankind globally”.
However, the letter makes confirms there was no formal engagement. ALLCOT had merely agreed to undertake the proffered trip to review the Sabah project, nothing more nor less.
Nonetheless, more basic due diligence by this reportedly credible consultancy ought to have prompted greater caution in their response to Mr Kitingan’s self-promoting claims about the shelved NCA.
The slightest google search would have set red flags waving and merited a far less positive reply than one suggesting such potential eagerness to work with the project “to ensure that the NCA will be implemented with best practices protocols, full transparency, integrity and corporate governance consistent with the 17 UN SDGs”.
By its present track record there is a fat chance of that!
This further episode of hoodwinking presents just one more reason why the people of Sabah, particularly the short-changed indigenous landowners who are being siren’d with seductive promises of making “billions from zero”, should (like climate consultancies and NGOs) take everything Kitingan says with a very large pinch of salt.
This should certainly remain the case until the beneficial ownership of Lionsgate BVI, which is due to receive the lion’s share from this planned exercise, is revealed with the proper level of transparency – in accordance with those protocols cited by ALLCOT Group!