Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s plans for an overwhelming win in Sarawak hinges on Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s resignation 'just before' the general election.
Joseph Tawie, FMT
KUCHING: Rumours are rife that Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud will step down after the general election and succeeding him will be his deputy Alfred Jabu Numpang.
Taib is expected to announce his decision just before the 13th general election to thwart any attempt by the opposition to flog his alleged malpractices and power abuse.
It is also a bid to wrest lost Chinese support in the state.
Jabu’s tenure as chief minister will, however, last only until the next state election in 2016.
Taib, meanwhile, will move up to become Sarawak governor or Yang di-Petrtuan Negri, a position that he has been wanting in exchange for relinquishing his chief minister’s post.
Taib’s main concern is his RM46 billion business empire.
According to state Barisan Nasional sources, rumours began circulating after Taib met Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak about two weeks ago.
Najib, the sources said, was firm with Taib and insisted he stepped down as his continuity was affecting BN’s position as a whole in Sarawak.
Najib apparently advised Taib to announce his resignation just before the 13th general election so that the opposition could not exploit Taib’s long contentious tenure as chief minister.
Taib was appointed chief minister on March 26, 1981.
Taib was a hot issue in the Sibu parliamentary by-election in May 2010. BN lost Sibu to DAP’s Wong Ho Leng by a slim majority.
Until then BN had held Sibu for over two decades. It was a BN’s stronghold.
In 2011 state election, Taib continued to be a hot election issue, especially in the Chinese majority seats where various allegations of corruption, abuse of power, nepotism and cronyism were slapped on him by the opposition.
Chinese majority Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) lost 13 of 19 seats it contested to the opposition in the 2011 election.
According to the sources, the “new” BN strategy proposed by Najib would ensure that BN wins back the confidence of Sarawak voters, especially the Chinese, who have allegedly been led astray by the opposition because of Taib’s corrupt administration.
SUPP has six seats at stake – Stampin, Bandar Kuching, Sarikei, Lanang, Sibu and Miri. Bandar Kuching and Bandar Sibu are in the hands of the DAP.
“With Taib out, SUPP and BN would be able to wrest back Bandar Kuching and Sibu from the opposition, and at the same time retain the rest,” said the sources.
Taib had in the past indicated a number of times that he wanted to step down as chief minister, but has yet to find a “suitable” person to succeed him.
The last time he spoke of stepping down was before the 2011 state election. At the time he promised that he would retire two or three years after leading the state government. His time is up.