By John Donovan
Malaysia appears to be a perfect operating environment for Royal Dutch Shell where it is a major business partner of the Malaysian government.
The climate of repression of the population (free speech is not permitted) and strict control of the news media is exploited by Shell Malaysia to the fullest extent.
Contrary to the impression created by recent manufactured news reports, Shell management has little regard for the health and safety of its Malaysian employees. Documents prove that management ignored safety warnings in relation to its helicopter fleet and allowed the safety of Shell employees to be compromised.
Its own employees have also found it necessary to bring lawsuits against Shell in relation to the pilfering of pension funds. A Malaysian High Court judge has already decided that Shell made unlawful deductions from one such employee retirement fund involving 399 former employees, many of whom are elderly, sick and dying. Despite this tragic background, Shell continues to ruthlessly drag out the relevant litigation.
In June 2004, eight Royal Dutch Shell companies collectively brought a defamation action in Malaysia against a former Shell geologist, Dr John Huong. Despite knowing within weeks that the case was founded on false information, the litigation has continued year after year without Shell ever allowing the main action to be heard. In the meantime, Shell is holding the threat of imprisonment over the head of Dr Huong for alleged contempt of court. The gangster tactics by Shell has understandably impacted on the health of Dr Huong who is unemployed and has no prospects of finding a job while the litigation continues to drag on, without an end in sight.
A wrongful dismissal claim against Shell by Dr Huong will resume in the Industrial High Court on 25 September. Dr Huong is alleging victimisation and that Shell has intimidated witnesses. It all sounds very familiar.
Thus the reality of Shell operations in Malaysia is far removed from the rosy picture painted by the positive news reports flowing from its PR propaganda machine.