Jika selama ini nama Abdul Taib Mahmud, Ketua Menteri Sarawak tidak pernah didengar mahupun dikenali oleh warga Oxford, semalam 26 July mereka telah mendengar dan mengetahui siapa Abdul Taib Mahmud.
Beliau dijadualkan akan tiba melalui pintu hadapan dan disambut oleh naib chancellor Universiti tersebut untuk memberikan ucapan perasmian conference yang berlangsung selam dua hari itu, malangnya protest yang telah diadakan telah menyebabkan beliau terpaksa dibawa masuk melalui pintu belakang.
Oxford Demonstration Against Taib
Monday, July 26th,
If the people of Oxford had not heard of Abdul Taib Mahmud, Chief Minister of Sarawak, until today, they certainly know all about him now.
His visit, tied to Sarawak’s heavy sponsorship of the Said Business School’s ‘Inaugural Global Islamic Branding and Marketing Forum’, was supposed to buy him credibility.
In the event it ended up as a public relations disaster, as his reputation preceded him and was stuck up on banner headlines by protesters outside.
Even though it is the sleepy summer holiday period, a colourful crowd of demonstrators descended on the School to express their outrage that the University should have welcomed such a man and accepted such dubious sponsorship from the Timber Industry of Sarawak.
The local press was soon on the scene, followed by Malaysian news teams, who had clearly been brought along to puff up the Chief Minister’s profile.
Even the flunkies could not ignore a demo like this and they were soon filming, taking notes and conducting interviews.
Panic and concern was soon evident amongst the organisers, who called the police and sent an army of Special Branch officers to photograph the protesters, who were banned from entering the building by anxious bouncers.
The School, clearly taking no risks, had hired a phalanx of extra personnel to protect their awkward guest and to block entry to the clearly highly-respectable gathering of locals and some Malaysians who had come to explain to Oxford exactly what they were dealing with.
Many reminded the organisers that the criminals were the ones inside, while the people outside were lawfully making a very valid protest.
The forest of banners said it all. “Taib Mahmud Declare The Source Of Your Wealth”, “How Much Forest Is Left?”, “Respect Native Customary Rights”, ”Stop Sexual Harassment and Rape of Penan Women and Children”, “Save Sarawak”, “The EU banned illegal timber, Why won’t you sign the VPA?” and much more.
Passers-by were handed leaflets and a string of civil society groups meanwhile coordinated across Britain to produce and sign a declaration of protest that is now being handed to Oxford University. One organisation, Forests Monitor, stated: