Hornbill Unleashed

October 7, 2010

A westerner who defends Taib’s dams


Torstein Dale Sjotveit, the Norwegian boss of Sarawak’s privatised electricity monopoly, Sarawak Energy Bhd, has alleged that European environmentalists protesting against mass displacement of Sarawakian natives are against “economic development”.

In an interview with radio station BFM aired yesterday in the Klang Valley and parts of nearby states, Sjotveit attacked the NGOs for defending the land rights of natives displaced by the Bakun and Murum dams.

Sjotveit ( right) claimed that European NGOs, such as the Basel-based Bruno Manser Fund (BMF), harboured hidden motives for opposing the building of dams.

He condemned “these guys sitting in Switzerland, or wherever” for opposing the natives resettlement schemes, saying the NGOs had no right to stymie Sarawak’s development. He said the Europeans rejected Sarawak’s development in order “to continue enjoying their lifestyles”.

His contention was that Europeans were trying to obstruct development in the third world so that greenhouse emissions would not increase, thereby saving Europeans the effort of reducing their own carbon footprint.

The BMF has called on Sjotveit to resign, saying his annual salary of US$1.2 million (RM3.7 million) and travel perks were unpalatable for the vast numbers of poverty-stricken Sarawakians.

The group has worked with local NGOs advocating forest people’s rights, highlighting many issues causing suffering among native communities, including sexual abuse by loggers and violence against land rights protestors by police.

penan blockade in sarawak loggingSurvival International, a global NGO representing tribal peoples, pointed out that resettlement schemes have been questioned by the press in Sjotveit’s native Norway.

According to Survival, Penan natives in the catchment area for the Murum Dam had been told they have no choice but to leave their land in contravention of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, an international commitment signed by Malaysia.

Sjotveit had claimed the natives in Murum had been “consulted” regarding their displacement.

He however did not mention that the environment impact assessment (EIA) for Murum, required by law, has never been published, although work on the dam began three years ago.

Excess electricity

The Norwegian also conceded that Sarawak Energy’s plans to build 12 new giant hydroelectric dams throughout Sarawak will generate electricity in vast surplus to Sarawak’s current requirements.

azlanSarawak’s second minister for planning and resource management Awang Tengah Ali Hassanannounced on Feb 17 that “by 2015, the state hopes that it could generate up to 6,000 megawatts (MW) to cater for the needs of Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (Score), the interconnection project with Brunei and the potential export to Peninsular Malaysia.”

Sjotveit downplayed the set target, saying the generating capacity would depend on feasibility studies for the new dams, and may be less than 5,000MW by 2015. He also accepted that the grandiose plan for electricity transmission under the South China Sea is too expensive, since the technology demanded would be unprecedented.

The Sarawak Energy CEO claimed the planned megaprojects in Score will be able to use the excess electricity. He said international investors were “very interested” in building giant smelters for aluminium. When pressed by BFM regarding contracts already signed, Sjotveit admitted only one such contract has been completed, with the relatively small Press Metal smelter in Mukah.

According to DAP MP for Kuching, Chong Chien Jen, it is unfair that “Sesco, a unit of Sarawak Energy Bhd, is selling electricity to Press Metal Bhd at a cheap price of about RM0.10 per KwH, while local consumers, businessmen and industrialists have to pay approximately RM0.30 per KwH for electricity”.

Singing Taib’s tune

Sjotveit answers directly to Sarawak Energy chairperson Abdul Hamid Sepawi, cousin to Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud.

The anti-Taib Sarawak Report website has publicised the conflict of interest and significant environmental risks in a proposed aluminium smelter project to be set up by mining multinational giant Rio Tinto in partnership with CMS, a Sarawakian conglomerate controlled by Taib’s family.

NONEAccording to Muhin Urit, a Sarawakian land rights advocate, “An import (from Norway, Sjotveit) is now singing the same tune as Sarawak government officials when trying to rebut legitimate criticism. The Norwegian CEO has obviously been infected by the unintelligent and shallow cancer spreading throughout Sarawak for decades, when singing the same tune of Western bashing.

“If the Norwegian CEO cannot produce better arguments to try to defend gross human rights abuses and a corrupt regime, then his fat pay is being wasted – he is either only able to sing praises to his paymaster, the chief minister, as everyone under the CM must do, or he is outright unfit to be on the Sarawak taxpayers’ payroll.”

Muhin repeated the call for Sjotveit to resign, and emulate the recent decision by Norway’s pension investment fund to boycottSarawak timber company Samling shares. An investigation by the pension fund, the largest in Europe, had found Samling business practices in Sarawak are unethical.

“Sjotveit’s pay is tainted with human rights abuses and he will be associated with projects that are corrupted to the core,” Muhin concluded.

KERUAH USIT is a human rights activist – ‘anak Sarawak, bangsa Malaysia’. This weekly column is an effort to provide a voice for marginalised Malaysians. Keruah Usit can be contacted atkeruah_usit@yahoo.com.



    Dear Readers/Children

    This is a story book by Mervyn Skipper an Australian writer. He spent some 20 years working for a cable in Malaya & Borneo so he got to know the place pretty well.

    We most likely missed out this one in our literature studies at school. The British and Malayan colonial authorities won’t want to teach kids that they were doing bad things to the country and people by ripping up the trees etc.

    The politico-socio-environmental issues were already discussed back in 1929 by English writers.

    Nothing new Huh!? Even then it seems that the inhabitants of the jungle felt the impact of timber logging under colonial rule..It is an allegory of the colonial situation.

    have apeek at the book to check out the issues then…

    It does not mattter what colour is your skin – you can show your love, care and concern for your fellow beings (in whatever order you take it). Don’t be afraid to care…for people

    The Meeting-pool : a tale of Borneo / Mervyn Skipper ;illustrations by Sheila Hawkins
    Bib ID 950589
    Format BookBook, Online Online – Google Books
    Skipper, Mervyn, 1886-1958

    Description London ; Penguin, 1954.
    155 p. : :ill. ; 19 cm.

    Puffin story books

    The animals of the jungle gather to discuss how they can stop the White Man from chopping down the trees and and destroying their home. A collection of tales from Borneo.

    First published 1929.

    For children.
    Subjects Tales – Borneo – Juvenile literature.

    Comment by Abang — October 8, 2010 @ 11:41 AM | Reply


    I tend to disagree with MT’s comments on the “selfishness” aspect of SI & BMF. I would give them full credit for their years of dedication in pushing the Penan issue when Sarawakian are doing their thing elsewhere. We should not be over skeptical of everyone’s intentions….other than our CM.

    The Penans are the standard bearer on behalf of all us who believe in real political/social change for Sarawak.

    They symbolise the real Sarawakians who resisting and holding up the blockade against the plunder of our country all these years. International and local bodies have supported them. But in general the rest of us are pathetic. WE have stood by and watched the continuing drama and shook our heads in sympathy instead of giving them a solid helping hand.

    The local NGOs are exerting their best efforts (may be over-working in isolation)in the face of the FRU gins and teargas, intimidation and underhanded machinations of the timber companies.

    The Sarawak people must see Penan struggle as their own struggle for freedom from exploitation and oppression.

    If Penans were Muslims we know they very likely would not have suffered all from the tragedies they have experienced. Mind you in Malaya the poor Malay muslims are also not gaining real benefits from the UMNO discriminatory largese machine.

    Comment by Abang — October 8, 2010 @ 8:25 AM | Reply

    • Yes, but politic aside – to have PENANS HOLDING UP THE FLAG FOR EVERYONE, may itself be a form of exploitation. The responsibility may also be too big for them to carry; and they may be unwitting pawn in other people’s game.

      The intellectual, political, and economic fight that may be occuring alongside or in the undercurrent of PENANS issue, will be over, sooner or later. And when the dust settle, will the Penans be abandoned to fend for themselves ?

      My comment is a caution: and a reminder for people to look at the Penan in the eyes, and to see in it, the reflection of their own interest – if their concerns for the PENANS is genuinely humanitarian.

      Comment by MERAMAT TAJAK — October 8, 2010 @ 9:20 AM | Reply

  3. Survival International, and Bruno Manser Fund – may have their own selfish reasons for supporting the Penan cause.

    Regardless, any selfish reasons by SI and BMF would pale in comparison with the obvious greed of the Taib family and the 1 million self-interest of this chap.

    Nevermind this little chap; when it comes to Penan affairs, the Sarawak BN leaders and some “intelligent” commentators had laughed them off:

    – Masing called them story tellers, and that when they were nearing starvation;he assured the concern public that the jungle is a supermarket for them.

    – Georgie assured the public that Penans would never starve, since – he asserted, they can survive.

    – Jabu had said in his typical condenscending tone that only a handful of Penans are not grateful for the government assistance.

    Some of my college mates from Malaya had laugh off the Penans as the wild beast, “orang utan” of Sarawak; and it would go without saying – that they couldn’t careless about the humanity of the tribe.

    The callous attitude have changed now. With international spotlight, no doubt through the actions of NGOs, government ministers, including of late Federal Ministers – have started to feign their humanitarian urges to help.

    I, remain – uneasy, if there ever was a scintilla of genuine humanitarian concern for the Penan – on the part of even the most conscientious NGOs, politicians and the crowds of political commentators.

    Are the Penan being used to further, ALL of other peoples interest – except the Penan’s ? After the fight is over, would the Penan be left holding the bucket ?

    Interesting question to ponder by all Malaysians this: if the Penans are Muslim, would a Muslim not gravitate to their aid, in a blink ? Similarly if the Penans are Christians, would not the active Christian workers be more sympathetic ?

    I see the Penan saga a universal, ongoing litmus test of all Malaysians humanity.

    Comment by MERAMAT TAJAK — October 7, 2010 @ 8:06 PM | Reply

    • The Penans are almost universally Christian, Sidang Injil Borneo or SIB. Yet no-one seems to be willing to stand up for them, except for a couple of news websites, and a few NGOs, local and international. They are humans. Injustice must be opposed by all of us, regardless of religion.

      Comment by analist — October 9, 2010 @ 1:48 PM | Reply

  4. Let’s digest this report and analysis and find out what role does the thief minister Pahim Silly, wanted him to play and how the Taib syndicate is scheming and plotting to milk Sarawak further.

    Sarawak Energy Berhad (Sarawak Energy) is a Malaysian investment holding company, which is mainly active in power sector. The company and its subsidiaries are active in the areas of generation, transmission and distribution of electricity in the State of Sarawak. Besides, the company is also engaged in steel fabrication and galvanizing, engineering and other related support services. The power generation
    capacity of the company is 976 MW. The company mainly utilizes gas and coal and hydro power for electricity generation. It is headquartered in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia. The key subsidiaries of the company include Syarikat SESCO Berhad, Sarawak Power Generation Sdn.

    Sarawak Energy Berhad Key Recent Developments

    Apr 07, 2010 Dayang Enterprise Holdings Receives MYR400 Million Contract From Shell
    Feb 19, 2010 Sarawak Energy Plans To Construct 40km Power Transmission Line
    Dec 15, 2009 TNB To Supply Power From 2,400 MW Bakun Hydro Power Project To Peninsula Malaysia By 2015
    Nov 05, 2009 Sarawak Hidro’s Bakun Hydro Power Plant In Malaysia May Start Producing 300 MW From 2010
    Nov 01, 2009 SEB Appoints Torstein Dale Sjotveit As New CEO

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    Comment by Lee Hui — October 7, 2010 @ 7:42 PM | Reply


    Re Watcha’s comments- the guy is not your typical Norwegian. He is still a Viking at heart and wants to act like his forebears…

    The local power & wealthy thought very carefully about how to do one better than the Vikings…by setting up companies to pillage the country. No matter how sophisticated their schemes the result is the same – people get robbed and killed by them just like the Vikings of olde.

    Comment by Abang — October 7, 2010 @ 4:56 PM | Reply

    • That Watcha?? is Watcha with the two ?? I’m without the ??

      You’re just being ironic. General Income Inequality in Europe is much much lower than in the US which is now equated with China! You could say the EU is better governed.

      Sarawakians have regressed to the ancient plundering Vikings. The reason – as in old ancient Europe, there is no credible legitimate government. Taib is a lanun!

      Comment by Watcha — October 8, 2010 @ 12:58 AM | Reply

  6. Torstein Dale Sjotveit (aka. tortoise dick short) is arguably the world’s richest white bomoh and richest Yes Man around!

    Comment by Lido Sport Pinoy — October 7, 2010 @ 4:54 PM | Reply

  7. This Norwegain will disappear like Bruno Manser if he says otherwise and especially when he is paid USD1.4 million a year to be the personal consultant for Taib and supposed to do the pr job for him too.

    Comment by Joshua Rundi — October 7, 2010 @ 3:47 PM | Reply

  8. This Mat Salleh.has to sing a song as melodious as can be to please his master.See how he wriggles his tail,to earn his bone?
    At the same time,he is perhaps,also another tool for THE WHITE HAIRED TERMITE to diversify his overseas investment from the prying eyes of Sarawak Reporters.Do Sarawak really need to employ this”exfart,” with an outrageous salary?

    Comment by Papayuk — October 7, 2010 @ 2:48 PM | Reply

  9. If he doesnt want to leave the states….just send someoen to “sumpit” him with 1/4″ dose of the poison dart…otherwise torch his house! We as tax payer dont need any advice from expart on how to run our business….. so Sjotveit….get the hell out of the headhunter land…otherwise yours be next!

    Comment by Head Hunter2 — October 7, 2010 @ 11:34 AM | Reply

  10. Sjotveit is from Norway. They haven’t gone bankrupt. In fact they are one of the richest countries per-person in the world. Their wealth has come mainly from two sources, Oil & Gas (North Sea) and Hydro Power and Aluminium production. Both Hydrocarbons and Hydro power are available in Sarawak – I guess he thinks he can help out the Sarawakis and all Malaysians.

    But Norway has also built its wealth and stability on the back of sharing the benefits across all the population and making sure that everyone in the country understands how relocation of a population of people can provide benefits for those people as well as for the whole country.

    This cant be forgotten! And I think that today, the wealthy and powerful of Malaysia and Sarawak have not thought this through.

    Comment by Watcha ?? — October 7, 2010 @ 11:31 AM | Reply

  11. What a nut! Go home, Nazi lover.

    Comment by Bourgeois Revolution — October 7, 2010 @ 10:42 AM | Reply

  12. isn’t he from that place where the whole country went bankrupt a while ago…??? economic refugee? were questions asked when this guy landed in Swak some time ago.

    NOW we know why he is on board, he is here to lend credence to the “developments” in Sarawak, to endorse the continued stripping of Sarawak’s assets. A mouthpiece for his master.

    Comment by gong gong — October 7, 2010 @ 9:05 AM | Reply

  13. So now they are using Mat Salleh to bluff us ignorant natives. At US$1.2 million a year salary, do you know how many long houses can be built. For that kind of pay, I’ll even say that Taib is a god. What’s this guy credential anyway?

    Comment by apaijabu — October 7, 2010 @ 8:59 AM | Reply

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