Several NGOs have demanded Australia’s Adelaide University to fully disclose its fundraising efforts with former Sarawak chief minister Abdul Taib Mahmud following revelations of the Taib’s past donations totalling A$400,000 (RM1.2 million).
Swiss NGO Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) said a Freedom of Information Act request by South Australian Greens MP Mark Parnell has forced the university to disclose the donations made between 1987 and 2006.
“The newly disclosed papers are showing that the university actively raised funds with the then Sarawak chief minister and helped conceal the origin of the funds.
“On request of Taib, the university publicly stated the donations had been made by ‘Sarawak Alumni’.
“Part of the donations went into Adelaide University’s Centre for Environmental Law. In 1994, the University awarded Taib an honorary PhD,” BMF said in a joint statement today with the Australian organisation Bob Brown Foundation, which is based in Hobart, Tasmania.
The foundation’s Jenny Weber called for the university to be fully transparent on its relationship with Taib ( photo ), who is now Sarawak governor.
“In particular, the university has to release the full correspondence regarding its 2002 fundraising effort with Taib,” Weber said in the joint statement.
Apart from awarding Taib an honorary PhD, then Adelaide University chancellor, Australian mining tycoon Robert Champion de Crespigny, planned to raise between A$1 million and A$4 million from Taib and offered the politician to name a university chair after him in 2002.
However, BMF said, the university refused to disclose documents related to that fundraising effort and a planned trip by the chancellor to Kuching, citing confidentiality obligations.
“In 2008, Adelaide University volunteered to name a plaza on its premises the “Taib Mahmud Chief Minister of Sarawak Court”, obviously in the hope that Taib would make further donations.
“Vice-Chancellor Warren Bebbington refused to confirm if the A$400,000 were the full amount Adelaide University had received or if Taib had made further donations."
Meanwhile, BMF’s Lukas Straumann said he expected the university to restitute the Taib donations to Sarawak.
“These are stolen assets, which Adelaide University never ought have accepted. This money is needed for rural development and the conservation of the rainforest and should be paid back,” Straumann stressed.
The former Sarawak chief minister’s family’s assets have been estimated at several billion US dollars.
In September, BMF disclosed that the Taib family had bought the Adelaide Hilton Hotel for A$28 million in 1993, through offshore trusts in the Isle of Man and the British Virgin Islands.
Malaysiakini has contacted the university and is awaiting its response on the matter.