Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Who's after Taib Mahmud?

Who will be Sarawak's next Chief Minister?
By Joseph Tawie
Is Abdul Taib Mahmud really anxious now to look for a successor?
This seems to be the hint when he made reference to the criteria of his successor in a speech read by George Chan at the annual general meeting of Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP) in Sibu 10 January 2009.
Previously he would be furious with reporters when the question of his stepping down or his successor being asked. But at the SPDP function he seemed to be anxious when he included the subject of successor in his speech.
Could he be hard-pressed to look for one knowing that he is now in the twilight zone of his career?
Abdul Taib Mahmud, Sarawak Chief Minster since March 1981, has been saying it now and then that he is still looking for his successor. Since he expressed his intention to step down more than 10 years ago, he had identified a number of politicians who should take over from him. Unfortunately, one by one of them have now disappeared into political oblivion.
Among the politicians were Bujang Ulis, Abang Abu Bakar, Effendi Norwawi and Adenan Satem.At that SPDP function, Taib clearly stated that ANYONE regardless of race could be supported to take over from him as the chief minister.
“He must be trained to do the job from now. The criteria are that he must be smart and sincere in the struggle to develop the state and raise the living standard of the people.”
Immediately coming into our focus are two deputy presidents of PBB the back-bone of the State Government: Alfred Jabu anak Numpang, deputy president (I) and deputy chief minister and Abang Zohari Tun Openg, deputy president (II) and Minister of Housing.No one can deny that Jabu has all the experience and the expertise to be the chief minister of Sarawak.
There is no necessity for him to be trained NOW to hold the highest office in the State the way the Police personnel are being trained for promotions to higher ranks. A graduate in Agriculture, he has been tutored by two Sarawak’s greatest politicians, Abdul Rahman Yakub and Abdul Taib Mahmud.
Like Taib, Jabu who had been elected as State assemblyman for Layar since 1974 has been holding various ministerial posts including deputy chief minister, first under Abdul Rahman Yakub, and then under Abdul Taib Mahmud from March 1981.
Jabu’s main problem is that he has been picking quarrels with those who do not share his political views or see the things the way he sees them. Thus the majority of educated Dayaks and Dayak non-governmental organisations (NGOs) do not support him as their leader.
He is only being regarded as the Dayak leader from Betong where he concentrates his development and political efforts. He has no ideas to develop other districts or divisions. Even projects meant for other divisions have been ‘hijacked’ to Betong.
These are Jabu’s minus points.
In the words of Taib Mahmud that someone who takes over from him must be “smart and sincere in the struggle to develop the State and raise the living standard of the people.”Still, Jabu can enhance his position as the undisputed Dayak leader if he knows how to tackle the educated Dayaks and Dayak NGOs such as calling for a dialogue and seeking their advice and opinions as how to improve the Dayak community.
They can be his “think tank”.Another chief minister material is Abang Zohari. An MBA graduate from a British university, he has shown to be a very effective and capable minister. When Taib appointed him as industrial development minister, he was able to bring billions of ringgit worth of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) to Sarawak.
After he left and moved to the tourism ministry, the amount of FDIs to Sarawak declined sharply. In the tourism ministry, he turned it into a machine-making money earning billions of ringgit from tourists who came from Japan, Korea, China, Arab and European countries.
In the last cabinet reshuffle, Abang Zohari was moved from the tourism ministry to the ailing housing ministry which he still holds till this day. He was shocked to find out that the ministry was nearly “bankrupt” and was no fund to build even a single house. And what he did was to meet his federal counterpart and discussed his problem.
From the discussion, he was able to secure RM200 million to carry out people’s housing projects in the State.Abang Zohari’s other quality is that he is kind-hearted and approachable and earns the respect of the people. The Malays in Kuching are his bastion of support.
In the party he has strong support from the party members especially the Ibans as evident by the support they gave him when he contested against Adenan Satem in 1998 PBB election for the post of deputy president. Despite Adenan Satem receiving the full support of the chief minister, Abang Zohari defeated him hands down.Another person who can be considered as a possible successor to Taib Mahmud is Awang Tengah Ali Hassan.
He appears to be the most powerful minister after Taib holding very important portfolios. Like Adenan, the Dayaks are suspicious of him, especially the way he handles the NCR land issues. To be an effective chief minister, he needs the support of the Dayaks.
Coming distant fourth is perhaps Taib’s own son, Sulaiman who is now a deputy minister in the federal cabinet. It appears that he is being trained and groomed NOW to take over the PBB leadership.
All the four politicians have every chance to be the next chief minister. But Sarawak’s book-makers are predicting that Sulaiman is the hot favourite to take over as chief minister and to continue Taib’s legacy, assuming that BN still wins in the next election.
Is there any taker?
However, to sum up, the Dayaks especially the Ibans do not mind who is being appointed as the next chief minister be he Chinese, Malay or Iban as long as he is able to solve the problem of NCR land that has haunted the native landowners since the State government’s amendments of the Land Code in 2000. – From The Broken Shield

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