While such longevity speaks volumes of Taib's political astuteness, it also screams at the calcification of BN Sarawak.
The SUPP has a proud history of steering an independent and uniquely Sarawakian position both at the state level and the national stage. Idealistic Ong Kee Hui and Stephen Yong founded SUPP and narrowly steered the party through the Communist challenge. They opposed the formation of Malaysia. Later, upon being persuaded by Tun Razak and BN, they pragmatically joined the BN fold. But, three decades later, the SUPP has lost touch with the Chinese community. It's leadership generally carry an arrogant sneer when meeting with the rakyat.
The Dayak community has deliberately been kept in a lost world by the persistent and consistent loss of potential leaders who are co-opted into the world of largesse offered by Taib and BN Sarawak. The Dayak leaders in BN Sarawak voluntarily undergo a political neutering process, trading the rights and honour of their own community in favour personal gains, political and economic. Truly, early leaders like Stephen Kalong Ningkan would weep for the Dayak community that has never recovered from the sacking of Ningkan as Chief Minister.
The Fernandez piece in Malaysiakini reflects the growing restiveness of Sarawak's various communities who are increasingly aware that they are disenfranchised and, in many ways, betrayed by BN Sarawak leaders who have become callous towards the needs of the ordinary rakyat. Read the Malaysiakini piece in full below:
Except for one studied reaction from a political secretary to Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud, all the others in a selected SMS sampling of several key opinion leaders in Sarawak agreed wholeheartedly with Kuching MP Chong Chieng Jen that the former sooner rather than later. should step down
The opinion leaders sampled covered members of parliament, state assemblypersons, political secretaries and senior party activists, all from the ruling BN component parties.
“It’s naïve to think that the chief minister’s coming or going is at the call of an opposition MP or several MPs,” went the only response that seemed to veer towards Taib. Like the others polled, he wanted his name kept out of the public limelight.
Another who had watched the interview and was queried on this reply, responded: “Yes. But what he (Chong) said is very damaging. Others will use the interview to whack Taib with it. The incestuous role of CMS is being queried.”
“True also. The truth is Taib’s critics have no plan of their own for the governance of Sarawak . . . . and no resources,” said a senior party activist in PBB (Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu), Taib’s party.
Asked what he meant by resources, he replied: “Resources for the fight to take over the government.”
What's his excuse to stay on?
The fact that the Taib family is well-heeled is in no doubt, a point repeatedly stressed by Chong in his appearance on the ‘Uncensored’ talk show hosted by Malaysiakini editor Francis Paul Siah. The show was recorded on Thursday.
Short of labeling Taib as extremely corrupt, Chong pointed out that the chief minister can be accused of improper dealings and getting caught in conflict of interest situations in feathering his own nest in the years he has been in power.
“Wow!” was the response from a senior state cabinet minister. He added that his silence to a renewed query can be taken as a sign that he agrees with Chong but on condition that his name was not revealed.
A third response: “What he said is an understatement of the decades that Taib has been in power.”
“It will eventually become really embarrassing,” said a state assemblyman from a rural seat. “What’s his excuse to stay on? He should leave it to the younger generation. I think that it’s now a race between Taib, Samy Vellu and Pairin to see who can stay on the longest. My guess is that Taib will be the last to go, fortunately or unfortunately, and probably Samy the first.”
One was hopeful for the future: “I don’t think that the tsunami will come to Sarawak. But you can never tell.”
Other responses were along similar lines although there were some who simply responded: Ha Ha Ha.
It’s anyone’s guess what such responses mean. It could either mean that Chong is just a mosquito bite, so complete is Taib’s vice-like grip on the state, or it may mean that they are tickled pink that Taib is coming under increasing and greater public scrutiny for outstaying his welcome, among other things.
Those polled had been informed and asked a simple question: “Kuching MP Chong Chieng Jen has called on Taib, in a Mkini.tv interview, to step down as chief minister. He has cited various reasons - hanging around too long, having done more harm than good and, legally speaking, indulging in improper dealings and conflict of interest situations to feather his own nest. He once reminded Taib of a Confucian proverb: “If the leader is rich and the people are poor, then that leader ought to be ashamed of himself.”
“What do you think? Be brief.”
Son, niece in Parliament
In the March general election, Taib recommended his son, Sulaiman, for a parliamentary seat and later a post in the Federal Cabinet. He also fielded a niece. In the 2006 state election, the chief minister brought in a brother as a state assemblyman.
Sulaiman was executive chairman of RHB Bank for a time until Bank Negara ruled, citing conflict of interest, that he could not hold the post.
However, the son of the chief minister is more remembered for the alleged assault on a former television personality Avaa Vanja Ramli (photo) in a Kuala Lumpur night club in 2003 than for his role as a banker or legislator.
Sulaiman is now the deputy tourism minister.
Taib became chief minister of Sarawak in 1981 - the same year Dr Mahathir Mohamad became prime minister. He took over from his maternal uncle Abdul Rahman Yakub who assumed the post of the Sarawak Governor for a term.
The next state election is not due until 2011 but could come as early as next year, sources say. Taib is said to be in the best of health although he had been diagnosed not so long ago with colon cancer. He has been under medical treatment and supervision in Singapore and Australia but shows no signs of slowing down or making way for a new line-up.
In the past, Taib had often talked about grooming his successor from a possible list of three but, except for Abang Johari Tun Openg , the other two either quit or were left out from being in the running. Taib has often hinted at the possibility of packing Abang Johari off to the Federal Covernment but apparently fears a Malay backlash. Similarly, he has blown hot and cold with Alfred Jabu, his deputy for 27 years and the leader of the Pesaka wing in PBB.
Taib now has his work cut out as Jabu has become increasingly unpopular among the Dayaks and has been accused of trying to emerge as the self-appointed paramount chief of the Dayaks by bullying his way in the selection of Dayak MPs and state assemblypersons for all BN component parties.