Sarawak Report, an influential whistle-blower website has published reams of documents detailing allegations of corruption against Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud.
More recently, it has drawn attention to an amateur video recording of a speech that Taib made on May 13, during the Sibu by-election campaign.
The video and transcript uploaded on Sarawak Report’s homepage gave a glimpse of Taib campaigning in BN colours, speaking to Iban villagers in an unspecified longhouse, and apparently offering cash to voters – RM600 for each pintu (family apartment).
This appears to be a contravention of election laws, reminiscent of premier Najib Abdul Razak’s “you help me, I help you” campaign stump in Rejang Park, Sibu, during the same campaign.
BN lost the Sibu by-election to the DAP’s Wong Ho Leng. Local BN leader Wong Soon Koh blamed the result on “unhealthy politics”. Taib himself complained of Sarawakian voters’ sentiment being “anti-rich”.
In the video recording, Taib told his audience, “I’ve got more money than I can ever spend” and boasted about wealthy “friends” in Germany, Japan and China.
Indigenous rights activist NGO, the Bruno Manser Fund (BMF), recently accused Deutsche Bank, Germany’s leading financial institution, of helping Taib conceal his alleged ownership of properties in the US, as exposed by Sarawak Report.
According to the BMF, Deutsche Bank holds companies in trust for Taib’s family in the tax havens of Jersey and the Cayman Islands.
The BMF has pointed out that Deutsche Bank was the sole bookrunner for the US$800 million Sarawak International Inc listing in Labuan in 2005, and also arranged a US$135 million loan for Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) in 2004. Both Sarawak International Inc and SEDC are controlled by Taib and the state government.
Taib has sued Malaysiakini in 2007 over a report of RM32 million in kickbacks allegedly paid by Japanese timber importers to Regent Star, a company linked to Taib’s brother, Onn.
More recently, Sarawak Report published court documents in Sibu detailing financial irregularities in Sanyan Wood Industries, a company run by another of Taib’s brothers, Tufail.
It quoted court documents accusing Tufail’s company of shortchanging investors from Noda Corporation, a Japanese company listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
Meanwhile, Chinese investors are queuing up to be the largest stakeholders in the mega-projects of Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy, including plans for 12 enormous dams to generate electricity in huge surplus to the state’s requirements.
Taib’s campaign speech
Malaysiakini has reproduced the full transcript of Taib’s campaign speech, delivered in local Malay and English:
“It’s better that we change, so that our lives improve. We want to change the lives of the rakyat (people). It’s not a smooth road, with many problems, just because the rakyat don’t understand.
“The government wants the rakyat to change their way of life. After they are educated, they can adopt new ways of thinking. It’s time to think, not to grow little by little.
“There are 270 pintu here, if we take a census, how many people here have salaries? Who has a large enough salary to buy a house? Who here can afford to buy low-cost government housing? We want everyone to have an adequate salary, with a fixed income.
“What’s more, we can turn this place into a small town. You can have shops, markets, a football field, a library, roads, drainage, if you accept the new plan.
“If you agree, speak to Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh, after we discuss, we can have a Master Plan so you will progress. The world will become more comfortable, you can even improve your homes. If you don’t improve, everything will be in a mess.
“If you agree to the small town (idea), with the plan, we can survey all the land here, we relocate them under the Master Plan – if we split up the land first, it may cause conflict later.
“We give you the land under a trust. Perhaps the government can negotiate with you. If we, the government, agree, do you want this new way?
“We go for Master Plan. We discuss first, whether you agree with the plan, what kind of housing. Not just housing, with five or six houses around, there would be a library, a hall.
“If you agree, Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh will prepare the plan. We consider all the land here is for all the people. We’ll survey the land properly, but don’t divide up the land first, is that all right? Otherwise, later there will be arguments.
“My aim is always for the people. I’m not being boastful, I’ve got more money than I can ever spend. So I don’t care about money. All my children are now looking after it, so I want to do something very nice. That’s why, everywhere you go, Mukah has a new plan… everywhere when there is agreement, all have new plans.
“You must make a leap, not take two or three steps. Other people are improving, they already have many graduates, people are comfortable, starting to have progress. You don’t have anything.
“If you want, let’s negotiate, can we? Okay, agreed? If you agree, I can prepare enough funds. We’ll make a Master Plan. I will take this as my project, but it will be run by Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh.
“But I give you something better. Not something you want, because I know it is not the best. You should have come to Datuk Taib. Datuk Taib thinks of many different things. But instead, if you follow a second-hand kind of style, second class, that’s not very good.
“This small town project here, you will see the world begin to develop. Around us, there is a lot of Chinese land about to be developed. When the land is developed, the value of land will rise. If you sell at low prices, you will not benefit from these low prices.
“I am prepared to give you, about 270 doors, 600 dollars, RM600 per door, this is normal one, no change huh? (loud applause from the audience)
“People say there’s a lot of money in the world. I have many friends all over the world, in Germany, Japan, China. We can talk, ask them to invest capital here, spend their money here, so that there are hydro projects, building projects, and others.
“For that, we need a strong government, united people. So I hope we continue to be strong, continue to be united. The benefits from the dividends will return to the people.
“Even in Stockholm, we have negotiated and agreed with us ten trillion, thirty thousand million…that means thirty thousand million, nearly one and a half times the government expenditure in the Malaysia Plan.
‘Aluminium factory a mile long’
“In Mukah, there is an aluminium factory a mile long. In five years, it will provide jobs for 3,000 people. This is why there are more and more houses in Mukah, all investments by local people and foreigners. We have the same jobs, the same interests. No matter whether you are Chinese, or Malay, the job must be done.
“Because we want our race to progress, have good jobs. This is our modern way, the global political economy.
“The global economy is smart, with more job opportunities, that is the new world. We already have many smart people, smart in accountancy, smart in engineering, in legal matters, and so on.
“Every year, we bumiputera progress, thousands graduate from university. There are already five universities in Sarawak, four already completed, one more in 2012, Taib University. There is a budget for this, we’re not lying.
“This is the way we organise our people’s lives, calling on them to be smart, calling on them to be open, not just focused on the kampong, focused on the longhouse.
“This is the new world, those who are smarter can be winners in life. These are our new adat (customs), not using the old adat, using cangkul (hoes) to plant hill padi, still not advancing and making a profit.
“If we stick to that, we will never come out. We must all try to practise what is good. We must be guarded in all our life, to achieve what is great, what is good for us, and goodness can embed everybody.
“Greece, a developed country, could go bankrupt. Why bankrupt? The government dared not impose policies that were good for the country. If the people want to demonstrate, if demonstrations grow bigger, they burn the cars, they burn the buildings, so the government dared not take action.
“If the government dares not act, where is people power? People are powerless if the government cannot take good actions. Governments like this make the people powerless, that’s why Greece is in trouble.
“We have never had big demonstrations, fighting, in Sarawak. On 13 May 1969, I was in Kampung Baru (Kuala Lumpur). No…our country must be peaceful.
“The peninsula had 13 May, we didn’t. We are peaceful, we are united. Follow Barisan Nasional, we are on the right path.”
KERUAH USIT is a human rights activist – anak Sarawak, bangsa Malaysia. This weekly column is an effort to provide a voice for marginalised Malaysians. Keruah Usit can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.