Taib - unwilling to let go
The Sarawak state election is now expected to be held after Chinese New Year in 2011 rather than November this year. But despite the shift in expectations, interest is intensifying because the results will shed light on when Prime Minister Najib Razak will call for the 13th national elections which could see Malaysia’s first change in federal government in five decades.
“It no longer matters now whether the Sarawak polls will happen this year or after Chinese New Year next year because either way it is very close - less than 12 months to go,” PKR Sarawak chief Batu Bian told Malaysia Chronicle.
“Taib may have to backpedal because he is so unpopular. But the longer he waits, the better it is for Pakatan Rakyat. It gives us more time to fine-tune our machinery and I think by now Taib also knows the stories about his corruption won’t go away. In fact, the revelations will only grow stronger rather than reduce.”
Sarawak Chinese to lead the push for change
Indeed, talk that Chief Minister Taib Mahmud was considering stepping down to strengthen the BN’s chances of shutting out rival coalition, Pakatan Rakyat, has already faded and exposed as a “sandiwara or show” to appease the federal government. Baru and other pundits had predicted this.
According to them, Kuala Lumpur considers Taib a political liability and want him to retire before holding Sarawak’s 10th state election. But the wily and powerful Taib fought back. In the past weeks, one Sarawak BN leader after another appealed to him to stay, and it culminated with his Parti Pesaka Bumipuera issuing its formal backing for him to continue leading the state.
Over the weekend, Taib, who is the president of PBB, the backbone of Sarawak BN, told reporters he has already identified 70 per cent of the candidates for the coming state election.
He also had a highly publicized talk with Dr George Chan, the chief of the Chinese-based SUPP, after which both men declared all “Chinese-related issues have been resolved”.
“I have helped the Chinese in a general way. Don’t tell me that the Chinese have not benefited from our general prosperity,” Taib said.
But the Chinese community in Sarawak is unlikely to be appeased by either men. Like their counterparts in the peninsula, only a select group of Chinese tycoons with links to Taib and his inner circle have benefitted.
The majority have to grapple with poor infrastructure, job and educational opportunities. They are also alarmed at the rate the state’s wealth is being plundered by their leaders. In particular, the allegations against Taib and his family are the most widespread and entrenched in their minds.
As such, the Chinese are expected to lead the vote against the BN in the coming state polls. There is also growing unhappiness amongst Sarawak’s other ethnic groups towards Taib and his cronies. The grouses of these communities echo those of the Chinese.
Sarawak, Sabah to change the course of Malaysia's history
Sarawak has more than 40 sub-ethnic groups, each with its own distinct language, culture and lifestyle. Cities and larger towns are populated predominantly by Malays, Melanaus, Chinese and a smaller percentage of Ibans and Bidayuhs, who have migrated from their villages for employment reasons. Sarawak is rather distinctive from the rest of Malaysia in that there is only a small community of Indians living in the state.
The Dayak-Iban form 34 percent of the state’s population of more than 2 million. The Chinese are the next biggest group at 26 percent, Malays and Melanu at 21 percent, the Bidayuh 10 percent while the Orang Ulu make up the balance.
“There is a very encouraging trend now in Sabah and Sarawak. There is a greater awareness there contrary to the mainstream media interpretation. There are people there who actually want change and justice and they want to defend their rights to their land. If this is the trend, then Sabah and Sarawak will determine the future of the nation,” Anwar told reporters after returning from his recent trip to East Malaysia.