“This is Radio Free Sarawak”
In a flat above a restaurant in Covent Garden, an investigative reporter called Clare and a tribesman from Borneo covered in tattoos prepare to transmit their daily revolutionary radio broadcast deep into the Borneo jungle.
They make for an unlikely double act – she is a white, middle-aged Englishwoman, and he the proud grandson of a Dayak headhunter who broadcasts under the pseudonym Papa Orang Utan. Their aim is no less outlandish: to expose the alleged corruption of Taib Mahmud, chief minister of the Malaysian state of Sarawak on the island of Borneo 6,500 miles from London, and bring an end to his 30-year rule.
“This is Radio Free Sarawak,” begins Papa Orang Utan, donning his headphones to interview a village headman who has been forcibly removed from his land and who, quite remarkably, speaks to them on a mobile phone from the edge of the Borneo rainforest. Clare briefs Papa: “Make sure you ask if he knows that it’s chief minister Taib who has stolen their land? And get who he’ll be voting for!”
Until now the identity of the “pirates” behind Radio Free Sarawak has been a closely guarded secret – and for good reason. Scandal-plagued Taib, 74, is one of the world’s most ruthless and wealthiest men – richer allegedly than the Sultan of Brunei, whose independent country lies alongside – and locals who oppose him can feel the full force of his retribution.
But today is a watershed: the duo have bravely decided to out themselves ahead of the upcoming Sarawak elections, expected in April. Indeed, the Evening Standard can reveal that the mystery Englishwoman who set up Radio Free Sarawak four months ago and who brought out the tattooed tribesman – real name Peter John Jaban – to front her broadcasts is in fact Clare Rewcastle Brown, sister-in-law of former prime minister Gordon Brown.