We want Sarawak chief minister Taib Mahmud to contest in the upcoming state elections.
We want Taib to contest and win his own seat uncontested as usual, after a hefty sum is spent (but not one he will miss, since it would still be an infinitesimally small fraction of his wealth) on ensuring that any potential opponents are not a threat.
We urge PR to put up a trustworthy candidate against Taib, a candidate who will take any windfall that might come his way on nomination day. We would want the PR candidate to then withdraw with a smile, and promptly contribute the windfall to party funds to supplement the campaign war chest for the surrounding constituencies.
We predict the state election to be held next March. We expect the year-end landas monsoon rains to make it difficult for Taib to call elections in November. The next possible window will be after Chinese New Year. We hope the Bomoh (Shadow) Cabinet will share our thinking.
By then Taib will have weathered more and more public revelations of his family’s obscene wealth, and these will be flung in his face during the campaign. The longer he delays calling the election, the greater the humiliation he will have to endure from the mounting reports of his family taking charitable donations from the likes of Yaw Teck Seng, head of Samling.
We hope Taib will live to see an unprecedented loss of Barisan Nasional (BN) seats in the state election. And we hope he feels the contempt of Sarawak’s people for him and his followers when the poll results come through, even more powerfully than on election night on May 20, 2006, when he lost eight seats to the DAP and PKR, and he was seen on television unable to hide a scowl. This would be a fitting farewell for him.
No more boring drama
The Sarawak United People’s Party is playing a stupid game, pretending to cry on Najib’s shoulder, while Taib is wondering aloud whether he should retire before the election, with his lips quivering and his eyes watery. Just like the soap operas in the United States, featuring their boring scripts and half-baked actors.
We all know Taib will try to cling on to power until he dies, or until he is sure his successor will protect him and his filthy rich family.
Taib’s sandiwara of talking aloud of stepping down is cheaper and cheesier than any soap opera. UMNO’s secretary-general Tengku Adnan Mansor was roped in as a special guest star in this useless drama when he insisted the Barisan Nasional could win without Taib. He replied immediately after Taib’s statement, as if he knew it was coming.
It seems these half-baked thespians are trying to convince Sarawakian Chinese that Taib might be replaced by UMNO if he leaves. They must be hoping that a few credulous Sarawakian Chinese will vote for Taib since at least he is home-grown and not UMNO. And they must keep hoping that rural Sarawakians will be taken in by pictures of teenagers hurriedly moved in by bus, to hold handwritten signs showing ‘support’ for Taib to stay on.
Unfortunately for ‘The Taib and Adnan Show’, it seems that most urban Sarawakians, Chinese or otherwise, are already convinced that Taib is entangled in a nasty symbiosis with UMNO, and is too great a drain on the state’s economy. They will not vote for Taib even if Tengku Adnan does a song and dance in his oversized underwear.
Tengku Adnan is perhaps best known for saying, with a smirk on his chubby face, that he cannot remember anything he said to V Lingam. This charade was during the Royal Commission of Inquiry into buying judges. The truth is, nothing Tengku Adnan says is really worth remembering.
Taib has mouthed his tired old rehearsed lines of wanting to retire before, to flush out potential rivals and hunt them down. This time, he must be aware that trying to frighten Sarawakians with the old threat, that UMNO will replace him if Taib is not the strongman in charge, is no longer likely to work.
Even if UMNO tries to make a move into Sarawak, the weakened and discredited UMNO would never have nearly the same control over Sarawak that Sabah UMNO had under Mahathir. After all, UMNO has increased its posturing against other religions, in fanning the flames of the ‘Allah’ ban. And many Sarawakians know UMNO’s previous home minister Syed Hamid Albar started the ball rolling, by refusing to allow non-Muslims to use the word, for political mileage.
And UMNO’s high-handed contempt for the rakyat, as seen in major national issues – such as the rape of Penan villagers by loggers, Perak’s coup d’état, the PKFZ scandal, the Bakun wasteland, the deaths of Teoh Beng Hock and Aminulrasyid Amzah – remains vivid in voters’ minds, thanks to the internet and alternative sources of news beyond UMNO’s control.
Freedom to create
In the end, we Sarawakians ought not be too obsessed with the person occupying the chief minister’s seat. Taib is only human, nothing more nor less. Unless we overhaul the political economy, any replacement will give in to the temptations of money and power just as Taib and his uncle Abdul Rahman Yakub did.
We must decide what we want to create for ourselves after Taib is dead and gone. Taib may not live long enough to be held responsible for corruption, but we can certainly hope his children will be prosecuted for their complicit, and with more vigour than Suharto’s offspring were in Indonesia.
We must look beyond Taib and his sordid dynasty. We must realise that freedom is more than liberty. We look forward to being liberated from Taib’s face smiling at us every morning from the soiled pages of the Sarawak Tribune or Borneo Post. But freedom involves being free to pursue choices, as well as being free from economic and political shackles.
And what are Sarawakians going to choose to be free to do? Will we put an end to superficial and wasteful ethnic-based politics? Will we remove the timber and oil palm concessions given out to Taib’s cronies? Will we repair the damage done by Taib’s mega-dams and mega-plantations? Will we restore NCR land to its rightful owners? Will we work to make our rural education, transportation and healthcare at least worthy of the 20th century, if not the 21st?
Or will we simply accept the corruption and cronyism being carried out by some replacement, grinning Chief Minister on the front pages, an Abang Jo or Jabu or Awang Tengah or Norah Abdul Rahman? They are all the same: they differ from Taib only in being less crafty and less durable.
If we accept the racist policies of divide-and-rule imposed on us, and the reverse Robin Hood economics of rob-the-poor-to-stuff-the-rich, then losing Taib will not make Sarawak a better or freer place.
Taib is merely another tool of history: a man unable to rise above his slavery to greed. Sarawak’s history will be crafted by all Sarawakians. We Sarawakians are largely responsible for allowing Taib to feed his gluttonous appetites on our land and timber resources, all these three long decades. We Sarawakians will similarly be responsible for the direction Sarawak takes, after the old termite eventually finds he is unable to eat his way out of a coffin.
After all, we have some semblance of elections and pseudo-democracy in Sarawak and Malaysia: we are not shackled and whipped like the Burmese, Laotians or North Koreans. We are the change we seek, as Obama said, and we are all also partly the cause of Taib’s 29 wasted years.
Taib and his spoilt family will one day be buried in the dustbin of history, but will we be buried there with them? Or will we rise up and be free?