The White Rajah and his business empire

Sarawak is rich in natural resources. Taib knows it. The people know it. But what Taib did not want the people to know is his plundering of the state’s wealth.

By Free Malaysia Today

When the wealth of Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud was exposed to public viewing, the reaction was one of utter disgust. How could a political animal earning RM20,000 a month amassed such a colossal fortune? Where did he get all the extras? Was his massive business empire built on legitimate foundation? Or was it all ill-gotten gains?

Of course, where he gets his money and what he does with it is his private affair. But when a person holds a high public office, he is no longer in control of his personal domain. It becomes public property and thus subject to scrutiny. If a person has nothing to hide, he has nothing to fear. Only when he covers his misdeeds, is he open to censure and even trial. The most disturbing aspect of the whole sordid affair is that Sarawak, the largest state in Malaysia, is still mired in poverty while the man controlling its destiny is fabulously rich.

The Land of the Hornbills was once ruled by the White Rajahs whose paternalistic reign lasted for 100 years. In all those years, the indigenous people were protected against exploitation. Then came eventual independence in the larger Malaysian federation. And now comes another White Rajah who has been around for nearly 30 years. In that period, he grew powerful and became well-heeled. He ruled the state like as if it is his fiefdom. No one dared stepped on his toes, not even the federal masters, past or present.

But Taib is not living in the Stone Age. An intrepid news portal, The Sarawak Report, was all this while probing into his wealth. It followed his trail of affluence and discovered, to the horror of the public, the source of his minted money: he and his family members owned an “overseas business empire worth billions of ringgit”. When the pot of gold was unearthed, the White Rajah hit the roof and wanted the public to believe it is all lies. But the documented proof is solid and indisputable. It is pointless for him to claim innocence: the whole world knows his billionaire status. A public figure cannot run and hide in a hole and expect the storm to blow over. It won’t.