The Chief Minister is not used to criticism and stamps like an angry child in the face of it. This is a great weakness, because it means that wrongs are not put right and fawning publicity can make him a laughing stock.
This week his Press Secretary, Amin Sahmat, got into a terrible twist trying to explain the cancelling of the once regular post-cabinet press conferences, as reported in the Borneo Post.
First Sahmat claimed that there had never been such press conferences, so it was wrong for all the newspapers to report that these had now been cancelled. But, then almost in the same breath, he said that the reason the press conferences (which had never been held) had been cancelled was because reporters had started asking the wrong questions!.
“The media representatives who covered the meetings before this were found to have not asked questions specifically to what was discussed during the cabinet meeting, but instead they asked about other topics”. [Amin Sahmat Borneo Post 21/01]
The offending other topics, of course, were all the news that has come out about Taib and his family’s enormous wealth. How did the Chief Minister come by so many companies and acquire so much state land, when his official state salary is comfortable, but modest?
Because this issue has become news everywhere else, the local reporters could hardly not ask him about it. Other cabinet matters have been rendered pretty trivial and uninteresting by comparison with the enormous corruption that has been exposed at the heart of government in Sarawak!
But, Taib cannot answer these questions. So, he has cancelled the conferences. Anyone can see such an action is a sign of weakness, not strength.
After all, the moment a politician can no longer answer the questions that everyone is asking, is the moment that politician should resign!
Just make it up!
But Taib is such an old and deluded dictator, that he thinks he can just make up his own version of events and no one will notice.
The Chief Minister already controls all the newspapers in Sarawak, either directly through his family ownership (Sarawak Tribune) or his business partners (Borneo Post). These papers’ main job is no longer to report the news, but to fawn over the old man’s dreary round of daily events (from now on excluding Cabinet meetings).
But Taib has gone a step further to boost his own version of reality, by commissioning a flood of PR and so-called ‘investor guides’, which are really promotions dressed up as genuine reports and analysis.
The Oxford Business Group is one such outfit, having published its ‘Country Report’ on Sarawak in October. We have already exposed this as nothing more than a bought and paid for book of praise.
Barcelona based Investvine is another similar set up, which is clearly trying to get a piece of the action (and lots of Sarawak’s tax money) by starting up with the same business model of getting politicians to pay them to produce flattering ‘investor guides’.
Their first report was on Malaysia (Najib is just as addicted to purchased praise) and their second on Sarawak. Once again both Najib and Taib are paying out millions of ringgit of taxpayers money hiring the same PR outfits to release press releases and reports to praise their activities.
Invest in Score
So, what of the looking glass world of these publications, which Taib doubtless keeps by his bedside to reassure himself that everyone thinks well of him?
Investvine is part of Taib’s fantasy drive to raise tens of billions of dollars from the Arab world to invest in his grand plans for SCORE, which aims to turn the centre of Sarawak into an ‘industrial zone’, making more money for his own family and no one much else.
Take a look at what Investvine’s fat ‘investor guide’ called Inside Sarawak informs us about Taib’s ‘brilliant’ son Abu Bekir. The whole article is a hopeless attempt to justify the obviously unjustifiable when it comes to all the perks and privileges and positions that this none-too-clever young man has been offered.
The attempt to white-wash all the corruption involving the promotion of Taib’s son is so clumsy that it undermines its own purpose by highlighting all the issues that the people of Sarawak are so sick of. Try this example:
“As a key figure in three major companies in Sarawak, Dato Sri Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib has to wear many hats. He is chairman of Sarawak Cable Berhad, group deputy chairman of Cahya Mata Sarawak Bhd (CMS) and also a shareholder in Titanium Management Sdn Bhd. These three positions are enough to place him among the high-profile business leaders in the state. But Dato Sri Mahmud has another claim to fame – he is the eldest son of the state’s Chief Minister, Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib bin Mahmud. However, the political blue-blood pedigree is circumstantial as far as he is concerned”![Inside Sarawak]
Who else is going to judge it circumstantial? By trying to make excuses for such obvious nepotism the Taibs are laughably drawing further attention to the matter and they aren’t convincing anyone, except perhaps themselves. While the fawning nonsense about ‘blue blood’ just exposes a ridiculous love of flattery!
From ‘Dear Business Leader’ to ‘Dear Leader’?
The flattering article soon becomes even more revelatory. Because ‘Inside Sarawak’ makes clear what we have all suspected, which is that Abu Bekir will soon be mysteriously selected ‘by the people of Sarawak’ to stand in a safe BN constituency, so he can prepare to take over from his Daddy:
Dato Sri Mahmud has reportedly said that he may enter politics. He is among the favourites to replace his younger brother Sulaiman Abdul Rahman Taib, for the Kota Samarahan parliament seat in the general election.“I have always thought politics to be very interesting. I merely helped ‘in the background’ in the past. Now I feel that I can contribute more directly to the people”.
In fact younger brother Sulaiman has been starting to show his face in Parliament over in KL for the first time in years, so it seems he may not be so willing to hand over his neglected seat after all! But, if it has been said in Investvine’s ‘Inside Sarawak’, then we can be certain that Taib has sanctioned the statement.
Sarawak Report insider tip
Sarawak Report’s own inside information is in fact that Abu Bekir will be given Mukah by his Daddy and that the Kota Samarahan seat is in rather planned for his favoured cousin Ahmad Ibrahim, son of Ibrahim Mahmud (illegal recipient of many lands and favours from his brother Taib).
We can expect more fireworks from Najib if this is the case, because the UMNO PM has already had long battles with the Chief Minister about his attempts to fill practically all Sarawak’s State and Parliamentary seats with close members of his own family!
What about Titanium Management ?
Nevertheless, if Abu Bekir is to be presented as a great success as a businessman as he moves into politics, there are certainly some glaring failures to be contended with. The Taib solution it seems has been to get ‘Inside Sarawak’ to re-write history turning his son’s famous failures into triumphs!
The most notorious affair was when Abu Bekir’s newly started company Titanium Management was given a huge contract to build bridges by his father, despite the zero experience or ability of his son in this field.
Everyone in Sarawak knows that the project was a disaster. Abu Bekir did not nearly complete the all bridges that had been assigned and his costs over-ran scandalously, forcing the State Parliament to almost double the payment.
But, this is how Investvine writes up the sorry story:
One of his first projects after joining Titanium Management was to rebuild dozens of bridges originally put up by his father more than 30 years ago. They managed to complete the job at a cost much less than expected.“We were concerned about replacing those bridges, especially with the new palm oil estates where the trucks were getting bigger and the old bridges struggled to take the increased load,” said Dato Sri Mahmud. “We built them at a cheaper price.”
Who do the Taib’s think they are kidding?!
While an old man retreats into his fantasy world, refusing to talk to even his own newspapers and commissioning publications that speak plain nonsense, the people of Sarawak should think long and hard about how to make the most of their opportunities of the coming election.