Last week this opposition representative in the Sarawak State Assembly stayed true to form and carried out her job.
The strongmen of Sarawak don’t allow much time for that sort of thing, preferring to keep the legislative and oversight body of the Assembly out of sight and out of mind.
The DUN is allowed to sit just a few days a year, just enough time to rubber stamp the all-important budget so that Governor Taib and his boys can squander yet more of the state’s own and increasingly borrowed public money.
It is of course the Assembly that holds the ultimate sovereign status in Sarawak, being the body actually elected to represent the people. The Assembly is in charge of all the executive officers, who hold their positions only at the behest of these representatives who could decide to realign and turf out the rogue executive at any time.
Except that Taib has turned these so-called representatives into pussycats lining up for their bowls of milk. He even dresses them up in silly uniforms to remind them to act with true military discipline and obedience.
Most important of all he has reduced the time they get to sit to a laughable handful of weeks a year so they have no time or opportunity to scrutinise anything, let alone question the conduct of the strongmen strutting around giving the orders in Sarawak’s rogue state government.
It is a sad betrayal of the communities who voted for them that for so many years these ‘representatives’ have accepted such treatment. Of course, confronted by decades of corrupt federal government – officials, courts and ministers who turned a blind eye to the actual law – they have not had much choice.
The sovereign voters have in turn been taught to expect to line up like penitants and beg for what left over milk spills into their communities after the fat cat ministers have had their spoil, followed by the YBs and then the local headmen.
The statement by federal BN MPs just yesterday, saying they had gone along to the Economics Minister’s private home to beg for ‘projects for their constituencies’ could not have exemplified this system better. This is not democracy or the rule of law, but it is exactly the system adopted to extremes over in Sarawak.
The new PH government is supposed to be dealing with this corruption and feudal mentality, but are clearly making a slow job of it. Shame on you was the verdict of voters in a by-election last week.
And shame also on the YBs in Sarawak who, despite a new reforming federal government, are not standing up more to this corrupted system in the DUN, preferring to continue to squabble with each other it seems, which is just what Taib intended.
Ms Violet Yong, by contrast, was not prepared to indulge in the playground nonsense about who trumps who in the fancy uniform brigade, preferring to remember that her job puts the interests of her constituents first before any other consideration of personal importance, benefit or job description.
She snatched the brief time allowed her in last week’s fleeting DUN Assembly hearings to lay out a series of devastating concerns relating to jaw dropping instances of conflict of interest over the management of Sarawak’s oil reserves and other major public expenditures.
The present Chief Minister’s son featured heavily, of course. The whole of Sarawak has gossiped for months at the marvellous opportunities that have fallen into the lap of this youthful ex-pilot the moment he decided to venture into ‘business’ round about the time his Dad took office. Oil companies, cable companies and others have lined up to hire this ‘expert’ board member as their director (as Yong pointed out his website entries make clear) and bingo the contracts have fallen into their laps.
Most perniciously, the YB explained, some of these contracts have glaringly prejudiced Sarawak’s ability to play hardball with the federal interests behind Petronas which have exploited Sarawak’s oil for decades, producing virtually no penny in royalties to help the local people, whom Violet and everyone else in the DUN represents.
The opposition and PH have campaigned on a fairer deal for Sarawakians, the owners of the oil, and even Taib’s servants around the new CM have started to sing that same tune. Yet, with the son now happily benefitting from hundred million dollar contracts from Petronas handed out to favoured companies in the past few months, Violet pointed out that Sarawak’s people are likely to find their explanation as to why the process stalled.
A 5% sales levy due was even allowed to expire, thanks apparently to the state government failing to collect it: “No wonder there is so much thunder but no rain from the Chief Minister’s negotiation with Petronas until today” Violet sighed referring to those conflicts.
There is, of course, a whole class of hangers on invested in this form of ‘contract graft’ over in Sarawak. They include a clique of office holders who after decades continue to pass the parcel on all the key decision-making jobs available in the state, solely because they are Taib’s yes men. One is Hamid Bugo, who has occupied so many positions that the likes of Warren Buffet would be impressed.
Violet homed in on Bugo’s present position (among many) as Chairman of Sarawak’s state oil company Petros, which was supposed to have been set up to champion those royalties and contracts for the state against Petronas. It turns out he too has simultaneously developed a lucrative private company engagement that has just received a massive contract…. from Petronas, according to Violet.
Only thanks to YB Violet Yong have these disgraceful betrayals of the Sarawak people’s rights to the benefit from their oil been exposed, speaking as was her constitutional right in the protected chamber of the DUN, which means that she cannot be bankrupted through legal harassment and libel suits from the wealthy strongmen she criticised in so doing.
Media can also report what Violet said in the state parliament with the same protection, although Sarawak Report notes that few have done so in much detail, failing like so many of those proudly uniformed men in the chamber itself to do their proper job.
Sarawak Report has of course noted another truly shocking aspect of the Petros story, which is that the first ‘joint venture partner’ of this supposedly public concern fighting for Sarawak’s oil contracts was an outfit named Southsea Energy, which was fronted by a top Taib crony (the son of Rimbunan Hijau’s Tiong Hiew King) but in fact appears to be owned by Governor Taib himself!
Yet the cronies and hangers on expect Sarawak to be run this way, because whilst the people suffer unbelievable poverty amidst all these rich resources, they themselves live the lives of oligarchs. Another mention by Violet Yong raised outraged hackles, even sending a screaming wife from this privileged class tearing into the parliament building to berate her.
This owes to the part of her speech where she pointed out that yet another company director to suddenly benefit from this windfall of Pentronas projects preceding the sudden stall in the state government’s demands for fair royalties was none other than the daughter of the ‘State Legal Advisor’ JC Fong, who for decades has acted as Taib Mahmud’s highly remunerated legal fixer (whilst at the same time currently pursuing his private practice amidst further claims over conflicts of interest that are now the subject of a court case).
Mrs JC Fong was simply livid at the mention of her offspring and screamed at Violet, having been inappropriately admitted into the office area reserved for representatives, according to a subsequent complaint by theYB. JC Fong himself then took up the attack apparently also on behalf of his daughter, who he clearly believes ought not be questioned by lawmakers over huge contracts passed to her company by a state concern seeking to influence the government that her father holds huge sway over.
Fong demanded that Violet surrender her privileged right to raise concerns such as these from the protection of the chamber (where she cannot be prosecuted for libel) so that he could then indeed use his wealth and power to harass her with legal action.
However, that privileged status exists exactly so that Violet can do her job on behalf of the voters of Sarawak. Fong thundered that Violet must repeat her concerns about conflicts of interest outside the house so that he could sue her, but why on earth should she submit to his pompous intimidation?
So hats off to Violet for showing the courage and determination that so many uniformed men with their eye on the dedak within the DUN have failed to do. It makes the present squabbling over positions and posts that seems to be currently dominating Sarawak politics even more dispiriting and sad. What is the point of demanding leadership or seniority if you do not use your representation to serve the people even in the humblest of capacities?
On a parting note: the people of Norway have oil just like Sarawak, however thanks to honest governance all that wealth was placed into public funds that are carefully maintained to give the maximum benefit to the ordinary people of the country – rather than allow it to be stolen by strongmen and outsiders. As a result, whilst Sarawakians remain poorer than ever, Norwegians all enjoy blessed lives with free health, education and state support providing comfortable lives for all.
Thank Taib and indeed anyone who has let him get away with it for the contrasting situation in Sarawak and thank Violet Yong for standing up in the state parliament and having the guts to point it out.