Hornbill Unleashed

March 8, 2014

Taib: The last king of Borneo

Hazlan Zakaria

One must admit that newly minted Sarawak Governor Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud has struck quite a romantic pose. He can be considered the last remaining symbol of Borneo sovereignty, amidst the crashing tide of federal arrogance from the peninsula.

Romance as in the hypnotic draw that surrounds him, not necessarily of the romantic love kind. Nevertheless the “dashing” Taib did dazzle a younger woman to agree to be his current wife.

And dashing too Taib seems to be — to many Sabahans and Sarawakians, even those politically opposed to him, who flock to his banner when he announced that rule over Sarawak is for locals and Umno should stay the hell out, in sentiment if not the same words.

There is a reason why he continues to command support despite his not so secret alleged excesses and the purported hoarding of wealth by his clan.

The draw here is perhaps the perception that as long as Taib, a true-blue Sarawakian, is in power, Sarawak and by extension Sabah will hold on to at least some semblance of self-determination and local identity.

This comes in the face of what many locals have felt to be more a Malaysian “occupation” than harmonious incorporation into one country.

What with promises to ensure transfer of positions of federal governance to locals still far from achieved and local development long overdue.

And one must admit that whatever his excesses, in some ways Taib embodies the harmony that symbolises the Sarawakian diaspora of assorted religions and races.

His refusal to allow the “Allah” controversy to taint his state for one speaks volumes of this. He must appear to Sabah and Sarawak as a local champion who deserves veneration for fighting for the locals.

As Sabah opposition figure Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan had opined, the peoples of the two East Malaysian states must stand tall like Taib to pursue the just desserts that they should have been given, for signing the Malaysia Agreement.

Jeffrey also happens to be the sole state assemblyman of the Sarawak-based State Reform Party (Star) of which he heads the Sabah chapter. In some ways, he can speak on behalf of the people of the two East Malaysian entities as an elected representative in Sabah who won his seat on a Sarawak party ticket.

Some Sarawakians have voiced out that in this case, they are Sarawakian first and Malaysian second, while others also spoke of a new nationalism in Sabah and Sarawak, calling for the expulsion of all peninsula-based parties, not just Umno.

For even the so-called “liberation” promised by the opposition Pakatan Rakyat is suspect in the eyes of locals as peninsular parties insist on transplanting themselves to East Malaysia than working with existing local opposition players.

And with Sabah already fallen prey to a well-entrenched peninsular political encroachment (read: Umno), Taib stands alone — the last king of Borneo.

After over 33 years in power as Sarawak chief minister, Taib has reportedly accumulated the wealth and strings to move the East Malaysian state to his puppeteering whims. He is in effect, if not in name, the “royal” laird and lord over Bumi Kenyalang.

And now after at last relinquishing his all-encompassing grip on the chief minister’s seat, he looks set to be governor for life.

But at what cost comes this veneer of self-determination? This is a question that anchors what some see as the cost of Taib’s legacy.

It is sad indeed, if for the people of Sabah and Sarawak, their only way to rail against the failed promises of the federal government is to submit to the tyranny of one of their own.

But the world is a strange place and stranger and sadder things have happened and continue to take place.

As long as inequities continue in the way that the federal government treats the people of Sabah and Sarawak, in development or due performance of the much talked about 18- and 20-point agreements, Taib or someone like him will continue to be king.

But all things considered, for issues that are not conveniently black and white but extend to a lot of grey, it may be hard to say whether it is right or wrong.



  1. The last “king” of sarawak with no Tun title. Title buat sendiri will die and be buried 6 feet down. From the ground he is taken , to the ground he shall be and to dust he shall return. And he and his corrupt dogs of greed be dead. The likes of Awang Tengah @ Awang Tanah, Jabu @ Jobbo. This corrupt soul cheated on the very Sarawakians, cheated the NCR to benefits their greed. To hell they go.

    Least i forgetton, The TYT of Sarawak, i hereby give you another title. “The Day Robber, You Will Die and Be Buried 6 feet Down” the ground. For all your greeds.

    Comment by tsunami — March 11, 2014 @ 4:45 PM | Reply


    Comment by VINCENT AK PAUL — March 10, 2014 @ 8:15 AM | Reply

  3. He may be the last king but he wouldn’t be the last thief and robber if his plans to keep the cm post within PBB and his family is not broken.

    Comment by brian — March 8, 2014 @ 11:40 AM | Reply

  4. The Dayaks component parties members are the pawns to this informed master. These pawns are carried along,obedient to the master wills and desires. With his wealth the master rising above the pawns dominates their intelligent to a mere unthinkable pawns. These are the pawns in return help him to rule and became a master in this game of power.

    Comment by loyarburok — March 8, 2014 @ 11:03 AM | Reply

  5. Tahi Nah! Last king! Last despot, more like it! 90 year old playboy founder can have wives or playmates as young as his great grand daughters, in their early twenties. This is what money can do. How much are you willing to pay, not your age, romanticism or dashing good looks.?! Ow, sucks, it’s a materialistic world out there! As long as you dare to spend, splash like water and disperse your banknotes like nobody’s business, you have the upper hand against your nemesis or rivals in most everything.

    Comment by Sharpshooter — March 8, 2014 @ 2:48 AM | Reply

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