By Chris Lang
On 9 February 2022, the State Attorney General for Sabah put out a press statement in which she described the proposed two-million-hectare Nature Conservation Agreement “legally impotent”. Ten days later, the New Straits Times reported Sabah’s Deputy Chief Minister Jeffrey Kitingan as saying that “everything is good” with the NCA.
REDD-Monitor has written four posts about this carbon trading deal, that was signed in secret in October 2021. Sabahans first learned about the deal in a November 2021 article by John C. Cannon on Mongabay.
Kitingan’s memory loss
Kitingan appears to have completely forgotten about the more than US$1 billion in timber rent that went missing from the Sabah Foundation while he was director. In 1994, Price Waterhouse carried out an audit at the request of Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
Kitingan told Al Jazeera that he had never witnessed such an audit during his time at the Sabah Foundation. He heard about “the insinuation” from Mahathir.
“But since it was raised up again, I have requested the Sabah Foundation to give me all the audit reports while I was the director of the Sabah Foundation,” Kitingan told Al Jazeera.
Kitingan has no doubt also forgotten that, as US researcher David Brown wrote in his PhD dissertation,
From the late 1980s to the mid-1990s, Jeffrey Kitingan was repeatedly incarcerated, or held under house arrest, by the national government, and was investigated for 19 counts of corruption related to his position at the head of the Sabah Foundation.
“It is going good”
New Straits Times reports Kitingan as saying that,
“It is going good. Those who make noise, they do not understand or because they have some personal or private interests, that is why they said something.
“Actually nothing is not good, everything is good, the only thing is that we do not open about it earlier.”
Kitingan was asked about a report written by David Burslem of the University of Aberdeen and Glen Reynolds, director of the South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership. The report, titled, “Technical and financial impediments to the viability of the Nature Conservation Agreement”, states that,
It has been stated that the NCA will operate in up to two million hectares of pre-existing TPAs [Totally Protected Areas]. This constitutes the entirety of Sabah’s current TPAs. The carbon stored in trees in pre-existing TPAs would not meet additionality criteria and would not be saleable under the NCA.
Carbon accumulation as a result of the natural regeneration of forests within existing TPAs, such as the recovery of previously logged forests without active restoration, would have occurred in the absence of the project. This is not additional and would also not be saleable through the NCA.
It seems Kitingan didn’t get past the title of the report. New Straits Times reports Kitingan as responding to the report by saying that, “We won’t do it if it is not bringing in revenue, right now we have zero revenue on carbon. Anything comes in from nothing, it is good, right?”
Chief Minister instructed Kitingan
So we are now confirmed that Kitingan is indeed the man responsible for this entire scandalous state of affairs. He drove through the secret ‘negotiated’ contract that was NOT put to tender nor any form of consultation either. He CHOSE the private company Hoch Standard with whom this deal that is so contrary to the interests of the people of Sabah was made.
And Sarawak Report asks Kitingan perhaps the most important question behind this shambolic carbon deal:
So, Mr Kitingan, who is the anonymous shareholder of Hoch Standard, namely the beneficial owner of Lionsgate in the British Virgin Islands? If anyone knows the answer it has to be you.