How long more will Taib reign supreme?

Taib indulges in corrupt acts without fear. And yet the law is unable to catch up with him. Why?

By Jeswan Kaur, Free Malaysia Today

One does not need to be a genius to become a leader. But then one cannot afford to display stupidity or arrogance when entrusted to lead a state or country.

Sadly, Sarawak chief minister Taib Mahmud has revealed he is no leader, only an opportunist who will resort to plundering his own people just to fill his coffers. Taib is notorious for having made his illgotten wealth at the expense of the rakyat, particularly the natives of Sarawak whose native lands are conveniently encroached into by timber logging companies.

Despite the persistent road blockades and continued petitions, many of the ancestral lands belonging to Sarawak’s indigenous communities have been logged. Today, less than 10 percent of Sarawak’s primary forests remain, all because of Taib’s never-ending greed to fill his pockets.

Ironically, Taib, who is also Sarawak Forestry Corporation chairman, has defiled the very rainforests he was supposed to protect and nurture. Sarawak Forestry was established by the state government to position Sarawak at the forefront of sustainable forest management and conservation. It is also responsible to manage the protected and totally protected areas besides enforcing forestry and forestry-related legislation.

Taib shamelessly disregarded the very foundation that determines the existence of the Sarawak Forestry. And it is even more shameful that the federal government is quietly watching all the manipulations taking place, allowing Taib to rake in all the money he wants.

Taib’s refusal to help the Penan community tells of his hatred towards them due to the logging issue, with timber loggers encroaching into their ancestral lands, resulting in the Penans turning rebels to protect their native lands.

In 2008, Taib was quoted by Borneo Post as saying that the Penan communities had greatly benefitted from the generosity, cooperation and understanding of timber concessionaires in the state.

“There were times when our private sector (timber concessionaires) had to feed the Penans for months on and even though they were stopping the logs from being taken out from the timber concession area,” Taib had said.

He added it was not a common practice in the timber industry around the world to do such things.

“Only in Sarawak were there people (timber concessionaires) willing to look upon demonstrations. Because of that there are reasons to forge partnership with the Penans and other communities in order to protect our forest. But we have to identify who our friends and enemies are and not get their identities mixed up,” Taib who is also chairman of Sarawak Forestry Corporation had said.

Taib used the Penans for self-gain

What “understanding” and “generosity” did the timber concessionaires extend to the Penan community? The Penan girls and women were raped by the concessionaires’ loggers. Is that what Taib meant as being generous?

And why were the timber concessionaires feeding the Penan people? Is it not Taib’s responsibility to look after the welfare of the people of Sarawak, the Penans including?

To hoodwink the people into thinking that the concessionaires were out to protect Sarawak’s rainforest is a folly Taib should avoid at his own peril.

The Penans’ continuous resistance against the logging companies and the plantation companies have made them enemies of Taib. The Sarawak government resents the international attention the Penans receive despite their ill-fated international campaign to save the Borneo rainforests in the late 1980s.

Meanwhile, ministers like Alfred Jabu and James Masing have labelled the Penans as “stooge of foreign NGOs” and “good storyteller”. It is obvious what these two politicians’ agenda is and why the resistance from the Penans terrifies them.

The Penans are known for erecting blockades to stop trucks from ferrying felled timber in what they claimed as their ancestral forests. The Orang Ulu tribes like Kenyah, Kayan and Lun Bawang are also facing a complete uprooting of their ancestral domain only to be subsituted with oil palm and mono-species timber tree cultivation.

As a signatory of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the Malaysian government is obliged to make sure the cultural identity of the indigenous peoples of Sarawak that is very much connected to the forest is preserved.

Article 8.2 of UNDRIP states that the state shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of and redress for “any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples or of their cultural values or ethnic identities”.

Clearly, Taib has conveniently dismissed the UNDRIP and violated the rights of the indigenous people of Sarawak. Besides damaging the rainforest for his personal gain, Taib is also notorious for encroaching into native customary land rights of the native residents in Sarawak.

Taib’s conscience long dead

It is said that Taib, who holds the record for being the longest chief minister in Malaysia for 30 years now, owns a mansion in Demak Jaya which overlooks the Sarawak River.

A man with expensive taste, Taib is said to wear double-breasted suits, cruising around Kuching in his cream-coloured Rolls Royce. He was reported to have purchased a piano once belonging to the late American showman Liberace for US$2 million. And Taib also wears a ring with a walnut-sized gem surrounded by small diamonds.

According to Aliran Monthly, the reformist Malaysian magazine, Taib’s late wife Laila and her children were the majority shareholders of Sitehost Pty. Ltd, Australia, which owns Adelaide Hilton Hotel.

Taib’s sister Roziah is one of Sarawak’s most powerful businesswoman, having extensive stakes in property and timber business. Taib’s brother, Mohd Tufail is the co-owner of Sanyan Group, one of Sarawak’s biggest timber companies. A decade ago Sanyan built a 28-storey Wisma Sanyan in Sibu with the state government occupying eight floors.

Such luxurious lifestyle that is enjoyed by a leader and his family while his people suffer abuse at the hands of timber loggers and their children deprived of a basic education. All this is happening because Taib never made time for his people, his mind all too preoccupied with minting money in whatever way possible.