Earlier this month, Friday 12th October, onlookers in the Wisma Bapa Malaysia in Kuching were treated to an astonishing scene.
The elderly Chief Minister, Taib Mahmud and his very young wife Ragad indulged in a public row in the foyer of his office building.
Ragad had apparently turned up at the building and demanded to see her husband, for whom she waited until he came downstairs. As one person reported:
“after words were exchanged, the poor old man was subjected to a violent assault as his retiring bride kicked him in the shins in public!”
The couple then departed, in separate cars.
This is not the first sign that Sarawak’s ‘First Couple’ are enjoying a far from perfect union. On another recent occasion where Ragad again resorted to violence, she threw Taib’s briefcase at him in front of his assembled household.
Of course, Taib is no stranger to violence himself. Shortly after the marriage back in December 2010 he terrified people around him by picking up his golden gun and shooting it into the air in frustration after Ragad had apparently disappeared without saying where.
If that is how they act in public…..
Who did they think they were kidding?
Of course, none of this has been reported in the licensed media in Sarawak or such licences would be removed. But the situation is, needless to say, the talk of inner circles and the source of much amusement in Kuching.
It was, of course, perfectly obvious to everyone what the hasty marriage, which took place just weeks before the State Election, was all about in the first place.
From the old man’s point of view it was an attempt to set himself up with a more youthful, virile image when, after 50 years of politics and with several serious health issues to deal with, everyone could see that it was time for a gracious retirement.
Even the PM flew over and got the old guy to promise in public he would soon give up office. It is a promise that of course he has chosen to immediately forget.
From Ragad’s point of view, well why does a 29 year old marry a very, very, very rich man more than double her age, whom she barely knows and who has had bowel cancer?
The marriage had been fixed by Ragad’s uncle Robert Geneid, clearly in a considerable hurry, at a time when Geneid and his wife, Taib’s sister Raziah, were very much in favour and said to have a controlling hand over the ailing Chief Minister.
However, it seems that both Taib and Geneid may have miscalculated with Ragad. After all she was 29, not 19, at the time of the wedding and she had had a very cosmopolitan life, working as an air hostess round the world. What everyone apparently neglected to also mention to Taib, until after he had married her, was that she was a widow with two fair-sized children of her own!
And, indeed, Ragad has turned out to be far from the meek and retiring stage prop that the old autocrat was clearly looking for. To the contrary she is a tough cookie and she is out to get.
The bossy old dictator, who is used to everyone bowing and scraping and whose two sons have both been caught up in accusations over beating up women, has also found himself outsized. Strapping Ragad dwarfs the diminished and frail septuagenarian and it is plain that, if he ever did try to take a swipe, who would be likely to come the better of it!
Does anyone feel sorry for Taib? Feel free to comment.
One might consider that Taib has ended up with what he deserved.
After all, for the most part Ragad has fulfilled her side of the bargain and does a good line in adoring looks. The press has gone so far as to report on the embarrassing displays of public devotion that the couple clearly still put on for on-lookers from time to time.
Taib is apparently given to putting food into Ragad’s well-proportioned mouth at dinner parties and she turns up for photographs always done up to the nines, draped in jewels and never in the same very expensive couture twice.
However, you can only put on a show for so long when you have got married for all the wrong reasons. Taib said to be finding it a strain to have children running around the house, but neither is he very keen to have them seen in public. Some are saying that Ragad feels her family is trapped.
There are also rows about the Lebanese in-laws, whom Ragad has been bringing into Demak Jaya in large numbers, which is clearly comforting for herself but tiresome for an old man used to being in command of his space. According to Radio Free Sarawak, the row in the Wisma Bapa Malaysia was over Ragad’s desire to extend visas for her family visitors. Taib is a well-known tyrant when it comes to managing Sarawak’s borders!
All this might seem other people’s personal problems. However, when it comes to this very grasping and all powerful family, the people of Sarawak are right to be anxious about such dysfunctionalities.
Those who have scrapped over the years to get control of Taib’s favours have always had only one objective in common, which is self-enrichment. Ragad came with nothing to Sarawak and she is clearly getting used to the ‘good life’ very fast indeed.
Like her uncle and aunt Raziah before her, who made their fortunes by grabbing NCR lands and contracts controlled by Taib’s offices, Ragad is now showing signs of trying to get involved in the decisions of state which produce such benefits herself. The purpose is clearly to get herself as independently wealthy as she can before her husband dies and she plainly reckons she has a lot of catching up to do.
The insider information is that Ragad has indeed started trying to exert her power over the contracts Taib hands out – contracts which of course should be managed transparently with open tenders, but which under Taib’s rotten system of government are not.
The insider information is also that this muscling-in has caused a number of new ructions and frictions within the greedy Taib family. Raziah and Robert are now finding themselves being edged out of the inner circle, not only by an ungrateful Ragad, but by Taib’s daughter Hannifah, who is also said to loathe Raziah, but to equally be uncomfortable and suspicious of her step-mother, so many years younger than herself.
Happy families? The rest of us can console ourselves that greed and the pursuit of wealth never brings happiness. Ragad’s sharp, public kick has clearly everything to do with the frustrations resulting from two years of marriage to a very elderly spouse and nothing to do with happiness.
However, the implications of yet more aggressive greed at the very heart of Taib’s autocratic system are serious also for the happiness of many people in Sarawak.
This family should be got rid of and proper professional government should be returned to benefit the people and not greedy opportunists from Europe, Australia and the Middle East.