Aussies should return Taib’s gifts to Penan

Aussies should return Taib’s gifts to Penan. Photo credit : FMT

Adelaide University received at least A$400,000 in donations from Taib Mahmud, money whose origin he cannot explain, while the Art Gallery of South Australia received a painting.

PRESS STATEMENT The Bruno Manser Fund (BMF), a Swiss-based green lobby and human rights NGO, urges the Sarawak Government and Chief Minister Adenan Satem to support the Penan’s efforts to recover the unexplained wealth of his predecessor Taib Mahmud from Australia.

If the Chief Minister was serious in fighting corruption, he can no longer close his eyes to the enormous amounts of money misappropriated and sent overseas by the Taib family. We were shocked to learn that Adelaide University received at least A$400,000 in donations from Taib Mahmud, money whose origin he cannot explain.

South Australian Greens MP Mark Parnell, who supports the Penan’s recovery call, feels that “the people of Borneo have an excellent moral case for the money to be returned”.

He said these forest people are looking to get an education, they want to build schools, and the University of Adelaide can pitch in and help.

Still, the University of Adelaide and the Art Gallery of South Australia are ignoring calls to restitute controversial gifts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars received from Taib.

The Penan had written, calling on Vice-Chancellor Warren Bebbington to return the funds to Sarawak.

The Penan had also called on the Art Gallery of South Australia to sell the John Olsen painting it had received from the Taib family and send the proceeds to the Sarawak Government for the Penan people.

According to Channel Seven’s Today Tonight show, both institutions refused to be interviewed on the request by indigenous leaders in Borneo to restitute $A 400,000 in cash and an oil painting by John Olsen, one of Australia’s most famous artists.

In a seven-minute report broadcast on Monday, the Australian TV channel reported on the attempts by Penan leaders in Borneo to recover assets allegedly stolen by Taib, the former Chief Minister and current Governor of Sarawak.

Both institutions refused to comment on recovery claims by indigenous leaders in Sarawak.

 

Lukas Straumann

Director, The Bruno Manser Fund

 

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