According to reports, three elderly former political allies sat down yesterday to discuss the mending of broken alliances. The new Prime Minister, his former Finance Minister and the Governor of Sarawak.
Following the discussion it emerged that Taib, who still weilds real power in the state he owns so much of, has agreed to move his PBB party over from BN to Harapan, thereby consolodating the grip of the new ruling coalition into an overwhelming majority – of the sort that Dr M has always been used to governing with.
Sarawak Report understands the desire to ensure that once poisonous snakes are well and truly rendered free from remaining venom. BN would be reduced to some 60 seats by such a switch (and that’s before election malpractices are examined and certain criminals are jailed).
However, Harapan’s leaders must not make any deals with Taib that could tarnish the image of this new government and betray its real supporters from the outset.
Sarawak was the shining star of the whole election. The opposition had barely bothered to campaign in the poor benighted state, since prospects had seemed so hopeless. Those rural seats so deprived and yet so controlled by BN were considered impregnable. Yet, in the event, a wondrous 10 seats were won over.
These seats made up for disappointments caused by failures to control BN rigging in other areas that were considered safer – in Sabah and the mainland. So, well done Sarawak!
But, none of that was thanks to the Governor. It was despite him.
Sarawak Report is aware that the leader of Harapan had predictably reached out to his old ally across the water in the run up to GE14. There were concerns that the reformers fighting Najib would need the support of the billionaire businessman politician to gain enough seats to smash BN.
It seemed a grim compromise, but if that was what it would take to win, then it would have been a necessary evil. No guesses about the nature of the price Taib would be extracting – immunity and to keep his cash!
However, in the end, the Governor opted to stay put. Cynical and selfish to the end to he sat on the fence and kept his options open. GE14 was won by the reformasi coalition WITHOUT the help of Taib Mahmud.
It was only the day after Dr M had been finally sworn into office after a nail-biting 48 hours, during which Najib attempted to reverse the results and cobble more seats, that Taib got into his private jet and flew across to Putrajaya. Things would have been far swifter, easier and more decisive had Najib known yesterday what he knows now, which is that PBB is no longer with BN, but the new government.
Yet, through all that drama Taib and his Chief Minister sat tight and watched how the wind was blowing. If Najib had pulled off his dirty bid to defy the overwhelming majority of the people, play the sultans and keep in office, then it is plain that Taib would have been content to have PBB back him up, having doubtless extracted a heavy price for that continuing ‘loyalty’.
Harapan’s genuine supporters are the Sarawak people, who won all those seats on Wednesday. These are the true friends of the new government and not Taib. It is Sarawak’s voters who deserve any rewards going therefore and not the grubby old kleptocrat of Kuching. As one veteran campaigner, DAP’s Chong Chieng Jen said today:
“We have fought so hard against the corrupt regime. And now that we are seeing some light and chances of having the corrupt leaders in Sarawak brought to book and be held accountable, it would be absurd to allow these Sarawak BN parties to join PH – thereby whitewashing the corruption that has been comitted by them. Our supporters supported us through our struggles because they belive in our integrity… No one should be accepted from BN unless subject to vetting by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commisssion”
He makes a passionate and reasonable first point. The PM is welcome to do a political deal with PBB’s dismayed MPs, but not if that betrays the fervent and righteous hopes of the real supporters of Harapan. No crooks in cabinet and no pledges to let Taib keep all his stolen cash.
The old Thief Minister’s best hope must to be to keep out of jail. Sarawakians are not vindictive types and they probably are willing to let the old man continue to keep his role the Astana, unlike Najib, who probably took less.
However, the cash must be returned, because people need it.
Mahathir cannot acceptably announce a full scale enquiry into 1MDB and pursue Najib in the relentless manner he has already signalled, whilst turning a blind eye to the tens of billions taken from Sarawak.
He cannot investigate the corruption that has impoverished Malaysians without tackling the worst examples, which are over in East Malaysia and include the vast former state-owned businesses, lands and monopolies owned by the family of Taib Mahmud and Sabah’s Musa Aman. They could start with the industries that have been benefitting from state investment in Taib’s pet industrialisation project SCORE.
We are talking about billions of dollars of businesses in Sarawak and profits invested around the world. Money that could be spent on education, water supplies, homes, health and transport for people who have suffered deprivation far too long.
Taib should set up a major trust – he can call it the Taib Mahmud Fund, if he likes – and into that trust should go the money he has siphoned out of his country. The money should go on benefitting the people and regenerating forests.
He can do it the Bill Gates way and play the philanthropist. Otherwise, he must be legislated into it on pain of the full force of the law. It is the only sort of ‘deal’ the real supporters of Harapan in Sarawak can be asked to tolerate, certainly nothing less.