Why is Taib a “respected statesman” to Anwar, but not Daim or Mahathir

It is indeed strange to hear Anwar refer to Taib as a “respected statesman”, when he has been railing against Mahathir and Daim, for allegedly doing the very same thing that Taib has been accused of doing.  

Nehru Sathiamoorthy

In the last couple of months, Anwar has been seen to be going after Tun Daim and Tun Mahathir’s family, for their alleged wrongdoings against the people and the country.

Just last week, Anwar told us that the government’s anti-corruption endeavors weren’t driven by past grudges or personal vendetta but by a genuine aspiration to eradicate corruption, regardless of individuals’ status or age.

“I can forgive everyone else… but what I cannot forgive is (those) stealing government land, stealing the people’s land, timber theft, misusing public’s trust. If you steal and plunder my projects, I won’t forgive you,” he said.

“Let me make it clear. Whether you hold titles like Datuk Seri, Tan Sri, or Tun, if you are virtuous, we respect you. However, if you engage in corruption, we will apprehend you and imprison you,” Astro Awani quoted him as saying.

This week, however, upon hearing of the death of Tun Taib Mahmud, the governor of Sarawak, he had suddenly had a change of heart.

“Undoubtedly, we, especially the people of Sarawak, have lost a respected statesman,” Anwar said.

“The services and dedication of the late Allahyarham to the country and Sarawak will always be remembered forever. Al-Fatihah,” Anwar said in a social media post.

This despite the fact that critics have long accused Taib of abusing his position as chief minister to enrich himself and his family.

Although Taib’s wealth has not been clearly ascertained by anyone, a bitter divorce between Taib’s eldest son, Mahmud, and his ex-wife has given us a peek into the vast sums that Taib’s family possesses.

Mahmud, during his divorce hearing in 2014, had told the sharia High Court that he had bought a Ferrari Modena worth 950,000 ringgit (US$198,000) for his son when he was just eight years old in 1999, as an asset to provide for his then-wife Shahnaz Abdul Majid and their son when they separated that year.

Other than the Ferrari, he said he also gave his ex-wife a 2-million-ringgit bungalow in an upscale neighbourhood in the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, three luxury cars worth a total of 2.1 million ringgit and a 10,000-ringgit monthly allowance.

Shahnaz had also filed for a 400-million-ringgit divorce settlement, by claiming that Mahmud had assets worth 1 billion ringgit domestically, as well as US$700 million in assets overseas.

Although Mahmud had denied her claims as “lies, distortions and misrepresentations” the sharia court ordered Mahmud to pay Shahnaz a 30-million-ringgit settlement nevertheless.

Immediately after Taib’s death, Switzerland-based NGO Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) has also called for an immediate freeze of Taib Mahmud’s assets.

The NGO’s executive director Lukas Straumann also wants the government and judiciary to reopen investigations into the origin of Taib’s and his closest family members’ “enormous wealth”.

The Bruno Manser Fund – named after the rainforest and human rights campaigner who went missing in Sarawak in 2000 – has also alleged as far back as 2012 that Taib is worth US$15 billion  or RM72 billion  at current exchange rate.

Internal conflict among the Taibs has also already surfaced publicly since mid-2023. Taib’s children with his first wife have already sued their Syrian-born stepmother over a disputed transfer of 50 million shares in a family-controlled firm that has long been the beneficiary of various government projects in the eastern Malaysian state, dating back to when Tun Taib was chief minister from 1981 to 2014.

The stocks worth about RM50 million are said to be just the tip of the iceberg of Taib’s wealth, who many believe is unofficially,  the richest man in Malaysia.

Considering all this, it is indeed strange to hear Anwar refer to Taib as a “respected statesman”, when he has been railing against Mahathir and Daim, for allegedly doing the very same thing that Taib has been accused of doing.

Anwar has mentioned repeatedly that he holds no grudge against Mahathir or Daim, and that whatever action he is taking against them are just something he is doing as a matter of principles.

Well, if he is compelled by principles to act against Mahathir and Daim because they and their family have an enormous amount of inexplicable wealth, then why did his principles not compel him to act in the same way against Taib or Taib’s family, when their inheritance dispute reveals just how much the Taib family is worth.

How, pray tell, does Anwar’s principle allow him to overlook Taib’s shortcomings and honour Taib as a “respected statesman”, but not allow him to overlook the shortcomings of Mahathir or Daim, and honour them as “respected statesman”?

Why is what is good for the goose not also good for the gander, in Anwar’s view?

Can somebody please explain?