Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, held in universal contempt and therefore needs no introduction, has characteristically come to Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s defence time-and-again in helping to fend off the incessant attacks against the latter for his unexplained and stupendous wealth. Taib needs no introduction either and for obvious reasons.
Simplistic as usual, Mahathir has in recent days declared Taib innocent as otherwise the authorities would have thrown the book at him. He attributes the stepped up attacks against Taib to the imminent 13th General Election which seems to always around the corner since the last two years.
Dr M's secret files
The defence of Taib comes after Mahathir declared that he had never heard of Projek Mahathir in Sabah to place illegal immigrants on the electoral rolls in the state with MyKads which may be either genuine – but the holder not being entitled to it -- or bogus. In the latter case, the details of the holder are not on record with the National Registration Department unlike in the former.
Both men have been safe so far from being incarcerated as laws in Malaysia are not enacted to be enforced but just in case they need to be enforced. Cases in point are those, on paper, against sodomy, fellatio and other carnal acts against the order of nature. Hence, public persecutors are “cleverly” disguised as public prosecutors.
In Taib’s case in particular, Mahathir laid down a Golden Rule while he was in office for 22 years as Prime Minister: any investigation file on a Barisan Nasional (BN) leader had to be sent to him personally for approval. No prizes for guessing that Mahathir locked away such files in a drawer until his own personal circumstances forced him to betray the suspect.
This was how Anwar Ibrahim, under Mahathir’s direction, was mercilessly dragged through the Court on Sodomy 1 and corruption charges. By the time of Sodomy II, Anwar was no longer a BN leader and the sycophants among the authorities fell all over themselves in pleasing the powers-that-be.
Abusing the system
Just as Mahathir hijacked the system, Taib has done likewise in Sarawak because he has a licence from Putrajaya to be corrupt as long as the state not only remains within the BN fold but within Malaysia.
So, on “national security” grounds, the separatist-minded non-Muslim Dayaks had to be kept out of the Chief Minister’s chair. Taib, Dayak as a Melanau, was nevertheless okay in the eyes of Putrajaya. He was a fellow Muslim who could be trusted to do the right thing for “bangsa, agama and negara”.
Both Mahathir and Taib, being birds of a feather, are locked in a death embrace. Their day of reckoning is coming sooner rather than later, and with good reasons too.
In Taib’s case, his fate is linked with the final death march of the Sarawak United People’s Party (Supp) which began on Sat 10, Dec 2011. The Chinese and the business community have completely turned away from the party. The party is not going to get an extended lease of life, to delay the inevitable, by grudgingly and finally electing a Dayak as the Deputy President. This is a party which has squatted on the Dayaks, the Bidayuh in particular, since its inception in 1961.
It will be interesting to see whether Taib can stave off the certainty that Supp will be decimated during GE 13.
Supp has joined the ranks of the Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) and the Sarawak Progressive Party (SPDP), both of which are powerless within the state BN. Wither the power-sharing formula so often preached by BN and the coalition’s spirit of give-and-take and arriving at decisions by consensus-and-compromise?
One-way street of take, take and take
The Chinese business community in Sarawak can be expected to bankroll anyone who can help them get rid of Taib. If they can get rid of Rahman in 1981, after he was just ten years in power, they can also do the same thing to Taib. The latter has learnt the bitter lessons from Rahman’s downfall but apparently not enough.
It has become a one-way street in Sarawak under Taib. He takes, and takes and takes. The others have to give in, give in and give in.
It’s not surprising that Taib’s family has been listed by The Sarawak Report, an NGO, as having directorships and stakes in nearly 400 companies in Sarawak, and conservatively estimated at US$ 5 billion. In short, they have a finger in every pie in Sarawak, a phenomenon due to the family members all having something upstairs, according to Taib in a media interview recently.
The US$ 5 billion figure is peanuts since Abdul Rahman Yakub, Taib’s predecessor and maternal uncle, once boasted during a public rally in the late 1970s that he (Rahman) was then worth US$ 7 billion. He was warning his listeners that he had enough money to buy them at a loss in politics and sell them at a profit.
One can only guess how much the Taib-Rahman family is really worth in ringgit and sen.
The secret of Taib’s wealth lies in stealing Native and state land, getting free shares in companies, and putting his hands in the state’s coffers under the guise of “politics of development”. Most of these ill-gotten gains have been spirited out of the state and salted away abroad.
Taib himself bragged during the said media interview that most of the family’s business interests – read ill-gotten gains -- are overseas because he “doesn’t want to be accused by opponents of using his position to feather his own nest”. The irony of it all!
When push comes to shove, the same BN controlled Putrajaya which protects Taib has to ditch him if they are to have at least a fighting chance to hang on to power in Parliament. The ruling Malay elite cannot afford to swim or sink with Taib.
“Janji janji manis”, “janji kosong” or janji Melayu”?
Taib solemnly promised on national television during the run-up to the state elections early last year that he would go and soon. It looks like now that he has reneged on his pledge in public. It will be interesting to see how he will explain his continued presence during the run-up to GE 13. Yet another “janji janji manis”, “janji kosong” or janji Melayu”?
In Mahathir’s case, it would be kinder not to comment.
Never has and never will such a twisted character ever walk this land.
It would be poetic justice when his enormous crimes against the people of Sabah are finally revealed for the entire world to see.
Mahathir has also been guilty on a national scale of hijacking the organs of state, doing away with the checks and balances inherent in the legislature, executive and judiciary, dipping his hands into the national cookie jar on behalf of his cronies and to fuel his politics of patronage and institutionalizing racism in the country as a national ideology of the ruling elite.
The punishment must fit the crime. In Mahathir’s case, as with Taib, there is no punishment as yet devised for the enormity of their crimes against the state and people, even if they were to be re-born several times over to be punished all over again.
Written by K Suresh Malaysia Chronicle