The rainforest is gone - where did the logging revenues go?
This and other explosive questions are being investigated by the Rainforest Tribunal of Basel.
The Rainforest Tribunal is a political theatre with a chair, investigators, witness hearings and a high-profile jury. It serves to review real events and place them in a larger context.
After four decades of deforestation, the Indigenous Peoples of Sarawak (Malaysia) take stock and ask: Our forest is gone - where is the money?
Who is responsible for this environmental disaster? What are its consequences for people, nature and the climate? Who has profited from it? And what must be done to right this wrong?
Come to Basel (Switzerland) and hear what those affected by logging and leading experts have to say about the deforestation of the Borneo jungle!
Tuesday, 15 August 2023, 9am to 5pm Scala Basel, Freie Strasse 89, Basel (Switzerland)
For three decades, the Malaysian state of Sarawak in northern Borneo was the world's largest exporter of tropical timber. One of the oldest primeval forests on earth was cut down ruthlessly in the name of development and progress. Today, the primeval jungle has disappeared except for a few relics; almost the entire lowland rainforest has been replaced by oil palm plantations. Billions have been earned from logging and the export of tropical timber, but the Indigenous communities in the interior of Sarawak remain poor and face an uncertain future.
The loss of Sarawak's rainforest largely coincides with the tenure of strongman politician Abdul Taib Mahmud ("Taib") as Chief Minister of Sarawak (1981-2014). Taib consistently refused to accommodate the Penan protesting against logging and to recognise their land rights. The 87-year-old Taib now holds the office of Governor.
It is time to take stock and ask: Who has benefited from deforestation? Who has suffered? And where has all the money gone for which the valuable tropical timber was felled and exported all over the world?
The Rainforest Tribunal is being prompted by a civil lawsuit filed by Jamilah Taib Murray, Taib's daughter who lives in Canada, against the Bruno Manser Fonds. The lawsuit will be heard in public on the 16th of August at the Basel Civil Court. Taib Murray claims not to be affected by the allegations against her father, but persistently refuses to account for the origin of her assets, which amount to hundreds of millions of US-Dollars. The Bruno Manser Fonds has revealed that she never held a paid job and that her office and residential towers in Canada have continued to grow despite huge deficits. On the day before the Basel civil trial, to which no witnesses have been called, the Rainforest Tribunal addresses a number of questions that will not be clarified by the court.
The Rainforest Tribunal of Basel is a purely symbolic event to which guests from Sarawak and experts are invited to testify as witnesses before a staged tribunal. The Congo Tribunal by Swiss director Milo Rau served as a source of inspiration.