Take, for example, the case of Australian Senator Nick Xenophon. In a move to discredit him, a Malaysian newspaper reported, inaccurately, that Xenophon had made an anti-Islam speech in the Australian parliament. The report also carried comments on the issue from independent MP Datuk Seri Zahrain Mohamed Hashim (Bayan Baru, Penang).
Actually, in the 2009 speech, the South Australian had criticised Scientology.
An apology had to be made by the newspaper which had published the story without checking the facts and Xenophon, who was being criticised for defending the Bersih 3.0 protest, walked off smugly. He even arrogantly threatened to sue the newspaper.
If Zahrain had done his homework properly, he would have identified Xenophon for his long-standing and active campaign against Malaysian palm oil. He is hardly the hero that some Malaysians want to make him out to be.
Malaysians just need to Google to find out the number of economic sabotages Xenophon has carried out against the Malaysian palm oil industry.
The fact is that palm oil is the backbone of Malaysia’s commodities sector, earning a revenue of RM80bil last year alone, and 150 countries are using it in food and non-food products. This miracle tree puts food on the tables of over half a million workers, mostly in the rural areas where there are few or no alternative employment opportunities.
The rivals of our palm oil industry, especially US-based soy bean groups, once claimed that palm oil products were bad for health.
When that campaign flopped, they turned to purported deforestation and the killing of orang utans, which would surely have better emotive impact.
Web magazine Libertiamo.it has exposed European governments funding NGOs on environment issues, particularly those against palm oil producers. Never mind the fact that Malaysia has set aside more than half of its natural forests for conservation.
The study was aptly titled “Disarming The Green: Taxpayer Funding, NGO Collusion and Manufactured Crisis – A Case Study of Malaysia and Palm Oil”.
“EU-funded NGOs have elected to portray Malaysia and other developing countries as purveyors of environmental destruction, distorting facts and figures to suit their ambitions of complete dominance over economic development – establishing themselves as de facto regulatory bodies,” the study reported.
Rainforest Action Network and Greenpeace, for example, reportedly called for a complete end to the use of palm oil products.
A 2003 study found that RM16mil (US$5mil) was secured from major, principally US-based, foundations, to fund an NGO campaigning against biotechnology in Malaysia. The same NGO is said to be now campaigning against palm oil.
NGOs have also made claims that the palm oil industry is responsible for orang utan deaths. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), for example, is claiming that 1,000 orang utans are dying each year as a result of deforestation. None can produce the evidence, however.
Australia has been active in the orang utan campaign although it should be worried about what’s happening in its own backyard. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has said that Australia has the highest number of endangered animals in the world. In Australia, two-thirds of original forests have vanished, according to the Granby Zoo website.
The fact is that WWF International received RM140mil (US$44mil) in government grants and contracts, according to its 2010/11 financial year report. It received nearly RM20mil (US$6.5mil) from the European Commission.
A Malaysian environmental group was also named by the website as having received RM3.2mil (U$1mil) in 2011.
The reality is that trade wars are being waged in various forms now and heavily-financed NGOs along with their local affiliates are being roped in to fight the battles because the economic stakes are high.