Pressure is mounting against Sarawakian logging giant Ta Ann Holdings Bhd in Australia, after the country's Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) aired a two-part programme yesterday highlighting Ta Ann's operations in Tasmania.

"This is a nasty company, which has had the ability to destroy the universe of their fellow Sarawakians, the indigenous peoples of Sarawak.

bob brown australian senator"Please don't ask me to sympathise with a company that can do that, then comes to Tasmania, has not spoken to the people of Tasmania, has not been involved in the environmental debate in Tasmania,

"But (instead) locks in behind doors with a few senior politicians and loggers and signs a contract to rip out the wild and scenic ancient forests of Tasmania," former Australian Greens Party senator Bob Brown (above) is quoted saying in the programme.

The 30-minute programme is part of the broadcaster's Dateline current affairs show aired last night, and is available online.

It says Ta Ann's subsidiary, Ta Ann Tasmania (TAT), has a 20-year contract with the government regulator Forestry Tasmania to log eucalyptus trees, which it uses to produce wood veneer flooring panels for the Japanese market.

The programme also quotes environmental activists accusing Ta Ann of misrepresenting its products as being eco-friendly, whereas some of the wood had come from old growth forests.

50 percent of Japanese market lost

Following this, they successfully persuaded two of Ta Ann's clients to stop purchasing its products, but also resulted in 50 TAT employees being retrenched.

"Yeah, we have lost up to 50 percent of our markets in Japan as a direct result of the actions of (activist) Jenny Weber and Markets for Change, who have spread misinformation and lies about the company," TAT executive director Evan Rolley says in the online presentation.

"(They) have threatened the market that if they continue to purchase from Tasmania, they would unleash a significant campaign against the companies using our products. This effectively amounts to blackmailing international companies against a product produced here in Tasmania."

While acknowledging that Forestry Tasmania does not have enough plantation and regrowth timber to fulfil Ta Ann's logging contract, Rolley defended the product's green credentials, saying that each tree felled was replanted.

Rolley was the head of Forestry Tasmania at the time the deal with Ta Ann was inked.

NONEAlso featured in the programme are Ta Ann chairperson Abdul Hamed Sepawi (left), who is a cousin of Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud.

Hamed says the old growth forest constitutes only about five percent of the trees logged in Australia, and expressed confidence in the island-state's forest management practices.

He was also interviewed in his capacity as chairperson of Sarawak Energy Board, which has engaged Tasmanian state-owned company Hydro Tasmania as a consultant for several dam projects in the state, including the controversial Bakun Dam.

In addition, a number of indigenous peoples, who were allegedly pressured out of their native lands in Sarawak with little notice or compensation to make way for the dams or Ta Ann's logging projects are also interviewed.

"There is a very worrying relationship between the exploiters of Tasmania and the exploiters of Sarawak, whether it is forest or whether it is damming wild and magnificent rivers," Brown notes.

In a related development, an online petition took off this afternoon, urging Hydro Tasmania to withdraw from the dam projects in Sarawak and to cut its ties with the allegedly corrupt Taib government.