Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Adelaide University's Shame

The University of Adelaide has been criticized for accepting huge donations from Sarawak's billionaire Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud. A South-East Asian governance expert Gregore Lopez at the Australian National University said on March 15, 2011 that it was "highly inappropriate" for the university to accept donations from a notorious kleptocrat who is said to be one of South-East Asia’s richest and most corrupt politicians. He claimed: “You just have to look at what the natives of Sarawak are going through. Their native land, the forests, is being logged illegally. That is how he [Taib] makes his billions" (Webpage, posted March 16, 2011).

Taib is under increasing international scrutiny for allegedly making billions of dollars by selling rainforest assets from the resource-rich Malaysian state of Sarawak. The university has refused to reveal how much money they had accepted from Taib, a law graduate from Adelaide in 1961.

However, Australia’s The Advertiser understands he has donated more than half a million dollars. Taib has consistently denied that his family wealth has been sourced from Sarawak state government contracts, mostly involving logging. Taib made his first donation to the university in 1987, six years after he became Chief Minister. In 1994 he received an honorary doctorate from Adelaide. In 2001, Taib donated $300,000 – more than double his annual salary – to the University. In 2008, Adelaide University named a key space on the university premises the “Taib Mahmud, Chief Minister of Sarawak Court.” On that occasion, Vice-Chancellor and President James McWha thanked Taib for his "personal generosity" that "has continued in many ways over the years".

An international environmental group, the Swiss Bruno Manser Fund have called for Vice-Chancellor James McWha to resign – and follow the lead of London School of Economics and Political Science's director Sir Howard Davies, who stepped down for accepting donations from Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi. Thus far, he has resisted the call. But it is brazenly shameless that Adelaide University, which claims to be "one of Australia's oldest and finest universities", has accepted ill-gotten funds from an obviously criminal Malaysian politician. I sure hope the university isn't teaching any course in Business Ethics!

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