Taib Mahmud has been forced onto the defensive throughout the first first week of his election campaign, as he has fought to shake off allegations of landgrabs, corruption, nepotism and the siphoning out Sarawak’s wealth into foreign banks, businesses and property companies.
His advisers had insisted that he face up and address these issues to restore his credibility with outraged voters. A strategy was devised with a series of staged video interviews answering pre-prepared questions by friendly reporters (including one hired by a foreign PR company). The edited answers were then put onto Taib’s flock of new websites in an attempt to win back ground in the ‘cyber-war’
Better to have kept silent?
However, the old boy is clearly uncomfortable in the unfamiliar role of answering ‘tough’ questions on subjects he would far rather ignore like deforestation, his own wealth and the problems of native land owners – and the result has been a series of calamitous mistakes!
In the latest clanger Taib once again tried to put to rest allegations that his children and family have benefited from his money and political patronage. However, his extraordinary excuses raised suspicions of impending senility and forgetfulness:
“My children are well-educated, they have gone to do business outside. I had to do business outside more than 30 years ago. Simple reason is I don’t want conflict of interest to haunt me all the time. [if] I do business inside the country, people will say I use my influence to enrich myself, so we did it outside the country”
What the old man seems to have forgotten, but the rest of Sarawak will definitely have not, is that his family and in particular his own children, DO own huge amounts of business in Sarawak. What’s more, most of that business was ‘privatised’ from the State of Sarawak into the hands of those family concerns by Taib himself and these businesses mainly benefit from the huge government contracts Taib makes sure always come the way of his family businesses!
Starting with CMS and moving on to Titanium Management!
The tame interviewer, brought all the way over from the UK, was not being paid to do follow-up questions, otherwise he would have asked “But what about CMS and Titanium Management?!”.
Cahya Mata Sarawak is now Sarawak’s largest company and a major player in Malaysia – involved in businesses ranging from building to banking.
So who are its largest shareholders? They are, of course, the members of Taib’s own immediate family. In fact, according to the company’s latest on-line Annual Report for 2009 the biggest shareholder of all is dead – it is Taib’s own late wife Laila! She owned a massive 11.23% of the company’s shares worth RM 94 million.
The other top shareholders are his two sons Abu Bekir and Sulaiman, followed by his two daughters Jamilah and Hanifah, who jointly own the company Majaharta. So what on earth did Taib mean when he claimed that he and his children have taken so much care to do business only abroad ? And what fiction does he expect the voters to believe about his ex-wife being the top shareholder of the company?!
Taib ‘privatised’ business after business from the state into the hands of his own company CMS from the moment he took power.
Likewise, he privatised the crucial monopoly over shipping licences into the hands of another family company Achi Jaya (run by his brother and business partner Onn Mahmud). These abuses of power have lain at the foundation of his family’s wealth alongside all the money he has taken from businessmen looking for timber and plantation concessions.
Voters will therefore be left wondering whether Taib is now bordering on senile to forget such things as this when he proclaimed in his interview that “I had to do business outside” [the country].
Taib abuses his decision-making role to enrich CMS
Far from avoiding conflict of interest, readers need only glance at the on-line CMS Annual Report 2009 to gain an understanding of how Taib has indeed thoroughly exploited his various key positions as Chief Minister, Finance Minister and Resources and Planning Minister to make sure that state money pours into his own family company.
Taib had the cheek to entitle his on-line cyber-movie “Financial Transparency in Sarawak”, but in fact all the key contracts are ‘negotiated’ behind closed doors and in secret. Time and again this is because, as the CMS Annual Report 2009 clearly illustrates, Taib has ended up negotiating with himself!
In one year alone State mega-contracts handed to CMS have included the new State Parliament Building, worth RM 296.5 million; the new Borneo Convention Centre, worth RM 195 million; the new Sarawak Energy Head Quarters, worth RM 232 million and a bridge over the Batang Strap Waterway, worth RM 20 million.
How could Taib have forgotten all these when he claimed to the foreign newsman that he had so carefully avoided conflict of interest in Sarawak?!
Son is a top Sarawak businessman !
Until Taib decided to put up his son Abu Bekir for a seat at this coming State Election, he had always maintained that his oldest son was too interested in business to get into politics. But where is this business conducted?
Keep open your copy of the on-line CMS Annual Report for 2009 to find out. Abu Bekir may also have activities outside of Sarawak, but the extent of his interests within Sarawak are jaw-dropping. Not only is he on the Board of Directors of CMS, but he has numerous other businesses, which all benefit from the patronage of Taib in his role of Chief Minister.
Not only is Abu Bekir Deputy Group Chairman of CMS (the Chairman is his brother in law, sister Hanifah’s husband), he is also Chairman and major shareholder of Sarawak Cable. He is also the Director and major shareholder of the private company Titanium Management, a company that has caused outrage because of the vast contracts it received from Taib Mahmud soon after incorporation, without any appropriate track record.
The biggest scandal was the state-funded contract to build 384 bridges for RM 551 million. Not only did Titanium fail to deliver all the bridges, but it ran into a 76% cost over-run totalling RM 947.8 million, which Daddy Taib generously agreed the State should pay out on!
Land Grabs too
Titanium Management and its subsidiary companies have also been one of the main benefactors of the land-grabs carried out by Taib Mahmud’s BN government. Abu Bekir has recieved lands (many of them in Native Customary Land areas) totalling an area greater than Singapore, according to our researches of the land records.
The decisions to hand the land to Abu Bekir’s companies were made behind doors and not through any form of transparent open tender and they were made by Taib Mahmud. Little Abu Bekir was not forced to pay either for these lands, because he received them as ‘Payment in Kind’.
So, what can the old man have been thinking, when he claimed there has been no conflict of interest with his family doing business in Sarawak? Everyone in the whole state knows otherwise!
Hangers on, like Awang Tengah
Meanwhile, of course there is the continuing scandal of Taib’s Plantation pay-offs to keep ministers and cronies supportive. The latest conflict of interest involving political partners of Taib Mahmud to emerge from our research of the land records (which we have now placed online for all to see) is the vast holding he has handed to his favoured 2nd Minister in the State Planning and Resource Ministery, Awang Tengah.
Tengah, who has issued many stern statements concerning the right of the State Government to ‘alienate’ Native Customary Rights Lands in past weeks, has been the fortunate beneficiary of over 6,000 hectares of land in Balai Ringin. The person registered as the recipient of the land in the land register is his known assistant, Awang Matusin Awang Drahman.
Locals in Balai Ringin have been contacting Sarawak Report asking desperately for help to protect these lands from the rapacious YB, so once again Taib’s ‘policies of development’ are bringing misery and anger, not the prosperity he claims in his set piece interviews.
The shareholder of United Teamtrade Sdn Bhd, turns out again to be Awang’s assistant (Awang Matusin) and a company we exposed yesterday, called WFM Development. WFM Development is in turn owned by the assistant of another wealthy YB, whom we exposed yesterday as another major landgrabber, Naroden Majais.
It seems the more Taib says the more he exposes his own corruption. Better keep quiet Taib!