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Ex-British PM’s relative behind Radio Free Sarawak

 | February 23, 2011

Radio Free Sarawak, which has gained extensive ground in rural Sarawak with its stories about Chief Minister Taib Mahmud's plundering ways, has finally revealed its owners.

KUALA LUMPUR: Until a few hours ago, the identities of those behind Radio Free Sarawak (RFS) were a closely-guarded secret.

Now a British tabloid has unmasked the duo as Clare Rewcastle Brown, the sister-in-law of former British prime minister Gordon Brown, and Peter John Jaban, the grandson of a Dayak headhunter.

London-based RFS was launched last November on the promise of bringing alternative news to the people of Sarawak.

Controversial blogger, Raja Petra Kamarudin, came on board as a regular contributor a month later.

According to news tabloid, Evening Standard, Rewcastle Brown, 51, was born in Sarawak to British parents and lived in the region until she was eight.

She returned 38 years later and was shocked by the extent of the deforestation taking place in the rainforest.

It was while covering a 2008 by-election there that she met Jaban, 46, and proposed that he become the voice of RFS.

In her interview with the tabloid, Rewcastle Brown, who is also the author of the blog Sarawak Report said: “I use my blog and broadcasts to expose the outrageous deforestation which has seen 95% of Sarawak’s rainforest cut down and replaced by logging and palm oil plantations which have enriched Taib and his family.”

“What’s more, my investigations indicate some of the Taib family money is right here in London and includes a lucrative property portfolio in the heart of our capital. My work is about giving the 2.5 million oppressed people of Sarawak a choice.”

She said Taib and his family also had property empires in Canada, the US and the UK and that Taib derived his funds by “selling off rainforests” and channelling some of the money “through the British Virgin Islands”.

Death threats

Rewcastle Brown further explained that her decision to go public followed death threats on the Sarawak Report website and the mysterious death of her chief whistleblower and Taib’s former US aide, Ross Boyert, last December.

Jaban, who goes by the moniker Papa Orang Utan, meanwhile expressed pain at having to leave his family behind but asserted that he was prepared to “die for this cause”.

“In the days of my grandfather, you had to bring a decent clutch of heads as a sign of your masculinity when you got married…

“Today things have changed but you still have to be a man,” he was quoted as saying.

While Rewcastle Brown acknowledged the high likelihood of Taib intimidating the voters during the next Sarawak election, she also believed that RFS had had a huge effect on Sarawakians and that there was a strong movement towards change.

Her words were confirmed by prominent Dayak-Iban social activist and blogger John Brian Anthony.

“A change is definitely taking place and it’s very real,” he told FMT.

“RFS has brought about a sharp awareness among the people here. These days they are talking about topics that they would not normally discuss like abuse of power, Taib’s wealth and NCR land.

“I’m taken aback at how much public perception has changed recently in both the urban and rural areas. And those in the urban areas are now looking to those in the rural areas to supply them with information on what is really going on in the Sarawak interiors.”

Angry government

John, who is behind the Dayakbaru.com blogsite, added that those who were able to receive the RFS frequency were loyal listeners.

A group of activists distributed CDs of the shows podcasts to those who weren’t able to tune in.

“The Dayaks especially are very audio-inclined people what with their extensive oral history.

“The fact that Peter (Jaban) speaks fluent Iban is also a big plus point.

“So now we have Sarawak natives coming forward to share their personal stories with RFS,” he said.

When asked about the Taib administration’s reaction, John laughed: “They are very angry of course.

“Just a few days back two activists were arrested for distributing the CDs but they were released without charge because the content was issue-based and not anti-government.”


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