Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, chief political secretary to Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud, has been caught out in a bid to enable his boss to dodge a public debate on land matters with state PKR head Baru Bian.
DAP parliamentarian Chong Chieng Jen has branded Abdul Karim “foolish” for contenting that Baru cannot take part because he is not an elected representative and because he was appointed – not elected – to his party post.
Karim (left), also the Asayajaya state assemblyperson, had made his remarks when responding to Baru’s challenge to Taib to debate the issue of native customary rights (NCR) to land.
“Anyone can engage in such a debate, whether or not he is an elected representative. You don’t have to be elected representative to debate with Taib on land matters,” countered Chong, who is the Sarawak DAP secretary.
“My question to Karim is whether he is speaking on behalf of chief minister. If that is the case, then I throw a challenge to have the debate with the chief minister, as I am the assemblyperson for Kota Sentosa and member of parliament for Bandar Kuching.
“If Taib wants to avoid the debate with Baru (right) and if Karim is acting as the chief minister’s spokesman, then I will challenge Taib on the land policy.”
He said his key points would cover all land matters, including issues of NCR to land and land policy.
“Taib has claimed that the landowners’ problems have all been solved, and that land is no longer an issue in Sarawak. He has also said he does not know what Chinese landowners want,” said Chong.
“The landowners feel that there are a lot of problems, and that the state government’s land policy (discriminates against them). So, let us put all these issues up for debate.”
He suggested that Karim should organise and moderate the debate, since he seems to be speaking on Taib’s behalf.
‘What’s the difference?’
Social activist Dr John Brian Anthony also questioned Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu (PBB) Youth for suggesting that Baru had no locus standi to debate with Taib.
“How does an appointed position affect a good debate that is based on fact? What is the difference between Taib (left), who was appointed by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to lead Sarawak BN, and Baru, who was appointed as Sarawak PKR chief?”
Brian said PBB Youth is only trying to protect Taib, 75, from his lapses of memory on land matters.
“Being of advanced age, Taib would be forgetful and easily confused … that is why he is always repeating himself on his initiative to develop Sarawak, although nothing comes out of it,” he said.
He said the people are interested to know whether Taib still has the mental capacity to lead the state government at his age.
“It is time for fresh brains to help steer Sarawak to greater progress without the usual corruption culture or blackmailing Sarawakians through threats,” he added.
Last Sunday, Taib had given conditional approval for the debate, first demanding strong evidence the state government has grabbed NCR lands from the owners.