KUCHING, Aug 16 — Norwegian Datuk Torstein Dale Sjotveit will be stepping down as Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) CEO at the end of October when his contract expires.
His replacement from November 1 will be Malaysian Sharbini Suhaili, currently the Petronas group vice-president for health, safety, security and environment, SEB chairman Datuk Hamed Sepawi confirmed today.
“When Datuk Torstein informed us of his decision in 2015, we were saddened but it is a decision we must respect.
“I also informed the state government and the chief minister who were surprised and saddened to hear that Torstein did not wish to renew his contract, but respected his intention to leave,” Hamed said in a statement.
Sjotveit has held the position since November 2009 and had been repeatedly criticised by a Swiss conservation organisation, the Bruno Manser Fund (BMF), over his involvement in the state government’s plans to build 20 mega dams in Sarawak.
BMF had accused the 61-year-old of personally driving the Baram Dam agenda that angered indigenous communities when he participated in a controversial “miring” ceremony to “bless” the dam in April 2012.
“He failed to develop a thorough understanding of the indigenous communities’ rights and needs and obviously underestimated their resolve in stopping the Baram dam,” BMF said in a statement.
It also claimed the Norwegian’s contract was not renewed because he had failed to gain the trust of Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem’s decision to cancel the plans for the 1200MW Baram Dam.
However, Adenan refuted BMF’s allegation that the state asked Sjotveit to leave the state-owned utility company.
“He doesn’t want his contract to be renewed. He wants to go home. That is all,” the chief minister told reporters here.
“The claims by Bruno Manser Fund, a Swiss-based non-governmental organisation, is not true,” he added.
Late last year, Adenan announced that the state government had decided to put on hold the construction of the dam, a key project of Sjotveit’s plans for Sarawak’s enforced energy development.
Last March, the state government finally decided to cancel the construction of the dam after strong protests from the affected communities in Baram.
SEB had spent millions of ringgit to conduct various studies on the site of the dam, despite facing the strong protests.
About 20,000 indigenous people from 26 villages and settlement would be displaced and large areas of tropical rainforest submerged if the dam is built.