by Mohd Ariff Sabri Aziz
Free Malaysia Today
April 28, 2011
The moment he got wind of Umno KL’s plans to replace him, he swiftly moved to consolidate his grip over Sarawak.
It’s time for the boys on our side to rethink what has happened in Sarawak. A victorious and accordingly emboldened Taib Mahmud is now a cause for more headaches to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and Umno.
Let’s replay the behind-the-scene incidents on April 16. On that night, after making sure he already had the numbers, Taib called the house asking family members to get ready.
He warned them that much depended on speed and that there was no time to lose. Taib then called the governor informing the latter to get ready by 10.30pm.
He arrived 15 minutes past 10.30pm and was sworn in as chief minister, even before the people in Kuala Lumpur could savour the win.
Taib had got wind of rumours that he will be replaced by someone more docile and favourable to Umno.
The man Umno had in mind is said to be deputy Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) president .
Abang Jo is a Sarawakaian Malay and earmarked to be Umno’s man in Sarawak. But he wasn’t the first choice. Umno had discovered Salleh Jafaruddin and much hope was now placed on him.
Najib’s intelligence people had reported that Taib was a much despised person in Sarawak and needed to be replaced lest the “fixed deposit state” vanished.
Najib’s political secretary who had been spending months on end in Sarawak had also returned to Putrajaya with the same prognosis. Taib simply must go, if Barisan Nasional (BN) is to retain its “fixed deposit”.
While Taib may not have as yet “chosen” his successor, probably because he’d prefer to die in office, his sister Rosie Genied (Raziah Mahmud Geneid), however, had other ideas. Her own main man was Planning and Resources Management and Public Utilities Minister Awang Tengah Ali Hassan.
According to reports, while Taib was busy being a newly-wed, it was the team of Rosie and Awang Tengah who vetted through the list of BN candidates for the April 16 polls.
One of the early casualties was Salleh. He was recommended as a candidate by Umno. They saw him as a possible replacement for Taib if he had stood on PBB ticket.For that, Salleh was given a few million ringgit. If he had won, he could always be inducted later into PBB and installed as the pliant CM of Sarawak.
But Salleh’s appearance raised suspicion within Taib’s camp.
All of a sudden, this chap who was linked to the infamous Ming Court conspiracy in 1987, seemed to have a reversal of fortunes of sorts.
Salleh is known as a compulsive gambler and is a man of straw. The fact that he suddenly had money to contest in the state election raised suspicion that he must be funded by some people.
Taib went along, agreeing that Salleh be fielded as a PBB candidate. He was actually buying time to uncover what earthly plot has been hatched against him.
He didn’t have to think hard. Sister Rosie and her favourite horse, Awang Tengah, smelled a rat in Salleh. They suspected Salleh to be a plant by Kuala Lumpur to eject Taib.
If Taib goes, Awang Tengah, Rosie and company will also have to go. No more land grabs, no more yachts, no more salacious soirees. This simply meant that Salleh had to be guillotined.
When it became clear to Umno that Salleh wasn’t on the list validated by Team Rosie, it was decided then to field him as an independent.
With Salleh gone, Plan B was placed on alert.
Abang Johari’s shortcomings
This time it was decided that someone deep inside the ranks of PBB must be identified. They zeroed in Abang Johari. He’s no handsome Joe, but he serves the interest of Kuala Lumpur.
Abang Johari is a Sarawakian Malay, a man who can be counted upon to further the political interests of Umno.
Never mind his facial appearance. That doesn’t factor in peoples’ minds as there are several ministers at the federal level with Down’s Syndrome looks.
Not relevant, too, are Abang Johari’s shortcomings such as being damaged by the business excesses of his friends. He is also said to suffer from the same affliction affecting Pak Lah. He sleeps through his job.
But THE most important factor is that he is MALAY. With him at the helm, Umno can move into Sarawak.
Having “uncovered” a possible coup, Taib’s people rushed to brief him about Kuala Lumpur’s double dealing. Politically savvy Taib would now show these KL knuckleheads who’s the “taikor” in Sarawak.
He prepared his team to campaign on local issues and if this fails, PBB will go after personalities. And if everything else failed, then cheat-to-win would be the final alternative.
Unbeknown to Kuala Lumpur, Taib had got a firm grip on PBB’s 35 seats well before the polls on April 16.
He had his people all over the place. He had the local ketua kampungs (village chiefs), the tuai rumah (longhouse chiefs) and kapitan (community leaders) on his side.
Taib has a huge war chest and most of all he had better information than the misinformation that Najib’s intelligence people were conveying to Najib.
The moment Najib boldly announced that Taib will retire, the CM knew Najib’s intelligence people had been sleeping through their task.
Perhaps they had too much tuak, gawai dayaks and so forth. But the knowledge was enough to embolden Taib.
Each time Najib reassured Sarawakians that Taib would go, Taib would come out in open defiance countermanding Najib. “I will deliver the coup de grace,” said Taib and so he did!
Taib had done sterlingly in the highly charged polls. He retained all the 35 seats PBB contested.
Other than Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP), which lost most of its seats, his other coalition partners won splendidly. Najib’s own BN over in the peninsula did dismally.
MCA had 15 seats in 2008 general election. Gerakan was all but wiped out – saved from extinction by the sad presence of its president Koh Tsu Koon, who incidentally also lost his seat.
MIC, meanwhile, is going around with bowl-in-hand chanting ritualistic assurances that the Indians are back in BN.
So, now comes the pain for Najib. How can Najib expedite the exit of Taib? He can’t force Taib out of office by using corruption as an issue.
If he does, then people will come back and ask him: “If you knew all along that Taib is corrupt, then why did you agree for Taib to stand as candidate? Wouldn’t that be like deceiving the people?”
Sarawakians are not Malay
The fact remains that Najib is powerless to deal with Taib and for many reasons. To begin with, there is the general sentiment of the Borneo people. They are not Malaya people. Sarawakians are not Malay people!
Sarawakians resent the dictates and high-handedness of the Malaya people. Secondly, Taib is not an Umno member and therefore not subject to any arm-twisting or enforcement of discipline. He doesn’t answer to the Umno president.
Thirdly, he has the numbers behind him. He won all the 35 seats his party contested. That’s more than what Umno can ever counter.
But the most important deterent to Najib’s possible voyage into Sarawak is what Taib holds – the key to Najib’s fixed deposit state.
Sarawak has 31 parliamentary seats. And Taib controls at least 25 of them. Can any of the boys on our side comprehend the implications of this awesome power?
Taib owns 25 parliamentary seats which he can deliver in any direction he so wants. If Taib decides to abandon ship, Najib becomes the opposition leader in the next Parliament. So indeed, a victorious Taib is no joy coming to town.