Taib Mahmud-linked Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) claims Hydro Tasmania was "frustrated" with the factual inaccuracies flogged by its critics.
“This phased reduction has been planned from the beginning. It has not been influenced in any way by the regrettable misinformation campaign by foreign detractors,” SEB said alluding to a national level campaign launched in Australia two weeks ago to compel Australian government-owned Hydro Tasmania to withdraw its participation in the controversial development of dams in Sarawak.
The campaign, jointly organised by a coalition of Sarawak NGOs, Save Rivers, Swiss-based Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) and the Australian Greens, a political party in a formal alliance with the Australian Labor Party in the Tasmanian Parliament, mobilised Australians to pressure their government to force Hydro Tasmania to quit Sarawak after it was found that SEB, as the main contractor, had violated international standards on native rights and building requirements and sustainable environmental practices.
Hydro Tasmania was allegedly in the know of these irregularities.
The campaign appeared to have succeeded when earlier this week Hydro Tasmania CEO Roy Adair met with the NGOs and said that the company will withdraw from Sarawak by the end of 2013.
Adair also downplayed Hydro Tasmania’s involvement in the controversial RM3 billion Murum Dam project saying that it was not an “essential” partner in SEB as stated by later.
“Our role is diminishing and there is no plan to replace our current secondees… our secondees are reducing to four at the end of this year and the others will be phased out over the next 12 months,” he had said adding that the remaining personnel will fulfil their “contractual obligations” and return.
In a statement issued yesterday, a defensive SEB said: “The decline in the number of secondees from Hydro Tasmania is consistent with the gradual reduction in the total number of expatriates at SEB, from a peak of 19 in late 2011 to only 10 by mid December 2012.
“It was never intended by either party that the expats from Tasmania would remain in Sarawak indefinitely. In fact, the repatriation of Hydro Tasmania’s staff confirms the growing capacity of our local team.”
The statement further noted that since the middle of 2010, Hydro Tasmania had seconded up to 12 staff to SEB.
“The primary purpose of the secondments has always been to accelerate the development of the capabilities of the local team through the transfer of the knowledge and skills that Sarawak Energy (SEB) requires to implement its ambitious growth agenda.
“To put the secondments in their proper context, it should be noted that Sarawak Energy (SEB) has also hired more than 1,300 Sarawakians since 2010,” SEB said adding that as its “first phase of knowledge transfer comes to a close it was possible for seven of its original 12 secondees to return to Hydro Tasmani.”
“By mid-December 2012, the number of secondees will reduce to four.”
SEB also claimed that Hydro Tasmania were “frustrated over the factual inaccuracies” being issued by its critics which had “created confusion amongst stakeholders”.
Debunking SEB’s statement, online investigate portal Sarawak Report reported on Wednesday that “as late as last week Hydro Tasmania was indicating that these secondees ranged to as many as 12.”
“Provision has been made for up to 30 such personnel (this is in addition to the substantial team of Norwegians brought into SEB by CEO Torstein Sjotveit, who is paid over USD$4million a year).”
It also noted that key Tasmanian staff currently at SEB included Miles Smith (Vice President, Head of Planning and Strategy); Graeme Maher (Senior Manager, Hydropower Development); James Hannon (Senior Manager, Contracts) and Nick Wright (Vice President, Strategic Communications and CSR – responsible for Resettlement).
A the height of the lobbying in Australia last week, a leading engineer from Hydro Tasmania, Andrew Pattle, left his post.
A rattled Chief Minister Taib Mahmud went on to slam local NGOs and their foreign masters for sabotaging the state economy with their “web of lies and half truths”.
Taib is hellbent on going ahead with his plans to build 12 mega dams in Sarawak to support his pet peeve which is the Sarawak Corridor for Renewable Energy (SCORE).
Sarawak currently has Bakun and Batang Air dams which has displaced over thousands of indigenous natives. The state is yet to resolve pending issues with the communities.
Hydro Tasmania was linked to the Murum Dam development.