Monday, April 18, 2011

Taib has also protected himself well by feeding any number of his lobbyists in Putrajaya.

Corrupt Barisan Nasional l Joe Fernandez
Politics in Sarawak is coming apart at the seams, again, after decades of being cast in a predictable mould.The signs are all there in the wake of the just-concluded state election.
There was a tragi-comical turn of events on Saturday night when Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud, 75, virtually forced the 85-year-old governor Luis Barieng Muhammad Salahuddin, a Muslim convert who has been in office for the second time since 2001, out of bed at 10.30pm and had himself hastily sworn in as chief minister for an unprecedented eight time. Barieng, a Melanau, is related to Taib.

Taib’s first remark, after receiving the appointment of office, was that “Sarawak was now safe”. Taib’s “new wife” from the Middle East, a 28-year-old former air stewardess who has been with him for over two years, promptly hugged him in support.
Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, meanwhile, has reiterated that Taib will step down as promised after the just-concluded state election. How soon is anybody’s guess since Taib appeared to have backtracked on the pledge on the eve of the state polls.
The theory that Najib would unleash the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) against Taib seems a bit far-fetched at the moment. Rosmah Mansor, Najib’s wife, is among Taib’s fans.
Taib has also protected himself well by feeding any number of his lobbyists in Putrajaya.
The appointment of the chief minister of Sarawak, as in Sabah, must be determined by the State Legislative Assembly and the governor in line with the state constitution.
Indeed, this would have been the case had not Taib, like his maternal uncle and predecessor Abdul Rahman Ya’kub, been the local proxies since 1970 for the ruling Malay elite in Putrajaya. This, they have managed to do effectively, by chopping up the majority Dayaks among several parties while keeping the minority Muslims united under Taib’s Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB).
The Chinese, likewise, were allowed to represent themselves solely through the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP). In addition, a number of Dayak seats were allotted to SUPP as part of the divide-and-rule tactics employed by Rahman-Taib against the rural vote bank in cahoots with Putrajaya.
Latent separatists

The Dayaks were effectively divided, weakened and further impoverished in the process through lack of effective political representation. The Dayaks have the numbers but not the strength. The idea stems from Umno’s ketuanan Melayu (Malay political supremacy) mindset and the need to keep Sarawak securely within the Malaysian federation and under Malay and Muslim rule. The Dayaks, like the Dusun in Sabah, are seen as latent separatists.
The strengthening of the Chinese and Malay position in the state assembly since 1970 was at the expense of the Dayaks. In recent years, the Taib government has been engaged in the systematic confiscation of native customary rights (NCR) land under one pretext or another as the Dayaks gradually degenerated into a servant class including principally as estate labour on land which they now no longer own.
Najib has reportedly indicated in private a preference for Abang Johari Tun Abang Openg, a Malay, to succeed Taib over the more senior Alfred Jabu Anak Numpang from the Dayak-based wing of Taib’s PBB. Taib is a Melanau, a Dayak community which has an equal number of Muslims, Christians and pagans.
The appointment of a Malay as chief minister by Putrajaya, in preference over a member of the Dayak majority community, is unlikely to go down well with the rural vote bank and in the Iban longhouses.
These are the same longhouses which, on April 16, totally rejected PKR as “a Melayu party from Malaya”.
PKR won only three seats: the largely-Iban Krian in a multiple contest which favoured it; Ba’Kelalan, an Orang Ulu seat, where Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian has some personal standing; and the Kuching Chinese seat of Batu Lintang, a gift from the DAP.
Taib suspects, not entirely without justification, that Johari is an elaborate ploy by Najib to bring in Umno into the state via the eventual dissolution and or deregistration of PBB. This would be a replay of the same 1990 script in neighbouring Sabah where the United Sabah National Organisation (Usno) had to make way for Umno “to save Sabah from the Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) and Christian rule”.
In the case of Umno’s entry into Sarawak,Taib’s family and the extended Melanau political Mafia in the state would, in the event of Umno’s entry, be effectively out of the reckoning in the state’s politics. In Sarawak, business and politics go together and, amidst allegations of widespread corruption, the Taib family and the extended Melanau political Mafia have been making hay while the sun is shining.
Charmed life

Taib has led a relatively charmed life – no pun intended – since the short-lived Ming Court affair hatched in Kuala Lumpur in 1987. Then, Malay legislators rose up against him for being, among others, too cosy with SUPP and the Chinese community. The Dayaks, led by Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS), didn’t take too long to jump on the Malay bandwagon of dissatisfaction.
Earlier, in late 1980, SUPP’s Chinese legislators forced out Rahman amidst allegations of his pro-Muslim bias, corruption, nepotism, forced conversions of many Christians to Islam and persecuting priests when not deporting them unceremoniously.
It was then prime minister Hussein Onn, Najib’s maternal uncle, who told Rahman to go or risk the consequences. Rahman went but not before he stage-managed a 50,000-strong public rally in support of him at the old airport in Kuching. He demanded the governor’s post (1981-1985) and the appointment of Taib as his successor. Rahman was not re-appointed as governor after strong lobbying by SUPP.
Taib’s intransigence, among others, has seen the Chinese community almost totally rejecting SUPP which stands accused of being complicit in his policies which distorts the economy and squats on the urban areas.
Even SUPP president Dr George Chan was trounced in his Piasau seat by giant-killer Leng Sie Kiong of DAP. Chan, whose daughter Anisa is married to Taib’s son Sulaiman, solemnly swore to quit after the 2006 losses but went back on his word. Now, the voters have decided for him despite pledging just days ago that he “would wake up – in echo of Lee Kuan Yew – from his grave” if anyone tries to harm Miri in any way.
SUPP will soon be running around like a chicken with its head cut off given Chan’s exit from the party. Except in Senadin and Bawang Assan, all the other Chinese seats at stake in the just-concluded Sarawak state election have fallen to the opposition.
SUPP, now reduced to being a mosquito party, failed to either defend or re-take 13 of the 19 seats where it contested. Twelve seats were lost to DAP and one to PKR in Batu Lintang in the Kuching division.
Another four other seats held by SUPP – Opar, Bengoh, Simanggang and Engkilili – are all actually Dayak seats. This must make everyone wonder whether SUPP has now become a Dayak party.
The dramatic decline of the anti-Dayak SUPP can be seen in the fact that while the party had 12 seats in 2006 and the DAP six, the results yesterday saw it exchanging places with the latter.
Political fallout
There will be major political fallout from the Chinese community’s complete rejection of Taib. He did not make matters easier either when he appeared to have second thoughts on the eve of state polls on his earlier pledge to step down within months if not weeks.
The Chinese, especially the younger generation, are no longer willing to accept Taib continuing to stay in office. They do not see the gross distortions in the economy, introduced by him, being removed as long as he is in office. The distortions include the fact that Taib, his family, relatives, friends and cronies have a finger in every economic pie in the state.
Najib would not be in any great hurry now to call for early general election to get his own mandate. He’s still piggy-backing the 2008 mandate secured by his predecessor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Najib must be thanking his lucky stars that he had not been persuaded by Taib to call for general elections at the same time as the state polls. Taib had claimed that simultaneous state-federal elections would help ease the terrible pressure exerted on him by the opposition.
There’s no guarantee that in the event of a 50:50 tie between the Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Rakyat in Peninsular Malaysia, come 2013 or earlier, that Taib would not offer his proxy services to de facto PKR chief Anwar Ibrahim. So, it may not be as simple as Najib shooing Taib away and going on to install someone else whom he favours in his place.
Already, Anwar – reputed to be an anti-Dayak, anti-Dusun, anti-Christian closet racist – deliberately fielded PKR candidates against the Sarawak National Party (SNAP) in 26 seats in order to favour the state BN, save PBB and keep the Dayaks away from the political mainstream.
SNAP, however, is the best, or rather only, bet in the opposition to dismantle PBB, free the Sarawak Democratic Progressive Party (SPDP) from “towkay” control and free Dayak politics from the vice-like grip of the local proxies for the ketuanan Melayu Umno in Putrajaya.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are putting your faith in SNAP after all but one of their candidates lost their deposit? You must be joking.