ADELAIDE UNIVERSITY has bowed to pressure from conservation groups to remove the name of controversial Sarawak State Governor Abdul Taib Mahmud from a plaza on its campus.
Taib Mahmud’s ongoing links with deforestation and massive corruption in the Malaysian state has prompted the university to rename the ‘Taib Mahmud Court’ to the ‘Columbo Plan Alumni Court’.
While the university and the Malaysian politician have remained silent on the name change, the Bruno Manser Funds and Bob Brown Foundation said deleting the name of Taib Mahmud is “a victory for civil society”.
The two groups began the campaign to have Taib’s name removed two years ago. The Bruno Manser Funds also asked the university to give the AUS$400,000 (US$298,767) in donations it received from Taib Mahmud to the indigenous people of Sarawak and Borneo, who have been displaced by a large-scale logging and deforestation.
Australian Greens MP Park Parnell brought up the issue in the South Australian Parliament in 2015. He welcomed the latest development, but criticized the university for the lack of transparency in its dealings with Taib Mahmud.
University spokesman Lachlan Parker confirmed that the University Council decided some months ago to rename the space to the ‘Colombo Plan Alumni Court’. Signage has been put up to reflect the decision.
The Bruno Manser Fund and the Bob Brown Foundation called on to the university to stop honoring the Malaysian politician, who has been accused of corruption, money-laundering, and plunder of the tropical rainforests in the Malaysian state of Sarawak in Borneo.
Taib Mahmud studied at Adelaide University under the postwar Columbo Plan. He was honored as an outstanding alumnus in 2008 and the Taib Mahmud Court was named in his honor. Taib Mahmud has been chief minister of Sarawak since 1981, a position which he allegedly used to further his business empire, displacing indigenous communities through illegal logging activities.