Tuesday, January 21

BLD questions Sarawak Report’s allegations against oil palm plantations

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KUCHING: BLD Plantation Bhd has reminded The Sarawak Report (SR) that to accuse a company of ‘thrashing’ the lives of any group of people through their report, is a serious accusation.

Its Executive Director Wan Abdillah Hamid said such reports must be backed up by proof obtained from first-hand investigation without which these would be “mere ‘gutter journalism’ by organisations and news portals out to score cheap points to move a few notches up in the good books of their sponsors”.

Wan Abdillah said this in response to the latest reply from SR and also noted that SR had not responded to BLD’s report on its peat soil palm plantations which proved the validity of the report.

The spat between BLD and SR started when the news portal published a press statement from a NGO Friends of Orang Utan (FOTO) on Feb 25 entitled “BLD Plantation continues to destroy Sarawak peat forest” in which FOTO named BLD to be responsible for peat forest destruction in Igan area to set up its oil palm plantation and ‘thrashing the lives of the natives landowners’ in the area by taking over their Native Customary Rights (NCR) land .

In response, Wan Abdillah wrote an article “Resorting to one-sided reports, lies to run down plantation and timber companies” published by The Borneo Post on March 6, on the series of involvement of BLD in its Igan plantation projects before lambasting SR for biased reporting.

SR, in its reply pointed out the business relationship between KTS Group, BLD and The Borneo Post, and that Wan Abdillah is the Executive Director of BLD.

The full text of SR response is as follows:

The Borneo Post ran this major thundering front page article, followed by an inside spread, over the weekend, which lambasted Sarawak Report and other NGOs for “biased reporting” and “poor journalism”.

Perhaps in the interests of good journalism The Borneo Post ought itself to have declared the interest of its ownership in the matter?

Because, of course, the Borneo Post is owned by the self-same KTS, which also happens to be the owner of BLD Plantations, the subject of the reports so criticised by the Post’s verbose and angry writer!

Moreover, a quick check into the identity of this writer, one Wan Abdillah bin Wan Hamid reveals that, far from being an objective reporter on the staff of the Borneo Post, he is in fact the Executive Director of that self-same BLD Plantations!

No mention of this staggering conflict of interest is made at any point in this lengthy diatribe against Sarawak Report, Germany’s Rainforest Rescue, Friends Of The Orangutans (FOTO) and the local campaigners, who have been sticking up for the native landowners, whose lives have been illegally trashed by BLD.

What more sorry illustration of the fact that Sarawak continues to be controlled by a crony political and business partnership, where concessions and media licences are handed out to friends for favours?

One of the most visible pals of the supposedly reforming Adenan Satem is none other than than the boss of KTS Henry Lau, who plainly thinks he can use a newspaper in such a high-handed and frankly stupid way.

It is a shame also for those genuine journalists, struggling to make The Borneo Post a credible news source for their readers.

In face of latest personal attack, Wan Abdillah said he had no intention to hide his identity nor the relationship between KTS, BLD and The Borneo Post.

“KTS does not hide the fact that it has a stake in BLD and that it owns The Borneo Post. The writer of the article mentioned by Sarawak Report is indeed the Executive Director of BLD.  I have used my full name as the writer of the article which shows BLD and KTS have nothing to hide or fear,” said Wan Abdillah.

He went back to SR’s first report on BLD, questioning the accuracy of FOTO press statement which SR reported.

“The report mentioned a local activist Matek anak Geram of SADIA who claimed he and Upreshpal Singh of FOTO had been on the ground and could substantiate ‘the widespread damage wrought by these companies’.

“What did they see? Swathes of barren land with destitute local landowners living in hovels and shacks?

“Perhaps in their quest to look for waste lands and natives begging for food and aid they somehow missed the rows of neatly planted oil palm trees and the local communities living in well constructed longhouses or individuals homes who depend on jobs, contracts and other spin-offs of the plantations and their mills for a living.

“Are they aware that many native landowners have also planted palm oil on their own plots of land and sell their fruits to the mills owned by KTS and BLD?

“Did Matek and Upreshpal spoke to these people to find out about their thoughts on the palm oil industry in Sarawak which is giving them a chance to make a decent living and even turning some of them into millionaires?”

“Ironically it is likely that many of the people who protested against KTS and BLD actually benefit from their ventures through employment and other spin-offs.

“Their grouse is their claim on part of the land acquired by the two companies from the state government.

“It seems to NGOs and activists like Upreshpal and Matek whenever there was a contest by native land claimants against plantation and timber companies the landowners were always right even before the court could make decision,” said Wan Abdillah.

He said SR, which has been lofting the banner of ‘sticking up for native landowners’ has given its reporters a licence to hurl twisted reports and blatant lies against oil palm plantation and timber companies like KTS and BLD.

“This news portal is hiding behind the impunity of vague legal liabilities of news portals operating from outside Malaysia in its reckless reports against companies like BLD and KTS and revels in the controversy and notoriety it generates through such reports,” said Wan Abdillah.