Hornbill Unleashed

March 21, 2013

Civil society in two minds over RCI on Taib and kin

Hazlan Zakaria

Civil society NGOs were in two minds over the call for a royal commission of inquiry (RCI) to investigate documented claims of abuse of power and graft by Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud and extended family members.

The CM (left in photo) and those close to him were allegedly linked to land grabs involving native lands, later disposed for logging and palm oil plantations at huge profit.

One group supported the call for the RCI as being the only way the matter may be investigated, expressing a total lack of confidence in the independence and impartiality of the police and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in handling it.

taib mahmud abdul rahman yakub

“The MACC is incapable of investigating the matter, nothing less than an RCI (is required),” good governance advocacy group Aliran representative Sarojan Hoda stressed.

“We have been taken for a ride for far too long”.

He was speaking at a joint press conference in Kuala Lumpur today, organised by civil society groups to address the latest documented case of alleged corruption in Sarawak.

Taib must step down

NONETransparency International-Malaysia secretary-general Josie Fernendez mooted the idea that while being investigated, Taib must step down as CM to ensure that authorities can investigate without fear or favour, to stave off any possible adverse interference and influence from the powerful state leader.

“Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak should ask for Taib to step down during the investigation.”

She also pointed out that an existing MACC investigations into Taib’s alleged excesses, while much appreciated, has taken too long, adding that perhaps the anti-graft body’s headquarters and offices be moved outside of Putrajaya to prevent undue influence by national leaders.

“I am not saying that there is black magic… but being close to Putrajaya makes their independence questionable.

“There are a lot of CCTVs in Putrajaya, which may be used to see what is investigated.”

Meanwhile, several other NGOs believe there is no use in demanding a response from the Najib administration or any law enforcement agency under its control.

forum free nat scah 200707 harris ibrahim“It serves no purpose to take the matter to the MACC or Najib, he too has many unanswered questions,” said anti-BN movement Anything But Umno (ABU) representative Harris Ibrahim (right).

“ABU will not wait for response from authorities, it will not come.”

Harris said that as far as they are concerned, the only recourse is to topple the party in power and change the government, “by the ballot box or the streets”.

Both sides, however, agreed that civil society must step up to the plate in the face of such blatant abuse of power and corrupt practices.

‘Take it to the long houses’

They called for everyone to mobilise and spread the news of the alleged corruption so Malaysians will be aware and will act accordingly to force powers that be to change, or be changed.

“We, who have seen the video, must rise up and take it upon ourselves to bring it to the long houses,” argued Harris, claiming that not even half the people in Sarawak itself even got to know of the alleged blatant abuses as the mainstream media is complicit in hiding such things from the rakyat.

NONEFernendez wants the media to be held accountable for what happens when they too act as propaganda tools and not the stewards of public interests as they should be.

“We need to re-examine the role of the media, hold them responsible. We need to take action against the media which has continued to prop up the (corrupt) government.”

Their statements came following the latest revelation of these alleged abuses in the form of an undercover video shot during a sting operation by international transparency NGO Global Witness, which was reported on international broadcaster Al-Jazeera and local web portal Malaysiakini.

One of the recommendations made by Global Witness to address the matter was to convene an RCI to expose the systemic abuses in Sarawak’s halls of power.

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