Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M) refers to the video released on 19 March 2013 by Global Witness titled “Inside Malaysia’s Shadow State” which has caused uproar over land practices in Sarawak.
The video unfortunately supports the widespread perception of abuses and corruption in Sarawak involving issues relating to state corruption, abuse of power, impunity, expropriation of native/customary lands, tax evasion and money-laundering. It purportedly shows how the State machinery can be abused to obtain and sell land and concessions at great personal gain while evading tax and breaching anti-money laundering laws. The greatest victims of corruption are often the poor and marginalised, and it appears that the indigenous peoples have suffered.
The numerous purported disclosures of abuses and misuse of the state’s resources highlight that corruption, abuses of power and flouting of laws in Sarawak may be structural, systemic, institutionalised and deeply entrenched.
TI-M urges the Government of Sarawak to immediately initiate an independent probe into these allegations by engaging an independent and reputable panel of external auditors to:
1. Examine and identify all past cases where government officials and persons related to them have directly or indirectly through proxies, nominees or corporate vehicles been given concessions of state resources or land at massive undervalues and without proper governance and transparency; and
2. To improve the administrative processes for better governance, transparency and integrity, to eliminate such abuses.
The findings of the probe should be made public to enable remedial action and institutional reform to take place not only in Sarawak but also in other State governments and at the Federal level.
The effectiveness of fighting corruption requires that no one is above the law, and that there is no safe haven for unlawfully or improperly obtained assets and illicit funds.
TI-M urges the relevant authorities, the MACC, the Royal Malaysian Police, and the Inland Revenue Board to immediately, vigorously and thoroughly investigate the compelling evidence of the video, without fear, favour or partiality.
TI-M also urges the governments of Singapore and other countries to ensure that their banking and financial systems do not facilitate the flouting of laws nor provide safe harbours for illicit funds. Steps should also be taken to ensure more transparency and accountability in their banking and financial systems, in line with similar initiatives undertaken by the government of Switzerland which aim to remove protection of illicit deposits.