There is a two week window of opportunity that has just opened up for Malaysia’s Prime Minister to do something about his most embarrassing international liability, the Chief Minister of Sarawak, Abdul Taib Mahmud.
The scandal-torn kleptocrat has formally handed in his resignation, due to come into effect at the end of this short month on 28th February, but fully intends to keep control of the state.
In a stunningly dictatorial move, Taib named his own successor, his aged relative Adenan Satem, without a murmur of dissent from his poodle of a party, PBB.
And he has simultaneously made clear that he fully expects the Agong, on the advice of the Prime Minister, to appoint him Governor at some stage over the coming days.
Nevertheless, for the first time in years, he faces a moment of dangerous uncertainty, pending that official announcement.
Najib should not miss this chance.
He should make his move and chop Taib’s shameful head while it is on the block. And the Prime Minister’s deafening silence on the subject so far is a clear indication he’s thinking about it.
Politics is about being ruthless for the greater good when the moment requires it.
Fights behind the scenes?
There is a timeline of events that suggests that Taib’s planned smooth transition has been going anything but.
First, he disappeared from sight as the rumours of his announcement reached their crescendo.
Then he re-emerged with a declaration that yes he would resign, but would name his own successor, signalling at the same time his planned move to the Governor’s office and business as usual.
PBB started clapping over in Sarawak, but the muted response in KL indicated lack of enthusiasm. Was Najib being bounced or even defied?
Next, on Monday it was reported that the Home Minister and Inspector General of Police came to visit Taib in Kuching. The reason given was to discuss arrangements for the as yet un-called next election. How strange at such a time!
Was the MACC corruption investigation possibly another matter on their agenda?
Soon after this meeting Taib took the initiative and appointed his frail and elderly relative to follow him as Chief Minister. just hours before Deputy PM Muhyiddin arrived, most likely with a separate recommendation. Was he making sure to act before Najib had a say?
It took several hours, indeed a full day before Najib moved to applaud the appointment of Satem. After all his Government’s own known preferred choice was the relatively untainted Abang Johari. As, for Taib’s intention to be made Governor before the end of the month, well nothing has so far been said about that.
A rare moment for decisive action
What if Najib at last makes his own move instead of confirming Taib’s ambitions?
It is time to get rid of Sarawak’s old man and this is one of those rare moments where Najib can intervene to change the balance of power.
Only he can do it and he himself would be the biggest winner.
Paralysed politicians in Sarawak have acted as mere by-standers while this long-anticipated series of events have played out, as if the whole procedure had nothing to do with them and they had no responsibility to be involved in the selection of the leader of their state.
The fact that the state looks set to now be governed by two ancient relatives, with not a single representative of the Iban population within a sniff of a top job, has barely been commented upon so far.
Indeed, the whole process has been conducted in an atmosphere of total resignation on the part of the people of Sarawak, used to the fact that Taib controls everything and the Federal Government has done nothing about it for decades.
It is assumed a deal has been done and that Najib and the Agong will shortly play their part and officially appoint Taib to the position he openly coverts.
But, if Najib complies, the old dictator will return strengthened, able to effectively continue running the State from the Governor’s office, while manoeuvring his son (or possibly his daughter, the ambitious Hanifah) into his vacated Balingian seat, ready in time to lead PBB into the state election in a couple of years time.
His frail brother in law can then be pushed aside, job done.
But, there is a gap in the process, which has just opened up. Taib has just gone from being the most powerful politician in Malaysia to a man who is utterly reliant on Najib to play his part in that deal and appoint him to the post.
Taib’s future is suddenly dangling by a thread, so why does Najib not just take the golden opportunity to take his scissors and snip?
So what if there was a deal? That’s politics!
A better future without Taib
Najib’s duty is to the people and not to the dirty old dictator, Taib Mahmud.
There are ten thousand better and less tainted candidates, whom Najib could choose to take on the role of Governor, instead of the country’s most corrupted politician and the clamour is starting to grow.
Not least because of that small matter of an on-going MACC investigation into Taib’s years of blatant corruption, where the dogged, ‘naughty’ investigators have been refusing to drop their enquiries.
PKR’s Director of Strategy, Rafizi Ramli has now announced he is demanding a formal statement from the MACC on the status of that on-going enquiry and the opposition party is insisting that Taib cannot be appointed as Governor if that taint of suspicion remains hanging over him.
If Najib nevertheless bottles it and once again appoints Taib, the local despot will return strengthened and untouchable, with a son or daughter ready to perpetuate the dynasty of the White Haired Rajahs over the poor people of the State.
And the PM will remain weak compared to Taib the ‘king-maker’, commanding all those federal seats and the balance of power.
Even the Agong stands to be tainted by Taib’s proposed promotion
And there is another issue, which is that Taib taints everyone he associates with.
Sarawak Report can reveal that even the country’s highly respected Agong (King) could be placed in an embarrassing position, were he required to appoint Taib as Governor at the end of the month.
Because there are clear questions to be asked over the relationship between himself and the wealthy chief minister, concerning the arrangement in place regarding the Taib family’s favourite bolt hole in London, a grandiose mansion flat in at Hyde Park Place.
Sarawak Report revealed some years ago that Hampshire House is frequently visited by the Taib family, who use it as their regular London base – family members dropping in and out all year round.
The Taib’s clearly utilise Flat 5 on the ground floor, which is registered under the name of the Agong.
This begs the question whether there is any tenancy arrangement between the Agong and Taib over this valuable asset?
Is, for example, Taib or one of his family members renting the place off the Agong? If so, are they paying the going rate of £26,000 (RM144,000) a month/ £6,000 a week, which was the eye-watering rental price recently advertised for the flat just above?Just a few months back an investigative reporter who was visiting the block chanced to bump into none other than Taib’s own son Abu Bekir emerging from Flat 5 as he waited at the front desk of this one of London’s most sumptuous buildings:
“The block is accessed by a rather grand entrance foyer and the concierge/guard will only let you in with prior permission. Fine by me as I was there to ‘view’ the appartment directly above the Taibs and currently to rent for a cool 26k a month. I sat in the reception hall and waited patiently for the agent to join me. Without warning the door to flat 5 (used by the Taibs) opened and out stepped a relaxed Abu Bekir in a white track suit. Beaming, his hands were clutching a large radio controlled toy helicopter. I waited for a child to emerge after him but none did. This was his toy and he was going out to play with it. He immediately engaged the security guard in conversation about his new toy. Apparently it was controled from his iphone. Excited, he explained he was just off to test it in the park opposite. I had a good mind to follow him but at that moment the agent showed up”, the reporter informed Sarawak Report last night.
Sarawak Report has also separately photographed Taib’s other son, Rahman Sulaiman being chauffeur-driven to the same property.
Whether or not the Taibs have been paying the enormous rent, which the flat is clearly worth to the Agong, the situation puts the King in an awkward position with respect to the tainted politician, who is now expecting him to appoint him as Governor.
It would be better if the respected Agong was not required by the Prime Minister to appoint such a questionable figure and if Taib were consigned to a long overdue retirement as the investigations close in around him.