Norwegian manager accused of duping Borneo natives
Friendly face, ugly policies: Torstein Dale Sjotveit, CEO of Sarawak Energy
(KUCHING, MALAYSIA) Torstein Dale Sjotveit, the Norwegian CEO of Sarawak Energy Bhd (SEB), a state-owned Malaysian power supplier, has come under fire for systematically withholding information on the implementation of twelve planned dams in the East Malaysian state of Sarawak on Borneo.
Despite demands from local communities and opposition politicians for full transparency over the Sarawak dam plans, Sarawak Energy is deliberately and systematically pushing forward its dam plans under a cloud of secrecy. According to official plans, the twelve dams are to be completed by 2020 despite growing criticism over a power glut caused by the recent completion of the 2400 MW Bakun dam, Asia’s largest hydropower project outside China.
Native communities affected by the 900 MW Murum dam, which is currently under construction, complain that they have never been properly informed on this project which will cause the displacement of thousands of locals. The Murum construction site has been sealed off from the public and no journalists have ever been allowed to visit the site. It is an open secret that the dam is being constructed by a workforce of thousands of Chinese workers brought to Sarawak by contractors from mainland China.
The 1000 MW Baram dam, another mega project soon to be started, is being pushed forward in massive violation of the affected communities’ basic right to information. The locals are being kept in the dark in order to stifle potential opposition against the dam, which will cause the flooding of large tracts of the Borneo rainforest and the displacement of over 20,000 indigenous people.
“Mr. Sjotveit’s conduct is appalling and absolutely inacceptable”, the Bruno Manser Fund wrote in a statement. “In Norway, he would be charged for fraud for deliberately misleading the public in such a deceitful way.” With an annual salary of 1.2 million US dollars, Siotveit is one of Malaysia’s best-paid executives. He works under Hamed Sepawi, the first cousin of Sarawak’s extremely corrupt Chief Mininster, Taib Mahmud.
The Bruno Manser Fund calls on Sarawak Energy to release all relevant information on the dam plans to the public, including maps, feasibility studies, project finances and resettlement plans.