Victory for civil society as Adelaide University stops honouring Sarawak Governor Taib Mahmud

Victory for civil society as Adelaide University stops honouring Sarawak Governor Taib Mahmud

(ADELAIDE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) Adelaide University has surreptitiously decided to rename a plaza on its premises which had been named after Sarawak Governor Abdul Taib Mahmud, one of the University’s best donors. The move follows a two-year campaign by the Bruno Manser Fund and the Bob Brown Foundation which had pressured the University to stop honouring the Malaysian politician who has been accused of having benefited from illegal logging of tropical rainforests in the Malaysian state of Sarawak in Borneo.

The University had come under fire from civil society and the Australian Greens over its relationship with Taib Mahmud, from whom it had raised at least 400,000 Australian dollars in personal donations, an amount exceeding by far the Malaysian politician’s official income. In 2008, the University named a plaza after the politician "to show its appreciation of his significant support” and “personal generosity".

Australian Greens MP Park Parnell, who had brought up the issue in the South Australian Parliament in 2015, welcomed the move but criticized the University for their lack of transparency in their dealings with Taib Mahmud. University spokesperson Lachlan Parker confirmed that the University Council "some months ago decided to rename the court (…) the Colombo Plan Alumni Court. Signage is currently being amended to reflect the decision."

The Bruno Manser Fund and the Bob Brown Foundation call on Adelaide University to pay back the AUD 400,000 received from Taib Mahmud. In November 2015, indigenous Penan community leaders from Sarawak sent a letter to Vice Chancellor Warren Bebbington asking the University to pay back all the funds received from Taib Mahmud as the money was urgently needed for the development of Sarawak’s rural communities and for rainforest conservation. The University never replied to the letter.


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